Veterans With PTSD Win Review of Their Rejected Benefit Claims


Posted on 31st January 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

, , , , ,

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose claims for benefits based on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were rejected, will have another chance to get relief. For the full story, see

The military has agreed to do an expedited review of the claims due to a judge’s order, which stemmed from a class-action lawsuit filed by seven combat veterans who were discharged for PTSD. Those vets claim they were illegally denied health care and other benefits that they were entitled to with their disability.

One of the original plaintiffs was ex-Army Sgt. Juan Perez, who suffers from PTSD and has problems with migraines and his eye resulting from a head injury he sustained during two tours in Iraq.

The Pentagon mandates that soldiers who leave the military due at least in part to PTSD must receive a disability rating of at least 50 percent to get full benefits, according to the National Veteran Legal Services Group.

But roughly 4,300 former soldiers earned ratings of less than 50 percent, so they were denied benefits. Those veterans will soon receive legal notice that they will be able to have an expedited review of their cases by the military, and that they can “opt in” to a class action lawsuit involving the matter.

The seven ex-soldiers who started the class action suit had disability ratings of 10 percent or less.

After the new review, former soldiers who get ratings of 30 percent or more will become eligible for benefits, according to The New York Times.
Those applications can be found at

Lawyers for the veterans expect that the reviews will result in ex-soldiers getting millions of dollars.

The higher disability rating will translate to lifelong monthly disability payments, and free health care for the veteran, his or her spouse and their minor children.

Veterans groups seek help for Mo. soldier


Posted on 17th November 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

, , , , , , ,

Date: 11/17/2008

Associated Press Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Spc. Glenn Barker is trying to recover after suffering a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq, the death of his 15-year-old son earlier this year, and flood damage that left his home uninhabitable.

On Monday, the American Legion Heroes to Hometowns program and the Missouri Veterans Commission asked for the public’s help to raise $63,000 to help Barker. The money would be spent on home repairs not covered by insurance and the purchase of a used trailer he can live in temporarily and later use as a work space.

Barker, 41, lives outside the east-central Missouri town of Potosi. He deployed with the Arkansas National Guard to hunt down improvised explosive devices in Iraq, and said he lived through nine detonations while driving an armored vehicle looking for roadside bombs.

The worst explosion came in August of last year, he recalled, when he ran over homemade explosives buried in a road. He suffered back injuries, a perforated ear drum and a traumatic brain injury that wreaked havoc on his short-term memory.

“The left ear is pretty much done,” he said, gesturing to that side of his head.

He writes himself notes and uses information stored on his cell phone to help him remember.

In May, his 15-year-old son, Zachary, was a passenger on an all-terrain vehicle in rural eastern Missouri that crossed onto a roadway and into the path of an oncoming car, killing the boy.

Barker, who is divorced, was out of state receiving treatment for his injuries when Zachary was killed.

“I have one other son. I guess you could say he’s my crutch; he keeps me going,” he said. “We miss his brother dearly.”

Barker is also trying to restore the log home that he had built himself. The house was destroyed by mold when it flooded after pipes burst following a multi-day power outage in 2006.

Barker is now in a program at Fort Leonard Wood working to improve his memory, his balance, his back and his right hand, which he said sometimes shakes.

The one-time auto body shop owner didn’t know what his future occupation might be, saying it’s hard to finish any task with his memory problems.

Family members mention that many of his tools were stolen while the Purple Heart recipient was gone, and that he sometimes has slept in his truck in recent months. They offer him a place to stay, but say right now, he’s having a hard time settling in one place.

“I don’t have in my mind what I want to do. I’m just lost,” he said.

The Department of Defense tells injured soldiers what help is available to them, and they must give their permission for their information to be shared.

For the first half of 2008, the American Legion’s Heroes to Hometowns program has assisted 380 soldiers nationwide. Since June of last year, the Missouri effort has helped more than 20 soldiers.

Shirley Janes, who chairs the Missouri American Legion’s Heroes to Hometowns program, notes that there are multiple efforts to help soldiers in need as they return home — whether it’s trying to make sure they keep medical appointments, providing them gas cards or helping with housing.

“The bottom line is we will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to help these heroes transition back home,” she said.

