US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King (Ret.) Receives Customized ELAN Smart Home from the Gary Sinise Foundation

LinkedIn
Master Sgt. Cedric King

PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA, June, 2017 — On July 25, 2012, during his third deployment in Afghanistan, US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King’s platoon conducted a reconnaissance of a possible explosive distributor in an Afghan village.

As they approached the target, they fell under machine gun fire. Once the firefight ended, Cedric proceeded forward, only to step on a pressure plate improvised explosive device (IED). The blast lifted him from his feet, resulting in the loss of both of his legs and disfigurement of his right hand.

When the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) learned about King’s service, they decided to honor his bravery with a newly built, completely customized specially adapted smart home. The residence, based in Atlanta, relies on an ELAN Entertainment & Control System to enable control and automation of the home’s audio, video, lighting, security, and more.

“Core Brands’ Regional Sales Manager Jason Davis asked us if we could provide our services to Gary Sinise Foundation for this project, and we were honored to do so,” said Phillip Ampel of Atlanta Audio and Automation, the integration firm responsible for the project. “We built a sophisticated smart home that is highly functional, and jam-packed with exciting entertainment features. It truly offers Cedric and his family an elevated level of freedom — and fun.”

One ELAN gSC10 controller serves as the brains of the system, and is accessible through two ELAN TP7 touch panels in the master suite and living room, as wellSmart Home as an ELAN HR200 remote which they use for controlling the home’s surround-sound audio system. King can also use the ELAN App on his smartphone device to easily and simply make any adjustments throughout the home.

Atlanta Audio and Automation integrated an extensive Lutron lighting and climate system into the ELAN platform, enabling the King family to control the lighting — or automate its functionality — instantly. “The Lutron system includes lighting control through 24 dimmers and two Lutron thermostats,” Atlanta Audio & Automation explained. “It is so much easier to access all of three systems from the easy-to-use ELAN interface. King does not need to physically walk into each room to turn the lights on or off. It’s as simple as a tap on a screen.”

Atlanta Audio & Automation also integrated a security system with 6 IP cameras placed throughout the property to be accessed instantly through ELAN. “It was important for King to be able to easily manage the residence’s indoor and outdoor security feeds,” AAA commented. “ELAN is the ideal platform for checking in on security from anywhere and anytime. He could be in the living room checking out video of his backyard on a centrally located touch panel, or out-and-about watching from the ELAN Mobile App.”

In addition to its customized convenience, AAA tricked out the home with an entertainment system for the King family to enjoy. They designed an extensive multi-room audio and video system, enabled through an ELAN S1616A Multi-Room Controller, that distributes music and video to six different locations throughout the home. The entertainment system includes a surround sound system including Niles DS7HD and DS7FX in-ceiling speakers and three Sunfire HRS10 subwoofers.

For the King family’s outdoor enjoyment Atlanta Audio & Automation installed a waterproof Séura television on the patio. “Séura’s Outdoor Waterproof TV is completely functional outside, in any weather,” AAA said. “It’s a fantastic addition to their entertainment system.”

Since King relies heavily on his home’s technology for independence, Smart HomeAAA made sure to protect the equipment with a Panamax M4315-PRO Power Power Conditioner with key components protected by a Furman F1500 Uninterruptible Power Supply. Both feature BlueBOLT remote energy management. “Aside from the danger of catastrophic surges, ‘dirty power’ can interrupt high-end electronics so they won’t work as they should,” Atlanta Audio & Automation commented. “The Furman and Panamax products ensure that we can guarantee clean power, and as an integrator, I can check in on it or troubleshoot it remotely.”

According to Judy Otter, Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation, the home checks off all of the boxes for the King family. “We are honored to recognize Cedric’s service with this customized specially adapted smart home that really does give him a new level of independence,” she said. “Since his injury, Cedric has persevered, earning numerous medals and awards, he’s run marathons, and even climbed mountains. Cedric is a true inspiration and an American hero.”

###

About ELAN

ELAN, from Core Brands, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The new ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award from the Consumer Technology Association’s Mark of Excellence Award Program Committee at CES 2017. To learn more, visit elanhomesystems.com.

