Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Cohen Veterans Network, Inc., (CVN) announced a new partnership to increase Veterans’ access to mental health resources to reduce Veteran suicides.
We know the statistics: Based on the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, among high school students who dated or went out with someone, about 1 in 8 girls and 1 in 13 boys reported that they experienced physical dating violence during the 12 months before the survey. Additionally, about 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 18 boys reported that they experienced sexual dating violence. As for adults 18 and older, the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that more than 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of intimate partner violence when they were between 11 and 17 years old.
Who says therapy has to be complicated? Perhaps an effective tool for treatment and recovery could be something as simple as, say … a rocking chair.
Providers: Help Service Members Stay in Mental Health Treatment Across Settings With Free DoD Program
Did you know that every time you have an active-duty member who is moving, you can get assistance in finding them a mental health care provider at their new duty station?
Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a major milestone, that 100 percent of its more than 1,000 medical facilities across the country now offer same-day services for urgent primary and mental health-care needs.
President Donald J. Trump signs Executive Order to Improve Mental Health Resources for Veterans Transitioning from Active Duty to Civilian Life
Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order titled, “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.” This Executive Order directs the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security to develop a plan to ensure that all new Veterans receive mental health care for at least one year following their separation from service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was on track to clear a longstanding backlog of Veterans’ disability claims, its secretary said, but the addition of newly eligible Vietnam-era Veterans may overwhelm the system.
“We are about to add tens of thousands of new beneficiaries to the claims system,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said during a stop Thursday at the Salem VA Medical Center. “I’ve seen estimates that go anywhere from 70,000 to 400,000.”
A federal appeals court in January ruled that Vietnam Veterans who served on ships off the shores of Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. With that ruling comes the presumption that the chemical defoliant caused any of an array of diseases. Affected servicemen, called Blue Water Navy Veterans, are entitled to medical care and disability payments.
Wilkie said the VA is working with the Department of Defense to figure out how many Veterans are eligible.
“The original metric was to use the Vietnam service ribbon, but the way the Navy worked during those days is if you were attached to the ship’s company and the ship traversed the waters, you got a ribbon. But there may be a third of the crew back in Bremerton, Washington, that didn’t deploy for whatever reason and they got a ribbon as well,” he said. “So we have to do a lot of detective work along with the Navy, and it’s going to take us some time.”
Estimates of the potential costs of disability benefits for the Blue Water Navy Veterans range between $1.1 billion and $5.5 billion over 10 years. The range depends on the number of Veterans and whether their children and estates will be eligible to file claims.
Congress two years ago passed legislation to modernize the disability system, which by then had left a half-million Veterans waiting years to resolve their claims. The backlog has been reduced to 108,000 claims.
Wilkie credits the creation of computer programs to process claims and a move away from paper shuffling, when it would sometimes take more than a year for claims to be handed off from one person to the next.
He said he doesn’t know why the VA took so long to computerize records.
“I can’t give you the historical reasons. But I can tell you the federal government as a whole, because of what I call industrial-age processes, has done a very poor job,” he said. “I would like for the federal government to be dragged into the 20th century, then worry about the 21st century later.”
Wilkie stopped in Salem to meet with leadership at the medical center after attending ceremonies in Bedford to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Thursday also coincided with the start of expanded access to community health services for Veterans, including about 38,000 Veterans who receive care in Salem.
Veterans who drive more than 30 minutes for primary and mental health care at a VA center can opt to see eligible doctors closer to home. The program was developed through legislation last year referred to as the MISSION Act.
It also opens up options for urgent care and allows for telehealth that crosses state and jurisdictional lines.
Wilkie said it will increase access to care for Veterans in rural areas.
“It’s not a libertarian choice. It is not giving somebody a card and saying go out into the community and prosper. It does say, if we don’t have it, we will help you find it,” he said.
The program has led to criticism that it is opening the door to privatization.
“I just presented a $220 billion budget to Congress, the largest budget in the history of this department,” he said. “The other thing is the budget calls for a workforce of 390,000. So my response to privatization arguments is, if we are privatizing, we are going about it in a very strange way.”
Wilkie said the percentage of Veterans who want care outside of the VA has been trending downward because the quality of care is as good as or better than in the community, and Veterans want to go where providers understand the culture and speak their language.
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The first trauma center aboard a United States Marine Corps installation celebrated its achievements with an official ribbon cutting on January 18, 2019. This follows a year of Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune (NMCCL) obtaining Level III verification from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and state designation by the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services (NC OEMS).
Rear Admiral Terry Moulton, Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy, was in attendance to speak at the event. Moulton thanked United States Senator Thom Tillis along with Onslow County and the state of North Carolina in advocating for NMCCL’s pursuance of becoming a trauma center. Tillis made the official announcement of that goal in June 2017.
“There’s always a lot of barriers to doing partnerships like this. All of them were willing to cut through the red tape,” said Moulton.
