Saturday, June 19, 2010

U.S. Army - Dishonorable Employer, Bullying at large

Army court martials soldier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

From the WBI 2000 survey of hostile workplaces (Workplace Bullying Institute, online, non-scientific survey) 30% of women targets of bullying reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 21% of men targets. Psychological injuries are common in bullying cases.

Fortunately, most people experience intense anxiety, panic attacks, and depressive symptoms rather than the extreme case of traumatization when an individual’s coping responses are completely overwhelmed. PTSD is extreme stress. PTSD is characterized by hypervigilance (an edginess, heightened arousal, agitation, obsessivness, and anger), intrusive thoughts (nightmares, flashbacks, unpredictable interruptions of normal thoughts and feelings), and avoidance (a desire to not visit the same people, places and feelings associated with the traumatizing incidents). PTSD is falsely seen only as a war injury. People are traumatized by the horrors of war (killing and death, witnessed and perpetrated), but also by natural disasters and tragedies the disrupt routine lives.

People who join the military are especially at risk. All trauma and stress risks are magnified with unremitting, prolonged exposure to horrific conditions. It is noteworthy that Britain and Canada treats their military veterans more humanely than the U.S. To minimize the ravages of PTSD, tours of duty are shorter than one year and there is a limit to the amount of uninterrupted time that soldiers and sailors can spend in a war zone. American military leaders have been less caring. Though they sometimes publicly remark that the troops are worn out, “stop-loss” is used to deny the rightful end of contracted military time for soldiers eager to return to non-military society. Stop-loss is an exploitation of the government’s power to make its own rules as employer, not subject to any civilian laws. Stop-loss guarantees an over-exposure to horror that no human should have to bear. It is instrumental in creating the estimated 30-45% prevalence of PTSD among Iraq/Afghanistan veteran. When they can’t escape to healing respite back home, the likelihood of injury skyrockets.

Psychiatrist Dr. Kernan Manion treated traumatized Marine vets and warned his superiors of violence potential on bases and in neighboring towns. “If not more Fort Hoods, Camp Liberties, soldier fratricide, spousal homicide, we’ll see it individually in suicides, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction, in formerly fine young men coming back and saying, as I’ve heard so many times, ‘I’m not cut out for society. I can’t stand people. I can’t tolerate commotion. I need to live in the woods,’” Manion explained to reporter Dahr Jamail. “That’s what we’re going to have. Broken, not contributing, not functional members of society. It infuriates me – what they are doing to these guys, because it’s so ineptly run by a system that values rank and power more than anything else – so we’re stuck throwing money into a fragmented system of inept clinics and the crisis goes on.”

In 2007, Joshua Kors reported on the Army mental health corps’ refusal to own the responsibility for injuring veterans with PTSD (and even some with physical traumatic brain injuries). Instead of making the correct PTSD diagnosis for those vets so they could receive VA health benefits for long-term medication and treatment, some Army psychologists were deliberately labeling the injured as having personality disorders. A personality disorder is a permanent mental health problem, not an injury, and must have begun in childhood. Also the deceitful misdiagnosis prevented vets from VA benefit eligibility. Thus, the Department of Defense, as employer, put its employees in harms way, many are injured as a result, then the employer dodges liability by blaming the employee.

Substitute DoD with the name of your employer. You get hired to perform work and are assigned a supervisor or gang of co-workers who decide that it is more important to bully you than to allow you to do work. You seek relief. The employer denies its responsibility for the work conditions that have begun to harm you psychologically. If you do not escape and the exposure continues, the stress takes its toll on your health. When threats to your safety are severe, you risk PTSD. You find a therapist who correctly identifies your toxic workplace — the mistreating people in it as well as the way work is assigned with no regard for your safety or professional development — as the cause of the severe stress. You beg for relief but are not believed. Soon you lose the job you once loved for no reason other than the fact that some jackass arbitrarily hated you, most likely because your competence posed a threat.

Now from the military comes another tale of terror. Reporter Dahr Jamail posted his essay at the Truthout website. He writes about Eric Jasinski, a 23 year old who enlisted in 2005. Jasinski’s Iraq tour ended in Dec., 2007. He was troubled and drinking heavily. A military counselor sent him to a civilian doc. He was diagnosed with PTSD by the civilian. He was given medications and waiting for his military contract to end in Feb., 2009.