 

About Core Brands

Anchored by the ELAN Smart Home Control Platform, Core Brands combines the strengths of its iconic control, audio, power management, connectivity and video distribution brands – ELAN®, SpeakerCraft®, Gefen®, Niles®, Panamax®, Proficient®, Furman®, Sunfire® and Xantech® – to deliver a portfolio of connected home and commercial solutions to its channel partners and end users. For further information, visit corebrands.com.

 

Service Beyond the Battlefield

LinkedIn
Live to Give bottle of water sitting on a table with blurred image of people in the background

I knew I wanted to join the Army by the time I was 20 years old. In the months leading up to that birthday, I had taken some time to try to discover my career path and what I wanted to do with my life. After some self-reflection and looking inward, I realized that I wanted my life to serve a greater purpose than myself. I wanted my life to have meaning.

Two months after my 20th birthday, I arrived at basic training, ready to start my career and future with the United States Army. I served for 12 years, including seven years in the special forces.

During my time serving, I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was there that I lost my leg to sniper fire. The weeks and months that followed the injury were some of the most difficult that I had ever experienced. It was a devastating injury that would impact my life forever, but I was not ready to let it define my life. Following my recovery and rehabilitation, I attended Special Forces Sniper School and became the first amputee to graduate.

I often think about my decision to serve my country, even re-enlisting after losing my leg. The impact that my experiences have had on me is hard to describe, but it is an impact that I feel every single day.

While joining the Army taught me so many lessons, the biggest lesson I learned was how to live a life of selfless service, a life for others. The mentality of focusing on myself was not an option anymore. Instead, it was all about the team and serving a greater good.

I learned so much while in the Army, and leaving it was not easy. Once my time in the Army had come to its conclusion, the transition into civilian life was difficult to say the least. Not only was I transitioning from my career, I was also transitioning with my health. I was not only having to learn how to live my life as an amputee, but now also as a civilian. Throughout this transition, I would consistently question myself with what I was going to do next and how I was going to provide for my family. And for a while, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I had to keep moving.

A phrase that I always say is to “lean forward and fight hard” and that is what pushed me through this difficult time.

This mission remains true with the work that I do today. As a veteran and an amputee, I know how important it is to honor those who have put their lives on the line, thank them for their service and of course, give back to them, so that they too can experience the American dream that they fought so selflessly to protect.

Last year, I co-founded a bottled water brand called Live to Give. With every purchase, we donate 50% of our net profits to organizations that support military, first responders and their families.

While I can no longer physically serve my country as I did in the Army, building Live to Give and a team of people who want to give back is my new way of serving my country.

About the Author
John Wayne Walding spent 12 years in the United States Army, including seven years in the Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. After losing his leg in battle in 2008, John went on to become the first amputee to graduate Special Forces Sniper School. Today, John serves as co-founder of Live to Give, a beverage company that donates half of its net profits to first responders, military members and their families.

Service Dogs: A Solution to The Veteran Suicide Crisis

LinkedIn
Man with his service and trainer outside at training facility

By Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO, American Humane

The number of military service members and veterans in the United States is declining, but their suicide rates are increasing.

It’s clear that addressing the military and veteran suicide epidemic will take bold new solutions beyond marginal improvements to the status quo. All ideas to protect these brave men and women off the battlefield should be on the table.

One low-risk, high-reward potential solution is pairing combat vets with service dogs who are specially trained to mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which commonly affect ex service members and contribute to suicide.

About 1 veteran in 6 suffers from PTSD. According to research in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety, 28 percent of those who reported a past traumatic event had attempted suicide. Another study found that those with TBI, which affects about the same portion of veterans, are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide.

There’s long been anecdotal evidence that service dogs can help treat these mental health afflictions.

Service dogs can be trained to perform countless tasks that mitigate these conditions, including retrieving medication, searching homes for perceived threats, grounding handlers during a stressful episode, aiding with memory-related tasks, and even turning on lights during a night terror.