NMCCL’s Trauma Center is not only the first Level III Trauma Center in the United States Navy, but the first trauma center in the Navy to service local community trauma patients.The trauma center’s presence at NMCCL is vital to Onslow County and Eastern North Carolina where the closest trauma centers for decades have been more than an hour away in driving distance.
In 2018, NMCCL received Level III trauma center verification through 2020 from the ACS’s Committee on Trauma following an on-site evaluation of processes and systems. Later the same year, the NC OEMS designated NMCCL as a Level III trauma center until August 31, 2021, completing the medical center’s integration into North Carolina’s trauma system.
Recognition by the ACS and state of North Carolina is a testament to NMCCL’s commitment to building and maintain force readiness of medical personnel while proving the highest quality of trauma care to the residents of Eastern Carolina.
NMCCL will continue to work closely with local health care establishments and neighboring trauma centers (Vidant Medical Center, Greenville and New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Wilmington) to foster the high standard of care patients in the region require.
“As the first medical treatment facility in the Navy to provide trauma care for civilians, we know that this would not be possible without the steadfast support of our community,” said Navy Captain Jeffrey W. Timby, NMCCL Commanding Officer.
Trauma care provides military medical professionals the means to consistently hone their clinical and operational skills in life-saving care, similar to what they may encounter in theater. Providing this type of invaluable training supports a national mission of maintaining a sizeable, read-to-deploy medical force to support international operations and rapid disaster response.
SAN ANTONIO — The screams of the wounded and dying filled the stale room as medical workers rushed to check for pulses, resuscitate the unconscious and stop the bleeding. The darkness was pierced by red and green lights that illuminated pools of blood on the floor. Nervous hands scrambled to find the proper medical equipment amid the chaos of the combat environment that surrounded them, working frantically and disregarding their own safety.
Fortunately, none of this is real; it's a simulated casualty exercise, part of the training every future Navy hospital corpsman undergoes. The rate is actually the largest and most decorated in the Navy.
“We walk through the hallways and see the faces of all those who have given up their lives just to be part of that legacy,” said Seaman Patricia-Chase Sewell, corpsman “A” school student. “I can't imagine a greater honor, just the pride of being able to be here – and recognizing that this is something that thousands of people want to do but can't."
Sewell explained that she left college after two years of studying nursing to be part of something much bigger than a degree. It was more important for her to follow in the footsteps of past corpsmen.
“I couldn't imagine doing anything other than serving other people and helping other people,” said Sewell. “I can be in the military. I can wear the uniform and do something that I'm proud of and always will be proud of.”
Navy hospital corpsmen attend 14-week “A” school at the Medical Education and Training Campus in Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In the last few years, the curriculum, which is developed by Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command, has been revamped to more closely align it with the needs of the modern, expeditionary Navy and Marine Corps.
Navy HM1 Joy Lewis, an “A” school instructor, said the biggest difference in the school has been the renewed sense of ownership by the Navy, Navy medicine and the Hospital Corps. She said the instructors have gotten better at molding the next generation of corpsmen as well.
“The changes here at hospital corpsman 'A' school have always been for better medicine and to better understand how to treat personnel on a ship or on the ground with forces in the Marine Corps,” agreed Navy HM2 Briana Bartholomew, an instructor. “So we've incorporated a lot of the modern-day medicine and techniques in order for us to have the best medicine.”
When she went through the school years ago, for example, the curriculum did not allow the students to practice the techniques they learned during lectures. Instead, corpsmen had to get hands-on experience on the job.
“We went from an environment where it was a lot of sitting down and listening to lectures, and we discussed things that they may do,” said Lewis. “We changed that toward about 60 percent practical, so they're sitting in labs every day. They learn how to use a tourniquet, treat a patient and stop bleeding instead of talking about something that they may do someday.”
“Now, they understand how a system works through lessons they learn, by lectures on how a medical procedure works, and why they clean or sterilize the way they do,” added Bartholomew. “Then they work on mannequins, practice looking for a pulse and utilize needles.”
Along with the medical training, Bartholomew tries to instill in her students the values of leadership, motivation and love for the Navy. She wants her students to understand why they do the things they do, and step up when needed.
“My favorite thing about being an instructor is that I'm entrusted to be a mentor and a role model for the students that are coming into the Navy for the first time,” said Bartholomew. “Being entrusted to be a role model here, I find that a lot of students look up to us a lot. I never got looked up to before, so I feel like their hero. I want to strive to make sure that they understand everything that's here.”
According to Bartholomew, the most challenging part is motivating Sailors, and teaching them that they will often be the sole providers of medical care for the men and women with whom they are stationed.
“They're entrusting their lives to us,” said Bartholomew. “They're putting their lives in our hands. And if we have their lives, we need to make sure we're putting in 110 percent in everything.” To reflect that, the school's structure has undergone a revamp as well. Navy HM1 James Gafford, a tactical combat casualty care (TCCC) instructor, previously taught “A” school for two years. He said instruction has evolved from teaching both Navy corpsmen and Air Force medics in a joint environment, to focusing on the needs of the individual services.