However, the Army stop-lossed Jasinski and he was given a month’s notice that he would return to Iraq. The military pharmacy issued a 90-day supply of medication. Another military counselor asked if he was suicidal. Jasinski said no. The hurried counselor said “well, you’re good to go then.” Jasinski knew that he could not serve again without treating his PTSD, so he went AWOL until Dec., 2009 when he turned himself in at Fort Hood, Texas. Jasinski asked for a medical discharge.

Instead, he had a March 31, 2010 court martial. He was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail, not a mental health facility as requested. The Army never did respond to his requests for help. He served 25 days and was released on April 24. Then, unilaterally without discussion or negotiation, the Army notified Jasinski that he would receive an “other-than-honorable” discharge that translates to permanent denial of VA benefits for the wounded soldier.

To better put in perspective the humiliation the Army heaped on this PTSD victim, read Jasinski’s personal statement written while in the Bell County jail.

“When I am taken out of jail back to Fort Hood for any appointments I am led around in handcuffs and ankle shackles in front of crowds of soldiers… which is overwhelming on my mind. My guilt from treating prisoners in Iraq sub-human and I did things to them and watched my unit do cruel actions against prisoners, so being humiliated like that forces me to fall into the dark spiral of guilt. I now know what it feels like to have no rights and have people stare and judge based on your shackles and I feel even more like a monster cause I used to do this to Iraqi people. Even worse is the fact that this boils down to the military failing to treat my PTSD but I am being punished for it… I feel as if I am being a threat to others or myself and still the Army mental health professional blow me off just like in 2009 when I felt like I had no choice but to go AWOL, since I received a 5 minute mental evaluation and was stop-lossed despite my PTSD, and was told that they could do nothing for me. The insufficient mental evaluation from a doctor I had never seen before, combined with the insufficient actions by the doctor on 9 April show the Army is not trying to make progress.”

Feel familiar? Neither did you do anything to warrant the banishment from your livelihood. Employers can do anything they want. PTSD victims are not whining delicate “teacups” like attorney Scott Greenfield suggests.

Gary Namie, PhD

What you can do:
Read the Dahr Jamail article

Learn about Chuck Luther’s group the Soldier’s Advocacy Group (SAG) of Disposable Warriors

Help the Iraq Veterans Against the War work for the proper and necessary treatment injured soldiers

Thank Eric Jasinski’s civilian attorney, James Branum

Read Joshua Kors groundbreaking report on abusive Army psychologists and psychiatrists

Tell Scott Greenfield his “teacups” smear is a cheap shot by a bullying attorney Army - Dishonorable Employer

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sacramento Veterans Service Office SAVED!!!



AND WE THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pass the word The Sacramento Veterans Service Office is HERE TO STAY!!!!! Congratulations to JAN, JOSH, BRUCE, DEL AND RICHARD!!


Close to forty veterans showed up with their caps on to persuade the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday to keep the VSO office intact.

A staffer said that seeing a boatful of veterans in the chamber was quite impressive. It has been a long time since that has happened in a Sacramento public hearing. We are proud and thankful to everyone that showed up.

We also share our gratitude with the Project Team:

Don Harper: Lead

Bud Lee

Col Jim Krump

Gary Ross

Barbara Ross

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ensuring Sacramento area Veterans’ Access to Earned Benefits

Ad–hoc Veterans Coalition on

Sacramento County’s FY 2010-2011 Budget

Ensuring Veterans’ Access to Earned Benefits

We are a nation fighting two major wars with other possible trouble spots around the world. The frequently repetitive deployments of our armed forces are causing extreme stress on our military. The asymmetric warfare in which we are often engaged creates a much higher proportion of “invisible wounds” – post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury. We are fortunate that combat medicine has improved which has reduced the combat death rate compared to our prior wars. However, this battlefield success has also resulted in more survivors who are often plagued with permanent disabilities, both physical and mental. The often-imperceptible nature of these wounds frequently results in a veteran not being aware that he or she needs help for themselves and their families.

