Once Homeless, Veteran Now Works for VA

Two men talk and point to a bulletin board in a facility hallway

Formerly homeless Veteran James Mobley (left) works full-time at the same VA domiciliary in Dublin, Ga., where he spent nearly a year in recovery. Photo by Greg Swars, Dublin VA

Not too many homeless Veterans have masters’ degrees in theology and public administration. But then again, 53-year-old James Mobley isn’t your average guy.

“The last time I was in prison, I decided to get a master in theology because my spirit was broken,” he explained. “I studied theology because I wanted to heal my spirit.”

Mobley appears to be the kind of guy whose spirit shines brilliantly for a time but then, like a meteor streaking through the night sky, dissolves abruptly into darkness. “I’ve spent a total of 16 years in prison,” he said. “It’s kind of been up and down for me.”

In between three different stints in prison, all of them in New York, Mobley was busy furthering his education and holding good jobs in the social services field, primarily helping people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.

“I liked being a counselor,” he said. “I like helping people. Up in New York, I was employed with a place that helped runaways. I was working with kids who were 14 to 21-years-old. I became a father figure to a lot of them. I started there as a case manager, then worked my way up to supervisor.”

“After three years on that job I relapsed and started drinking again,” he said. “I ended up back in jail.”

“My wife, who was down in Georgia, kept telling me to come down there,” he said. “She said it would change my life. So three years ago I moved to Georgia. I got a job at the Transition House, working with homeless Veterans. I worked there for two years, but then I started drinking heavily again. I got a DUI.”

But this time around, Mobley somehow avoided jail time. Desperate and homeless, he found his way to the VA medical center in Dublin, Ga.

“They put me in their homeless program at the domiciliary,” he said. “When I first got there I was reluctant to stay. And if it wasn’t for my social worker, Kimberly, I probably would have left. She was the person who kept me there.”

 These are people I can go to. I can talk to all of them and not feel judged. 

A Little Hope

“James did all the work; he worked hard at staying here,” said Kimberly Kralicky. “All I did was offer him support and hope.”

“When he first arrived here I could see he had potential,” said Dawn Kentish, domiciliary chief at the Dublin VA. “He was sort of all over the place at first…there were so many things that needed to be addressed.”

With the help of Kralicky, Kentish, and others like them, a down-and-out Mobley dug deep and found the strength to stick with his treatment program. “When he hit 30 days of sobriety, he was so happy,” Kentish said. “And we were happy for him. We celebrated that achievement with him.”

“I spent nine months in the homeless program here,” Mobley said. “That’s where I learned I was suffering from PTSD, and that my PTSD had a lot to do with my depression. I never knew that before.”

Full Time Social Worker

As part of his recovery process, Mobley began doing some volunteer work at the hospital. In addition to his volunteer work, he’s now employed full-time as a social services aide at the same domiciliary where he spent nearly a year in recovery.

“I have a wonderful team around me,” he added, “and I listen to them. They helped me help myself. These are the people I can go to. I can talk to all of them and not feel judged.”

Perhaps the person who’s been on Mobley’s team the longest is his wife, Cherrietta. Despite the bumpy rollercoaster ride, the two are now together again, recently reunited. “We’ve been together 35 years,” Mobley said. “We grew up together in New York. She stuck with me through all of it. That’s my tough cookie.”

“Yeah, I’m a tough cookie,” Cherrietta said. “I stuck with him. I’ve known him forever, so underneath, I know he’s a real good man. He just needed somebody to love him, someone to tell him everything’s gonna be alright.”

To learn more about VA’s efforts to end Veteran homelessness, visit www.va.gov/homeless

For more information on how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/July/Once-Homeless-Veteran-Now-Works-for-VA.asp

Fighting is My Meditation

A man with a stern look has his boxing gloves laced up

“The great part about it is that I can still get better.”

Although it may sound a little strange at first, these days Joe Duarte finds serenity in combat, as a mixed martial arts fighter. “When I’m in the ring, I’m in complete control of my life,” he said. “It’s when I’m at my peace. It’s my sanctuary. Fighting is my meditation.”

Combat was a different experience for Joe in Iraq, though, where he spent two tours of duty and lost a close friend during a convoy patrol. “My life was at risk all the time,” he recalled. “All of us guys in the Army experienced these horrible situations that nobody would ever experience. It changes your life completely. It changes human beings, period. The anger is so overwhelming that it becomes uncontrollable to the point where you end up doing things that you feel you blacked out.”

After he came home from Iraq, Joe’s anger would sometimes boil into rage. “Like, I’ve beat up people, I followed someone to their house, I’ve pulled a gun out,” he said. “I’ve chased somebody down on the main freeway, on the 805. I followed a guy that almost hit me into a stop light and kicked the side of his door in. I didn’t even stop to think. But I felt good hurting other people because I was hurting so bad inside that taking it out on somebody else actually made me feel good.”

 I have the tools now to deal with those issues. 

When Joe’s anger started to threaten his marriage, he finally decided—reluctantly—that it was time to get help. “With my wife, I’d get angry over really, really miniscule stuff,” he said. “And she would be, like, ‘This is why you need to go get help.’ And where I’m from, saying I need to go get help is like someone slapping you in the face, you know? I fought with her every single time. And I knew something was wrong with me, I just didn’t want to accept it.”