Now emerging scientific research is also pointing to the promise that service dogs offer. A Purdue University study released last year found that veterans coping with PTSD performed better on a variety of mental health and emotional well-being metrics, including reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression if they were paired with a service dog. Veterans with service dogs also missed work less and performed better while there than their dogless counterparts.

A separate Purdue study also released last year measured the stress-mitigating hormone cortisol in PTSD veterans with and without service dogs. Those with service dogs produced more cortisol than those without, mimicking the amount expected in adults without PTSD. Those in the service dog group also reported less anger, less anxiety, and better sleep.

While these studies didn’t directly test those with TBI, its similar symptoms suggest significant promise for suicidal vets with this condition as well. Unfortunately, waiting lists for veterans in need of service dogs are long. The process is time-consuming and expensive, costing as much as $30,000 per dog. With the VA refusing to endorse service dogs as a PTSD and TBI treatment–while awaiting the results of its own in-depth study – funding is scarce.

In the meantime, nonprofit groups are doing what they can to fill the void. For instance, American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program finds dogs in need of homes and trains them to become service animals for military veterans struggling with the invisible wounds of war, potentially saving lives at both ends of the leash.

Dogs have always boosted emotional well-being. Now studies are confirming what veterans have been saying for years: Service dogs can have an even greater impact. With the veteran suicide rate rising unabated, it’s time to stop tinkering and pursue creative new solutions to this crisis.

Nothing has so much potential lifesaving impact as greater access to service dogs.

Source: American Humane

Suicides among U.S. Special Operations Command tripled in 2018 while suicides among active duty Marine Corps and the Navy reached a 10-year high. The veteran suicide rate is 50% higher than the general population, adjusting for age and gender.

The veteran suicide rate increased by 26% between 2005 and 2016, the latest year that data is available.

More than 6,000 veterans commit suicide each year.
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

Treatments for PTSD

LinkedIn
Soldier sitting and talking to his therapist

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.

If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.

If thoughts and feelings from a life-threatening event are upsetting you or causing problems in your life, you may have PTSD.

Here’s the good news: you can get treatment for PTSD—and it works. For some people, treatment can get rid of PTSD altogether. For others, it can make symptoms less intense. Treatment also gives you the tools to manage symptoms so they don’t keep you from living your life. PTSD treatment can turn your life around—even if you’ve been struggling for years.

Therapy

PTSD therapy has three main goals:

  • Improve your symptoms
  • Teach you skills to deal with it
  • Restore your self-esteem

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Teaches you to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. It involves talking with your provider about your negative thoughts and doing short writing assignments.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Teaches you how to gain control by facing your negative feelings. It involves talking about your trauma with a provider and doing some of the things you have avoided since the trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Helps you process and make sense of your trauma. It involves calling the trauma to mind while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound (like a finger waving side to side, a light, or a tone).

Stress Inoculation Training

Talk therapy that can help you recognize and change incorrect and/or negative thoughts that have been influencing your behavior. Coping skills are also used such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation training and role playing.

Alternative Treatments for Veterans With PTSD

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health programs offer alternative techniques with conventional therapies while many non-profit organizations throughout the country have seen improvement in vets through alternative measures.

These six alternative treatments are showing increased popularity for veterans with PTSD:

  1. Acupuncture—A 2014 study of 55 service members concluded that acupuncture “was effective for reducing PTSD symptoms.” Patients using acupuncture with traditional treatment “showed significantly greater improvements” over patients who had usual care only, the Healthcare Medicine Institute reported. Acupuncture appears to be a safe treatment to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, the researchers noted.
  1. Yoga and meditation—These practices have been used in the military and at VA medical centers, according to Social Work Today. Yoga helps to relieve pain and bring comfort throughout the body. Yoga and meditation need to fit the needs of patients who have experienced trauma, including the creation of a safe space to provide relaxation for an overactive nervous system.
  1. Service dogs—Bonding with animals provides benefits for veterans with PTSD. A program under Warrior Canine Connection has vets with the disorder training service dogs for fellow vets afflicted with physical injuries. It provides veterans with companionship but also results in stress reduction, reduced blood pressure, and improved relationships.
  1. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)—A self-healing method, it combines cognitive therapy and exposure therapy, which exposes patients to anxiety sources without causing any danger, with acupressure on points throughout the body. One controlled trial found more than 85 percent of veterans with PTSD had no obvious symptoms after six sessions of EFT, according to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
  1. Swimming with sea creatures—Dolphin swims are enjoyable for the population at large, but they are also used as alternative treatments for vets with PTSD. At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, veterans swim with whale sharks and are accompanied by dive masters in a huge tank, The New York Times The sharks get their name from their immense size and mainly eat plankton. The quiet underwater environment helps vets forget bad memories.
  1. Outdoor therapies—Horseback riding, hiking, and rafting are among activities that can help vets overcome symptoms of PTSD. The Rites of Passage Ranch Long Term Care Program in Washington state combines cognitive behavioral therapy with relaxation exercises, physical activity, and healthy food.