According to the American Legion, 25% of these discharged veterans will have a hidden disability (for example, post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury) and 15% will have a clear disability – meaning 4 out of 10 wounded warriors will have earned benefits due them. (1)

For a combat veteran to admit he or she needs help, it takes a great amount of courage for them to take the first step toward asking for assistance. They do not want to appear as needing “welfare” but they are not aware that they have likely earned substantial benefits to help them return and thrive in their civilian lives.

The first contact a discharged veteran has with the government is a critical event. Similar to the “golden hour” in medical triage, there is often only one good shot at getting a veteran reoriented to civilian life. Failure to address discharged veterans’ needs during a very fragile time can produce negative, unintended consequences. We have all seen this happen before. We cannot let it happen again!


Current Workload with Four Veterans Service Officers

Active Cases Pending - The current caseload average for each of the County’s four veterans service officers is 180 – 230 cases pending action from agencies responsible for housing, education and training, health care, employment, and other programs. (See Exhibit A for a listing of benefit programs and services to which veterans have earned access and which veterans service officers must be knowledgeable. Training of veterans service officers is extensive and frequent due to the evolving and complicated nature of benefits.)

Walk-in Applicants - Last year, 1250 veterans walked in to the CVSO with an expectation of slightly more than 100 a month to continue occurring for the foreseeable future. Increases in walk-in traffic are likely due to the larger number of military personnel to be mustered out because of the expected reduction in combat operations overseas.

Interviews: 4,245 in-office interviews conducted (average = 19 per workday)

Benefit Claims:1,638 disability and death benefit claims filed on behalf of veterans, dependents, and survivors

Removal from County General Assistance Program: $257,160 obtained for veterans which supplanted that amount which was being previously drawn from funding for County General Assistance

College Fee Waiver Program: 903 College Fee Waiver Program applications for dependents of disabled and deceased veterans, equaling a monetary value of $2,442,375.


Currently, well over 100,000 veterans, including members of our reserve forces, reside in Sacramento County. When their family size is factored in to the population, somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 and possibly more Sacramento County residents are dependent on a veteran’s earned benefits; for example, federally supported service-connected disabilities, education, job training, housing, and other programs that are needed on a timely basis. These programs, largely funded by federal dollars, have been estimated by the CA Department of Veterans Affairs to have a multiplier effect in the local economy of $6 - $7 spent for every dollar of federal support.

The Ad-hoc Veterans Coalition on Sacramento County’s FY 2010-2011 Budget appreciates the recommendation of restoration of two of the four veterans service officer positions proposed for elimination.

However, no one should be led to believe that the previously described workload, which is expected to increase due to the growth in numbers of discharged veterans, can be absorbed and handled by the two remaining positions. Some veterans and their families will have their access to earned benefits compromised as a result of reduced resources.

The insufficient access to trained veterans service officers will be on Sacramento County’s budget docket for the foreseeable future unless other avenues of resourcing are developed for the positions necessary to handle this burgeoning workload.

The Sacramento County Veterans Coalition is willing to work with the County Executive to evaluate longer-term alternative approaches to develop the resources to assure that benefits earned by veterans for themselves, their families and survivors can be obtained on a timely basis.

In the meantime, the Coalition believes one more position; that is, a contingent of three professional staff, would substantially improve the timeliness of veterans’ assistance with claim processing for earned benefits as well as coordination with other agencies for health care, housing, education, and employment.

[1] “Networking Vital for Troops in Transition,” The American Legion Dispatch, March 19, 2010, p. 5

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Plea to help Save our Sacramento Veterans Service Office

Who: .........all of us !
What: ........Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Meeting
Where: ......700 H St., Sacramento, CA 95814
When: .......June 15th, 2010, 1:00pm
Why: .........Our returning Veterans NEED us !!!

The Human Services Coordinating Council is another chance to speak for the Mentally Ill, Homeless, Older Adults and Veterans. My first day as a new member was absolutely beautiful ! The Chair of the Mental Health Board wasn't there so I did a good job of winging an update.

