Obama Plan for Vets Unemployment: Tax Cuts and Credentialing
Sort of a bunch of things that add up to one comprehesive story today. Please, PLEASE don't jump on here with comments that are irrelevant to the story. But, let's start with some news stories from last week:
First, from USA Today on July 25th, the bad news:
More than 10,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are homeless or in programs aimed at keeping them off the streets, a number that has doubled three times since 2006, according to figures released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The rise comes at a time when the total number of homeless veterans has declined from a peak of about 400,000 in 2004 to 135,000 today.
"We're seeing more and more (Iraq and Afghanistan veterans)," says Richard Thomas, a Volunteers of America case manager at a shelter in Los Angeles. "It's just a bad time for them to return now and get out of the military."
More bad news from USA Today on August 4:
College students who served in the military have a suicide attempt rate six times higher than the average college student, suggests research presented today at a meeting of the American Psychological Association. It found students who are veterans also report thinking about suicide or planning their death at significantly higher rates.
Researchers with the National Center for Veterans' Studies at the University of Utah surveyed 525 veterans, average age 26. Almost all (98%) had been deployed in either Iraq or Afghanistan and 58% to 60% reported experiencing combat.
Nearly half (46%) of the 415 men and 110 women studied reported having had suicidal thinking sometime in their lives; 20% had suicidal thoughts with a plan. That compares to 2010 data from the American College Health Association, which showed 6% of college students reported seriously considering suicide.
And now the good news: President Obama came out strong on this one (Reuters):
President Barack Obama on Friday proposed $120 million in new tax credits for businesses that hire U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at a time of stubbornly high unemployment at home.
During a visit to Washington's Navy Yard, Obama unveiled a "reverse boot camp" program to help soldiers return to civilian life and set a goal for companies to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans and their spouses by the end of next year.
While many veterans who enlisted after the September 11 attacks returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and slid into the workforce, the president said, others have struggled to find a job "worthy of their experience and worthy of their talent."
I was actually supposed to be on CNN on Saturday to discuss it, but the horrific helicopter crash bumped the story. Would have been nice to praise the President, because no matter how you feel about him, this is a top notch solution to the problem, and it should be praised.
Another article in the AP lays out some of the other credentialling issues, which matches up neatly with what The American Legion has cooking:
The American Legion plans a national meeting on veterans' employment and credentialing in October.
"The tragedy is that veterans are often so qualified and have done so many amazing things that they can bring to employers. It is a missed opportunity for employers," said Joe Sharpe, director of the legion's economic division and an Army reservist with 28 years in the military.
Today's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines work with advanced technology and often have useful management and communication skills, he said.
"The transition to leaving the military should start the day you enter the military. The private sector should be more involved in the training so they know what they will be getting when someone leaves the military," he said.
In other TAL news, here is a press release we put out today on one failure of an oft-used drug for PTSD at the VA:
American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster says he is "greatly concerned" about the widespread use of an apparently ineffective medication by Department of Veterans Affairs' doctors treating patients with post-traumatic stress (PTS).
"It is alarming that fully 20 percent of the nearly 87,000 veterans VA physicians treated for PTS last year were given a medication that has proven to be pretty much useless," said Foster.
According to a study conducted by VA itself and published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication commonly prescribed to veterans with post traumatic stress when antidepressants have failed to help, does not alleviate the symptoms of PTS.
"Not only that," said Foster, "but Risperdal is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of PTS." Only two medications, Zoloft and Paxil, both antidepressants, are government-approved to treat PTS, and neither drug, say researchers, is very effective at treating patients with a chronic form of the disorder.
"I am greatly concerned that veterans suffering the ‘invisible wounds of war' are receiving equally invisible care," said Foster.
The American Legion has been concerned about the misapplication of PTS medications for some time. Last year, the Legion appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the efficacy of existing treatments for PTS and TBI (traumatic brain injury) and explore alternatives to improve the science. The committee comprises officers of the Legion, as well as lay, professional and government consultants. It convened its third meeting during the week of August 1. The JAMA article appeared on Aug. 3.
Among the speakers at the Legion's latest ad hoc committee meeting was Dr. Charles Hoge, who is considered to be one of the country's leading experts on PTS and TBI. From 2002 through 2009, Hoge - a retired U.S. Army colonel - directed Walter Reed Army Medical Center's research on the psychological and neurological consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In light of the JAMA article, Hoge said he wondered if patients will continue to trust military and veteran medicine's handling of PTS cases. He asked, "Is there a resistance and reluctance among servicemembers and veterans to receive and continue their mental health care?"
Another committee consultant and longtime associate of the Legion is Dr. Jeanne Mager Stellman, Special Lecturer and Professor Emerita of Clinical Health Policy and Management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "This is the second major study showing that the drug therapies given to tens of thousands of our nation's veterans for PTS are ineffective and are associated with a range of side effects (such as weight gain)," Stellman said. "It is time to clean this mess up (and) devote attention to the problem - not wait years for studies to be done, results to be published and still not have changes made."
Foster said he is urging Congress to conduct hearings on the ongoing difficulties being experienced by both the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA in the treatment of PTS, as well as TBI. He is also prompting both DoD and VA to speed up their research on the screening of PTS and TBI cases and the treatment of them. "Accelerated research, however, must be balanced with great care and absolute accuracy," said Foster.