You’re not alone

Going through a traumatic event is not rare. At least half of Americans have had a traumatic event in their lives. Of people who have had trauma, about 1 in 10 men and 2 in 10 women will develop PTSD. There are some things that make it more likely you’ll develop PTSD — for example, having very intense or long-lasting trauma, getting hurt, or having a strong reaction to the event (like shaking, throwing up, or feeling distant from your surroundings). It’s also more common to develop PTSD after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault. But there’s no way to know for sure who will develop PTSD.

Where can I go to get help?

If you’re a Veteran, check with the VA about whether you can get treatment there. Visit va.gov/directory/guide/PTSD.asp to find a VA PTSD program near you. If you’re looking for care outside the VA, ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health care provider who specializes in PTSD treatment, or visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to search for providers in your area.

Get Help If You’re in Crisis
If you feel like you might hurt yourself or someone else:
• Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) anytime to talk to a crisis counselor. Press “1” if you are a Veteran. The call is confidential (private) and free.
• Chat online with a crisis counselor anytime at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
You can also call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

For more information and resources visit the National Center for PTSD website at: ptsd.va.gov

Find out about PTSD and PTSD treatment from Veterans who’ve been there at: ptsd.va.gov/aboutface

Kurt Busch Continues Commitment to Veterans and Active Duty Servicemembers Through Race Ticket Giveaway Program

LinkedIn
Kurt Busch pictured in NASCAR uniform smiling

NASCAR veteran driver and NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) Champion Kurt Busch announced plans recently for the KB100 Plus (KB100+) ticket giveaway. Hoping to build on the success of his offer in 2019, where he provided 100 tickets to every NCS race in partnership with Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix).

“I will call on the consideration of other drivers, tracks and industry partners to support the ticket offering from what we did in 2019”, said Busch. In 2019 there were more than 50,000 requests for the 3,800 tickets that were made available through Vet Tix.  Busch commented, “I have always had a strong desire to pay respect to those who have served and continue to serve our country. My hope is that with help from others we can enhance the offering for more deserving Vet Tix members to attend races this season, hence KB100+”.

“Our mission is to give something to those who gave, and the commitment Kurt has made to partner with Vet Tix has been extraordinary,” said Mike Focareto, U.S. Navy veteran, CEO and Founder of Veteran Tickets Foundation. “His impact on supporting the Vet Tix mission to honor our current serving military members and veterans of all eras and their families has been significant. Whether he’s visiting troops convalescing at hospitals, giving our VetTixers an opportunity to enjoy a race, or meeting him in pit row, he has been the example of how a top-athlete and influencer can make a difference in so many lives. We are proud to partner with Kurt to share an initiative to help those who serve and their families make lifelong memories through racing.”

Whether it is one additional ticket, or a match of Busch’s commitment to 100 tickets to every race, KB100+ will offer Vet Tix members the chance to attend an NCS race at every event on the schedule.