Barker, who explained during the interview that he wouldn’t be able to retain the conversation for more than a few minutes, thought for a moment when asked if he has regrets.

“For what it cost me, yes. But regret for my country? No,” he said. “I don’t feel the Army owes me. I’m just asking for a little help.”


On the Net:

Home for Wounded Warrior:

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Today’s veterans hall a mouse click away


Posted on 11th November 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

, , , , , , ,

Date: 11/11/2008

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Veterans of past wars have long found companionship over beer and conversation at their local veterans hall. But many of those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan seek that companionship elsewhere — online.

Hoping to tap into that virtual community, a public service campaign starting Tuesday — Veterans Day — encourages Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to log onto a new social networking site called The site was developed by the nonprofit organizations Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Ad Council.

“You don’t need bricks and mortar to have an American Legion post,” said John Raughter, spokesman for the Indianapolis-based American Legion.

The veterans organization isn’t the only one expanding in cyberspace. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, for example, is starting its own social networking site this week at Also, the American Legion has created several cyber posts where veterans can communicate online no matter their ZIP code.

The online efforts reflect a change in not only how today’s young adults connect with each other, but also how many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans live in communities without peers who relate to their experience.

The American Legion and VFW have seen a decline in membership since a peak after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as World War II veterans and Korean War veterans have died. The American Legion currently has 2.6 million members, down from 3.1 million. VFW has 1.6 million, down from 2.2 million.

Some younger veterans are too busy to join the groups or don’t identify with the older veterans, despite outreach efforts.

But that doesn’t mean the younger veterans couldn’t use help. The advertising associated with the Community of Veterans site taps into the loneliness some veterans feel and encourages them to communicate with others.

“Ninety-nine percent of Americans have seen combat on TV. One percent have seen combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. We know where you’re coming from,” says one ad.

The Iraq-Afghanistan support group is based in New York and has more than 125,000 members and civilian supporters. The Ad Council solicits volunteers in communications industries to promote social causes.

Organizers of the site say it’s unique because the veterans must be from the current wars and verify their military service to participate, so a veteran can feel comfortable talking about mental health and other personal issues. It also includes government and private resources where veterans can obtain information about mental health issues and rate programs or services they’ve used.

“It allows us to reach the service members on a medium that they are very accustomed to,” said Todd Bowers, director of government affairs for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who spent two tours in Iraq with the Marine Reserves. Bowers said troops in the war zone frequently were online.

Lisette Mondello, an assistant secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, said in a statement that the VA supports the effort because it offers an innovative way to reach veterans.

About 1.7 million veterans have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and as many as one-fifth are estimated to have problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety.

The military has taken strides to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health help. Army Maj. Gen. David Blackledge, a two-star Army Reserve general, is one of the highest ranking officers who has been talking openly about getting mental health help, The Associated Press recently reported.

Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Kansas City, Mo.-based VFW, which has 7,900 posts, said about 70,000 of its members are veterans from the current wars. As the young veterans age, he said, the hope is that more will join and become active. But, he said, there is a realization that the way young veterans communicate today is different.

“Being able to blog, to go online, and to have instant information to ask questions and get an instant answer is a tremendous asset,” Davis said. “If the younger generation, if that’s what they want, absolutely we’re going to provide.”


On the Net:

Community of Veterans:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:

Ad Council:

Veterans of Foreign Wars:

American Legion:

The Brain Injury Information Page:

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Cat soothes post-traumatic stress disorder for vet


Posted on 5th November 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

, , , , , ,

Date: 11/5/2008

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder received an unconventional prescription in July.

“John McGahey needs a service pet,” his physician wrote. “He plans on using a cat. This pet is allowed to travel with Mr. McGahey anywhere.”

The last part of the prescription has been the toughest to fill. The 53-year-old former medical corpsman has been denied access to some public places with Patch, his 6-month-old white male service cat.

“It’s not like I’m trying to take an alligator with me,” McGahey said. “I just want people to know service animals can be other than dogs.”

McGahey was first diagnosed in the late 1970s after treatment in Philadelphia Naval Hospital. “I have a lot of flashbacks,” he said. “I get paranoid in public, and petting Patch helps keep me calm. When I’m ripping the bed apart at night he licks me.”