I mentioned that we had re-affirmed our relationship with the Older Adults Subcommittee and that I had invited Chief Deputy RC Smith to be a guest speaker after he graciously sought me out to explain his function on the Mental Health Services Act Steering Committee, that being to function as a conduit to all law enforcement county-wide re: training, the mentally ill, and the MHSA --- the result was a wonderful extended presentation and a commitment from the Sheriff's Office to have a representative of the Chief Deputy attend the Mental Health Board meetings on a regular basis -- my hope in this effort is and was that we reduce the incidence of danger when law enforcement and mentally ill encounter each other.

I was touching on Sr. Libby's concern about low income housing during discussion of the General Plan and mentioned the needs of Older Adults particularly and, after Bruce Wagstaff gave an enthusiastic "good news!" report on the latest budget likelihood by department -- skipping some -- I immediately asked about the Sacramento County Veteran's Service Office which was one of those skipped.

Bruce Wagstaff said it was a good question and said he was happy that two of the four positions were not slated for deletion now. I gave an informational summation of the VSO as our veteran's first line of defense on returning home from the war zones; how we're sending healthy kids over to fight and that they're coming back with "jellied brains" (my colloquial, sorry) as well as PTSD now.

New technology protects them better from physical wounds but an IED going off under a vehicle gives the brain a shock I often describe as like "shaken baby syndrome" for an adult.

The term for the new epidemic is called Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI.

Along with the ultra high incidence of TBI & PTSD, further aggrivated by repeated tours without recovery time, I've heard of elevated rates of units discharging service men and women under less than honorable conditions because of "personality disorders" -- an easy fix for a frustrating irritant instead of trying to help one of our wounded recover from it. We've got to help these young people straighten out their lives.

Remember: We sent them over as healthy young kids -- to fight for us !

The Tsunami of veterans returning home with their brains, personalities and emotions -- in fact, their lives -- all scrambled up isn't going to be easy to deal with; ...but deal with it we must; out of compassion for the returning injured warrior and to lessen the inevitable high cost that will be inflicted on communities by jail, prison, and emergency room visits -- not to mention the shattered families and abused or neglected, in fact, twisted and confused children that will precipitate from the lack of solution as untreated Vets turn to drugs and alcohol to self medicate. ...that abandonment might as well read: "Cost!, Cost!, Cost!"

The Veteran's Service Office is the first place our military tells service men and women to go after discharge to file their DD-214 with the County Clerk for free at the place of discharge and to receive help filing for disability benefits. At a VSO the veteran will receive professional case management as opposed to volunteers of service organizations helping with severely limited ability and office hours -- totally inadequate for the job if we're to help our veterans and our communities be healthier.

Later that evening I took the opportunity to make a very similar case and a mention of Safe Ground to the Sacramento City Council and Mayor Kevin Johnson.

June 15th at 1:00 PM we need you to help save our VSO as the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will be deciding on the segment of the budget funding the VSO. Today we stand to lose two positions out of five at our VSO in Sacramento County.

That's down from losing four -- an 80% cut that was proposed -- reduced to 40% -- still too high.

That's *IF* the budget recommendations are accepted by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

- There *ARE* no guarantees we can afford to bank on.

- Our Veterans and our community need your help.

- Some can't ask for the help -- and some won't even come home.

- We can't afford *NOT* to help. your County VSO
Who: .........all of us !
What: ........Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Meeting
Where: ......700 H St., Sacramento, CA 95814
When: .......June 15th, 2010, 1:00pm
Why: .........Our returning Veterans NEED us !!!

Godspeed everyone,

Let's Get Out There !!!


Friday, June 11, 2010

Plea to Sacramento Mayor for Veterans Services...

Thurs. July 10, 2010
Writing as a private citizen -- opinions expressed are strictly of my own initiative. S/ -ft

Dear Mayor Johnson,

This morning at the Human Services Coordinating Council I attended my first meeting as a representative of the Sacramento County Mental Health Board.

During discussion of the General Plan and what Human Services elements should be represented I couldn't help but mention the fact that Sacramento's planned distribution of Affordable Housing is still undone and unfair at this hour to my knowledge.

I also made it clearly understood that we may need to start planning for Peer Run / Peer Operated Respites under the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA / Prop. 63) since I represent Older Adults and Veterans on the Sacramento County Mental Health Services Act Steering Committee and am somewhat familiar with the current County Budget deliberations and the (yet to come to fruition) INNOVATION component of the MHSA.