About Veteran Tickets Foundation:

Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix), a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, provides free tickets to sporting events, concerts, performing arts and family activities to currently serving military, National Guard and Reserves, veterans of all eras, immediate family of those killed in action, and VetTixers’ caregivers. Since 2008, Vet Tix has provided over 9 million free event tickets to more than 1.5 million members. In 2018 Vet Tix launched 1st Tix, which provides the same service to our nation’s current and retired law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs. These events help service members, veterans and first responders reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build lifelong memories, and encourage them to stay engaged with American life and their local communities. Vet Tix spends over 95 percent of its revenue on programs, ensuring that we give back to those who have given so much. Visit VetTix.org and 1stTix.org to learn more, and follow us on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

For more information: vettix.org

Paralyzed Veterans of America to host Wheelchair Rugby Tournament for wounded heroes and adaptive athletes

LinkedIn
Paralyzed Veterans of America logo

Paralyzed Veterans of America will host 12 wheelchair rugby teams from across the country to compete in its 3rd Annual Code of Honor Quad Rugby Invitational.

The tournament brings together national league wheelchair rugby teams made up of disabled military veterans and civilian adaptive athletes, to compete in a 3-day round-robin style tournament. A wheelchair rugby skills clinic will be held prior to the start of the tournament to introduce novice players to the sport.

The clinic is free and individuals with disabilities as well as rehab health professionals who are interested in learning more about the sport are invited to attend.

The Quad Rugby Invitational is one of many year-round adaptive sports opportunities Paralyzed Veterans of America provides for disabled veterans and other individuals with disabilities.

WHEN:    Friday, February 7, 2020
Wheelchair Rugby Skills Clinic         10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Opening Ceremony                          11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Competition begins                          12:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

                 Saturday, February 8, 2020
Competition                                      8:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

                 Sunday, February 9, 2020
Competition                                      9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
                 Championship Game                        10:30 a.m.
Closing Ceremony and Awards        11:45 a.m. (approx.)

  

WHERE:   The St. James
6805 Industrial Road
Springfield, VA 22151

The St. James is a 450,000 square foot sports, wellness and active entertainment destination in the Washington, DC metro area. Paralyzed Veterans of America hosted its 2019 Code of Honor tournament at The St. James, making it the first adaptive sports event to be held at the facility.

WHO:      Paralyzed Veterans of America (host)

Eleven Division II teams from the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) and PVA’s at-large team comprised of military veterans:

Northern Virginia Mutiny
Maryland Mayhem
MedStar DC NRH Punishers
PVA at-large team
Brooks Bandits
Philadelphia Magee Eagles
NEP Wildcats
New York Warriors
Oscar Mike Militia
Raleigh Sidewinders
Richmond Sportable Possums
Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch

For more information or to view the full tournament schedule, please visit pva.org/codeofhonor.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

About The St. James
The St. James is the premier sports, wellness and entertainment destination in the country. Our mission is to maximize human potential by designing, developing and operating sports, wellness, entertainment and hospitality programs, services and experiences that engage, inspire and empower people to pursue their passions and be their best at play, at work and in life. The St. James aims to serve as the center of the universe in every community where it is located by delivering the most comprehensive combination of best-in-class sports and wellness venues, developmental and elite coaching, training and competition, five-star lifestyle experiences and family centered active fun all in an environment that engages, inspires and delights everyone that comes through our doors. The St. James, which opened its first location just outside of Washington, DC in the fall of 2018, plans to open its second complex in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire in the fall of 2021. For more information, please visit thestjames.com.

New virtual employment service provides support for disabled veterans anywhere, anytime

LinkedIn
disabled veteran in wheelchair looking online for employment

Paralyzed Veterans of America announces a new virtual engagement initiative from its employment program, PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), that specializes in helping veterans with disabilities find meaningful employment. PAVE Connect bridges a critical gap, reaching those who do not have the time, means, or ability to attend traditional employment or educational events.

In recent years, PVA has observed that traditional hiring and employment fairs are ineffective for many PAVE clients — the overlooked and undervalued veteran workforce. Veterans with disabilities, especially those who are significantly injured or ill, are less likely to attend large public events with crowds or in locations that are not easily accessible.

Through PAVE Connect, members of the veteran community can:

  • Interact with PAVE employment experts through virtual meetings.
  • Meet employers eager to hire from the military and veteran community.
  • Access an online library of timely, relevant career information — on their schedule and from any device.
  • View recorded presentations and access other tools and resources on demand.
  • Discover a wide range of meaningful education, volunteer, and employment opportunities.