Stress disorder such as McGahey’s develops in some people after an event that caused or threatened serious harm or death, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual.” It defines service animals as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability” regardless of whether licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Despite counseling and group treatment, McGahey spiraled downward as he tried to douse his nightmares with alcohol and drug abuse that tore at the fabric of his family. The uncontrolled paranoia alienated his wife and he lost custody of his children, he said. McGahey rode with motorcycle groups “on roads to nowhere” for several years, he said, “until waking up as a wino on the streets of Los Angeles.”

McGahey escaped his self-abuse, he said, on Jan. 3, 1988, by admitting himself into an abuse treatment program in Walla Walla, Wash. There his diagnosis was again confirmed and he was helped to apply for and receive disability income while completing a 12-step abuse program.

He said he has remained sober since.

The past 20 years McGahey has conducted hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in several states. In Corpus Christi he is known as “Big John” in weekly meetings at Salvation Army, Loaves & Fishes and in the Nueces County Courthouse and Jail.

While passing out hundreds of copies of the “Big Book,” the bible of Alcoholics Anonymous, to help others with sobriety, he has found difficulty helping others learn the rules for service animals, McGahey said. It began at home.

He lives downtown at Sea Gulf Villa Apartments, federally subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled. Manager Wendy Bishop had him fill out paperwork and photographed Patch to allow him to keep his cat without charging a pet deposit.

McGahey first melted the myth that service animals are dogs-only at an H-E-B. Executive staff contacted store managers where he shops to arrange for him to carry Patch in a pouch the cat has been trained to stay inside.

McGahey and his feline also regularly ride Regional Transportation Authority buses, but only after he asked permission, which prompted RTA administrators to look up the Department of Transportation’s stance on service animals for people with disabilities. Federal Transit Administration regulation 49 C.F.R. Part 37 provides that public and private entities, such as taxis, buses and trains, permit service animals to accompany people in their vehicles and facilities.

The first time McGahey toted Patch with him into the Veterans Administration medical clinic, he encountered some resistance. He was required to show a copy of the ADA definition of service animals and his doctor’s prescription, which were photocopied for his file, before he was permitted to keep Patch with him.

Bayfest organizers allowed Patch entry this year after a gate attendant first told McGahey he couldn’t bring in his cat. McGahey said he has not been permitted to take Patch into local restaurants, and he understands that it’s often because of owners’ misunderstanding of federal regulations.

He wants to take Patch to AA meetings, but has been told he can’t bring the feline into the courthouse. And deputies at Nueces County Jail have refused Patch entrance. McGahey understands the jail is not a public place and agrees it may not be allowed because the ADA ruling is specific to “places the public is allowed.” But Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal defended McGahey’s right to courthouse access with his service animal.

“Sometimes bureaucracy gets in the way of common sense,” Neal said. “As long as (McGahey) meets the criteria for ADA, he can carry his cat.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Tests start on US-backed drug stress disorder


Posted on 3rd November 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

, , , , , , , , ,

Date: 11/3/2008 2:50 PM

Tests start on US-backed drug stress disorder

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Clinical trials have begun on a new U.S-backed drug to treat the debilitating feeling of heightened vigilance experienced by veterans with post-traumatic stress, Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Synosia said Monday.

The study is funded with $1.4 million from the U.S. Defense Department and will focus on veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Synosia said.

The company said it hopes the drug, called nepicastat, will help patients who have lost the ability to accurately assess danger, resulting in a constant sense of alertness.

The condition, known as hyperarousal, is one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Others include sleeplessness, anger and withdrawal from friends and family.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects people from all walks of life, but is particularly common in veterans. Some 40,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with the disorder since 2003.

Synosia said the clinical trial will be conducted by researchers at veterans medical centers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Houston; and Charleston, South Carolina.

Officials at the U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs could not immediately be reached for comment.

Initial results about the effectiveness and tolerability of nepicastat are expected next spring, said Synosia spokesman Jan Gregor. Synosia is conducting separate trials to test whether nepicastat is effective as a treatment for cocaine abuse.

Nepicastat works by inhibiting the conversion of the brain chemical dopamine into an adrenaline-like compound called norepinephrine.


On the Net:


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.