“We moved into blocks, and with those blocks, we were able to really take a look at what the fleet is looking for as far as the performance of the corpsmen we were pushing out to them,” he said. Additionally, the course used to be heavily focused on providing care in medical treatment facilities (MTF). Now, the school has an increased emphasis on field training. Gafford explained that TCCC is a five-day course that trains students to provide medical support during combat. It teaches trauma life support in the field, and covers casualty drags, hemorrhage control, chest needle decompression, CPR, splinting and pressure dressings on medical dummies.
Because corpsmen don't always have access to all the equipment available in an MTF, students in the course have to rely on the equipment they will be carrying on their backs.
“Up until right now, they're taught to think in a medical treatment facility type of way,” said Gafford. “Well, here, we have to change their way of thinking just a little bit from combat medicine to ground medicine.”
Bartholomew added that another improvement to the program is that students are being eased into their roles in the fleet by going to naval hospitals or clinics after graduation. They're able to work with patients under supervision as part of Hospital Corpsman Skills Basic course, a three-month class to ensure corpsmen understand everything.
“The quality that we actually get, the response that we get from the fleet coming back to us to let us know, 'Hey, they are doing a good job,' has been higher than we've ever seen before,” said Bartholomew. “It's nice to know and rewarding that we're producing a product that we actually want to have out in the fleet to protect, heal or to be a comfort when we need them the most.”
NORFOLK, Virginia – The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort pulled into Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Dec. 18, after completing its deployment to South and Central America.
Comfort’s return to Norfolk signifies the conclusion of an 11-week medical support mission to the region as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Operation Enduring Promise initiative.
“The men and women on USNS Comfort, representing the best of the United States Navy and our nation, treated over 26,000 patients and conducted approximately 600 surgeries aboard the ship and at land-based sites,” said Navy Rear Adm. Sean Buck, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command. “Their work made a big difference in Central and South America in ways both concrete and intangible for years to come.”
Comfort’s embarked medical team worked with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, providing care both aboard the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partially by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflected the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.
“This deployment reflects the United States enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with our partners in the Americas,” added Buck.
The ship’s crew included more than 465 U.S. and partner nation military doctors, nurses and corpsmen. In addition, about 90 medical and dental professional volunteers from non-governmental organizations were aboard to support the medical assistance mission. The mission was supported by a team of approximately 70 of Military Sealift Command’s civil service mariners who oversaw the ship’s operation and navigation. During the mission, USNS Comfort visited Esmeraldas, Ecuador; Paita, Peru; Turbo, Colombia; Riohacha, Colombia; and Trujillo, Honduras.
“We had an opportunity to work with all of our friends and partners in the region and provide amazing care for a lot of folks who really needed it,” said Navy Capt. William Shafley, USNS Comfort’s mission commander, “The mission could not have been successful if we had not worked as a team. We feel the mission was a tremendous success and we are all very proud of the work we have done.”
Health services provided during USNS Comfort’s deployment included general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, dermatology, medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine, dental screenings and treatment, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, and general public health. Medical capabilities aboard the hospital ship include surgical and post-surgical rooms, a CAT-scan unit, four X-ray machines, a dental suite, an optometry lab, a physical therapy area, two oxygen-producing plants and a 5,000-unit blood bank.
“Our team did a great job working with partners from 11 different countries and non-governmental organizations,” said Navy Capt. Kevin Buckley, commanding officer, USNS Comfort Medical Treatment Facility. “The team really came together during this deployment and used all of our skills while working with our partners to the south. As a professional, working with everyone on this deployment was truly an awesome experience.”
During the port visits, Comfort’s medical team conducted a variety of surgeries including cataracts, hernias, cleft palates and more. Additionally, Comfort hosted approximately 1,000 distinguished visitors and guests during 53 distinguished visitor and media days to include the President of Honduras and Prime Minister of Peru.
“To the Enduring Promise Team and the USNS Comfort, congratulations and thank you for demonstrating America’s enduring concern for our neighbors to the south,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a message to USNS Comfort’s crew. “As you return home, you carry the thanks and respect of those you treated in Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Honduras. In a world awash in change with displaced populations, fragmented relationships and great power competition, your deployment delivered a sense of concern and humanity amidst chaos.”
The USNS Comfort’s Enduring Promise mission demonstrated U.S commitment to the Americas and is part of a continuum of support provided by U.S. Southern Command. SOUTHCOM sponsored civic assistance and humanitarian missions were conducted in close cooperation with partner nations in the region as well as with U.S. interagency partners at the U.S. Department of State and USAID. Similar missions include Continuing Promise, New Horizons, Beyond the Horizon, medical readiness training exercises and the Medical Civil Action Program.
This mission marked the sixth time the hospital ship has provided medical assistance in the region. Since first deploying to the region on a similar mission more than a decade ago, the hospital ship has visited 18 nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. During those missions, military medical professionals worked with host nation and civilian partners to provide medical treatment to nearly 390,000 people, including more than 6,000 surgeries.