“I am thrilled to add PAVE Connect to our list of services,” said Lauren Lobrano, PVA’s director of PAVE. “Virtual technology provides yet another meaningful way to reach and serve our clients. If a veteran is underemployed, they can’t take the time away from their current job to pursue a better one. If a veteran has a significant disability, yet is capable and employable, big events can be a deterrent. PAVE Connect helps level that playing field and maintains our proven one-on-one, high-touch approach.”

PAVE employment analysts and vocational rehabilitation counselors work with clients to overcome barriers to employment at all stages of their life. The unique, no-cost program offers assistance not only to veterans across the country, but also to transitioning service members, spouses, and caregivers and specializes in assisting those with barriers to employment.

“Employment is a vital part of feeling independent, especially if you’ve been injured or have a disability,” said Hack Albertson, national vice president of PVA and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “I was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans of America through the PAVE program. The support I received made such an impact, I committed my career to giving back and helping other veterans like myself. Now with PAVE Connect, our reach extends further to meet those who need us most.”

PAVE Connect sessions, led by employment experts, cover topics such as transitioning from military to civilian employment, interview preparation, requesting accommodations in the workplace, effective resume tips, and more. PVA’s employment and educational partners will also participate in select sessions, offering exceptional networking opportunities and insight into the opportunities available within their organizations. The first several PAVE Connect pilot sessions provided clients with informative dialogue and useful resources as they work toward finding meaningful employment.

Watch past PAVE Connect sessions, view the upcoming schedule, and register to participate in a session for free at pva.org/pave.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

FDA agrees to expand access to ecstasy for PTS treatment

LinkedIn
Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

MDMA, an illegal psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy or molly, could be used to treat post-traumatic stress, researchers say. But access to the drug for testing has been difficult, even though the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 designated it as a “breakthrough therapy” for PTS treatment.

Veterans experience PTS at a higher rate than the rest of the population. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 11-20 percent of veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTS, compared to about 8 percent of non-veterans.

Clinical tests of the drug are in their third phase, but people whose moderate or severe PTS  is resistant to other treatments could potentially benefit from early access to MDMA, according to the nonprofit research group, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

MAPS plans to allow early access to “potentially beneficial investigational therapies for people facing a serious or life-threatening condition for whom currently available treatments have not worked,” according to a MAPS news release

Phase 3 clinical trials are ongoing for the drug’s use in treating PTS, but the new approval from FDA will allow a select 50 patients at up to 10 sites in the U.S. earlier access to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Clinical trials are expected to be completed by 2021, meaning the FDA could approve the drug as soon as 2022.

MDMA is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen, producing an energizing effect, distortions in perception, increased self-awareness and empathy and “enhanced enjoyment from sensory experiences,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The resurgence of research into using drugs such as MDMA to catalyze psychotherapy is the most promising and exciting development I’ve seen in my psychiatric career,” Dr. Michael Mithoefer, acting medical director for MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, said in a statement.

MAPS hopes FDA will provide additional expanded access once it shows the drug helped its first 35 patients.

Patients who participate in the treatment take a dose of the drug in a controlled clinical environment as part of a course of psychotherapy. They’ll also be responsible for the costs of their treatment, unlike in the clinical trials.

After the drug is approved, patients will still not be able to take MDMA at home, and won’t fill prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The drug will only be available through a certified doctor in a supervised therapeutic setting, MAPS said.

The expanded access or “compassionate use,” requires at least one therapist involved in treatment have a medical or clinical doctorate degree.

Selection of the 10 sites that will offer the treatment is expected to be announced in the coming months. More than 120 sites have applied, according to MAPS. Once the program starts, patients can apply to their preferred site.

Continue on to ConnectingVets.com to read the complete article.

7 stress resources Veterans can use right now

LinkedIn
Man having medical consultation in doctor's office

As a Veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. The VA is here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be.

VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that Veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.