The current operation of the SCMHTC -- to my understanding -- has been operating at a shortfall of $18,000,000 per year simply because the county can't get MediCal repayment for units over 16 bed count. That's a celebration of "brick and mortar" we simply can't afford. The feds like Peer Run / Peer Operated Respites. Kern County's INNOVATION Plan is an excellent model of a Peer Run / Peer Operated Respite -- one we ought to strive to emulate as we work to dismantle the unsustainable SCMHTC Model. People have been trying to do this for at least 20 years. Now is the time to begin.

I also made it clear that we are sending our very best over to war torn areas and they are returning with skyrocketing rates of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) because we're protecting them better with new technology but human beings can't stand that kind of shock at the close range IEDs are catching our kids at. We must be ready for the "returning tsunami" of TBI and PTSD inflicted warriors coming home.

The Peer Respites are a wonderful way to help -- I made the point that cutting staff at the Veterans Service Office was a bad move at this time because they are the first line of defense for a warrior filing for veterans benefits using professional case management as opposed to volunteers helping from the veterans service organizations (with severely limited hours) if one goes out to Mather looking for help filing.

Veterans with a history of Serious Mental Illness are a natural to pair with Peer Run Respites for paid employment under the MHSA -- MHSA can enhance programs but can't supplant. That's illegal.

....and now. ...we come to Safe Ground.

Come on Mayor Johnson, it's time !!!


Frank L. Topping, (in the Sacramento County Public Library)
Sacramento Veterans Community Support Network

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Contact the Sacramento Board of Supervisors to STOP funding cuts to Sacramento Veterans Services!

Dear Friends and fellow Sacramento Veterans Community Support Network Members,

Tuesday, 6/15/2010 -- Absolutely ! -- Let's do it !!! Lets Stand Together...

I think the Board of Supervisors needs all the information possible on the reduction of services available from the Veteran's Service Office as soon as possible and again at the 6/15/2010 board meeting -- easy cut & paste e-mail address collections are included below. ...easier that perusing the web sites to copy individual addresses.

A sheet of "talking points" similar to those discussed in the April VCSN Meeting would help everyone whether writing letters or planning to attend in the meeting in person.

The New York Times article on the VCSN Blogspot should be read at the Board meeting in it's entirety to emphasize the current need -- we are facing exactly that with our veterans -- the whole country is and we have one of the highest concentrations of veterans nationally.

It's the pits that they are looking to hit veterans just after Memorial Day.

I know that veterans are directed to the VSO on discharge as a first stop to file their DD-214 and apply for benefits like agent orange and that they receive professional case management at the VSO as opposed to only volunteer assistance at very limited hours from a veterans organization if they go over to Mather VA -- what else ??

...I know they are reluctant to reveal anything to any type of federal government representative -- points on the severity of need of current returning vets would help too. ( like the NY Times Article -- great ! )

I had to chair the Older Adults Committee because the regular chair had a mild stroke -- the meeting times conflict almost exactly with VCSN -- however, I plan on coming to the VCSN Tuesday since the regular chair said he would be able to attend the OAC.this week.

Here's a full list of the e-mail addresses of the Board of Supervisors, each ready to cut and paste into a browser address bar:

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors:

"Roger Dickinson" <>,
"Jimmie Yee" <>,
"Susan Peters" <>,
"Don Nottoli" <>,
"Roberta MacGlashan" <>,

Sacramento City Council E-mail Addresses

"Kevin Johnson" <>,
"Ray Tretheway" <>,
"Sandy Sheedy" <>,
"Steve Cohn" <>,
"Rob Fong" <>,
"Lauren Hammond" <>,
"Bonnie Pannell" <>,
"Kevin McCarty" <>,

Here's a look at a comment from Loaves & Fishes on remembering homeless veterans: (they're consuming services locally)

To see on Google Docs as a .pdf file click here (solo view).

Or see the posting on Loaves & Fishes website.

And -- a survey I helped with at Tent City:

Early results of surveyed Tent City residents by SSF Front Door Committee -- out of 29 surveyed 14% were veterans 64% disabled 43% mentally ill..

Godspeed Everyone, ...WE CAN DO THIS !