Seven mental health resources Veterans can use right now

  1. Just show up to any VA Medical Center. Did you know that VA offers same day services in Primary Care and Mental Health at 172 VA Medical Centers across the country? VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all Veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a Veteran is in crisis or has need for immediate mental health care, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional. To find VA locations near you, explore the facility locator tool.
  2. Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of Veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.
  3. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  4. Vet Centers provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible Veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.
  5. Coaching Into Care provides guidance to Veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a Veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
  6. The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help Veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with Veterans and their families.
  7. AboutFace features stories of Veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.

Learn more

For more information about VA’s mental health resources and behavioral health services, please visit VA’s Mental Health Services website at MentalHealth.va.gov, or the Vet Center website (for combat Veterans) at www.vetcenter.va.gov. For a more detailed view of VA mental health service offerings, explore the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Guidebook.

Army veteran who said prosthetic legs were repossessed to get new pair from VA

LinkedIn
veteran Jerry Holliman pictured whose prosthetic leges repossessd

Last August, two months after doctors amputated his left leg, Holliman received a pair of prosthetic legs from Hanger. He had begun therapy sessions with the company at the Collins State Veterans Home to learn how to properly walk.

That all came to halt on Dec. 23 when a representative from Hanger repossessed his prosthetic legs after learning the VA would not pay for them. It was a huge blow to Holliman’s hopes of being able to return to home in Hattiesburg, Miss., for the holidays.

“It’s like somebody walked up to you and gave you a punch in the gut,” Holliman said. “Why would you come and take a veteran’s legs?’

The set of prosthetic legs were returned to Holliman a few days later. However, Holliman said Hanger would no longer make the needed adjustments that allowed him to properly use the prosthetic legs until someone paid for them.

The VA told Holliman that the prosthetics legs were obtained as a private purchase, which precluded them from paying for them on his behalf. Instead, he said he was told to use Medicare to pay for them. He refused that option because he said using Medicare would have required him to pay a co-pay.

Krisita Burkey, the vice president of public relations and communications at Hanger, told Fox News in a statement that patient privacy laws prevented the company from talking about Holliman’s case specifically. However, she said, “Hanger does not take back prosthetic devices once a patient signs for the delivery.

“A signed verification of delivery is a necessary step in the delivery process due to regulations, but actual payment is not required upon delivery to the patient,” the statement continued. “Payment is typically received from the applicable payer, whether it is a private insurer, Medicare/Medicaid or the VA, at a later date.”

Walker told Fox News that Holliman had come to the VA’s prosthetics department in Jackson shortly after his left leg was amputated. Holliman inquired about the VA making him a pair of prosthetic legs, but Walker said the VA was unable to begin the process at the time.

“We cannot begin a prosthetic evaluation until the skin is completely healed because of the pressure and the things that are required to wear and use a prosthetic device,” he explained.

Walker, who was given permission by Holliman to speak about the case to Fox News, said the 69-year-old never followed up with the VA after that visit. Instead, he said Holliman went to a private clinic and then to Hanger to obtain prosthetic legs.

“We want veterans to use us,” Walker said. “If a veteran chooses to go outside of our system, we cannot, unfortunately, take on the responsibilities for private purchases and that’s the case.”

Holliman denied that he had gone to Hanger on his own to get prosthetic legs. He said he had no authority to make his own appointments and was following directives from medical personnel at the state-run veterans home where he’s resided for the last year.

After the VA’s decision to give him a new set of prosthetic legs, Holliman told Fox News he accepted an appointment for later this month. However, after this ordeal, he remains skeptical.

“I can’t walk on proposals. I need to see it [to] fruition,” Holliman said. “I’m trying to recoup my life. I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of the VA.”

Continue on to FOX News to read the complete article.

Healing at 40-feet Below

LinkedIn
Scuba diver sees statue of himself at a underwater memorial

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet to the seafloor, the memories of the soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicts a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War—a war Campbell fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, who is now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed, about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.

The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans, and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep-sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area where he grew up.

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, who is also a diving instructor, agrees, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing—I never even thought it was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one allows visitors to connect on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

Source: army.mil