Joe was diagnosed with PTSD and finally went to VA for treatment. It turned his life around.

“When I go home now, it’s completely different from the way I used to be because I’m so much more free mentally,” he said. “I struggle sometimes, you know, get aggravated sometimes. I have the tools now to deal with those issues, and that’s the difference. And now, when I’m happy and I’m sitting at home with my family, it makes me grateful that I went to therapy because I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy those times, you know?

“And I think with me sucking my pride up and being able to get therapy really showed what kind of champion I am. Not the belt that I have around my waist, but that I was able to help myself so that I live the rest of my life as a happier man. And I’m still getting better, you know, that’s the great part about it, is that I can still get better.”

Watch the entire AboutFace video profile of Joe Duarte.

For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem, visit the National Center for PTSD website.

Other Helpful Websites

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/July/Ive-Beat-Up-People-Ive-Pulled-A-Gun-Out.asp

Summer Reminder: Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes

A woman hiker wearing sunglasses smiles

Off the rack sunglasses are okay if they provide adequate UV protection.

Veterans — If you are out in the sunlight in the summer time, you should wear sunglasses with ultraviolet protection. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun&8217;s rays can potentially cause skin cancer and affect your overall health. It can also be damaging to your eyes and potentially harm your vision.

According to Dr. Kelly Thomann, Chief of the Optometry Program at Hudson Valley Health Care System, “Long-term UV radiation exposure puts you at a greater risk of developing ocular conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. In fact, people with any ocular disease should be especially cautious about protecting themselves from the sun.”

Dr. Thomann notes that while most elderly people will eventually develop cataracts, most individuals are not aware that increased UV radiation can result in cataracts developing earlier.

 It is important to understand that lens darkness does not correlate with the amount of UV protection. 

It&8217;s UV Safety Month

Good quality sunglasses are recommended when outdoors, even if it&8217;s for a few minutes at a time. The sunglass frame should be wide and adequately cover the eyes and fragile tissue around the eyes including the eyelids.

Dr. Thomann reminds her Veteran patients that the fragile tissue around the eyelids can develop melanoma from UV radiation — another reason to wear quality sunglasses whenever you are out in the sun.

A hat with a brim is also beneficial to block out those sun rays coming in over the top of your sunglasses.

Ask for UV-A and UV-B Protection

As Dr. Becky Forman points out, “When purchasing sunglasses, it is important to make sure there is both UV-A and UV-B protection, as both types contribute to dermatological and ocular disease.”

Dr. Forman is a Staff Optometrist at VA Hudson Valley.

She adds that “It is important to understand that lens darkness does not correlate with the amount of UV protection, which is the key factor in adequate sun protection. Polarized sunglasses may be beneficial in patients who experience glare.”

Most eye doctors recommend wraparound sunglasses for better protection. And while prescription sunglasses are better, standard off the rack sunglasses are okay if they provide full protection.

Dr. Forman says Veterans should look for sunglasses that absorb at least 90 percent of UV radiation.

“Look for the two categories of protection on the label — UV-A and UV-B.”

Routine visits to your VA eye doctor will help determine your specific UV protection needs and new advances in sunglass wear.

Find your VA eye clinic and more information on eye care.

More resources:

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/July/Summer-Reminder-Sunglasses-Protect-Your-Eyes.asp

10 of the Stories Most Read by Vets on VA Web Site

A woman look sat her smile in a mirror held by a dentist

Top of the list for stories Veterans are most interested in? VA’s new Dental Insurance program.

Twice a week, 52 weeks a year, the home page of the Veterans Health Administration, features an article about topics important to Veterans and their families. From PTSD studies to dental insurance, the website is a valuable gateway to dozens of programs and services available to those who served. Here’s just a short list of some of the most popular… and helpful…stories from the past few months.

1. Dental Insurance Anyone?

Eligible Veterans, plus family members receiving care under the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), can now purchase affordable dental insurance.

2. 10th Anniversary of My HealtheVet

My HealtheVet is VA’s award-winning website that offers Veterans secure access to information in their VA health care records anywhere and anytime. Its web-based tools give users greater control over their care and wellness, helping them become active partners in their health care.

3. The Silent Epidemic of Diabetes

It affects nearly 20 percent of Veterans who use the VA health care system, more than one million Veterans at any given time.

A senior woman sitting with a senior man blurred in the background

4. Are You a Caregiver for a Veteran?

Free Online Workshop – Building Better Caregivers – is a six-week online workshop for family caregivers of Veterans. If you are taking care of a Veteran, this workshop will help you learn a variety of skills like time and stress management, healthy eating, exercise and dealing with difficult emotions.

5. 27 Things You Should Know about PTSD

An important and helpful list of “27 Things to Know” about post-traumatic stress disorder, compiled by the experts at VA’s National Center for PTSD, which conducts research and provides education on trauma and PTSD.

6. Top Ten Health Resources for Veterans

Whether you are a Veteran, related to one, or count a Veteran as a good friend, here is a valuable list of some of the things we do for America’s Veterans. We hope you put this at the top of your Favorites list, save it in the device of your choice or maybe just print it out and hang it on the fridge.

A woman look sat her smile in a mirror held by a dentist

7. Find Out if You Are Eligible for VA Health Benefits

VA’s comprehensive medical benefits package offers care and services that are designed to promote good health, preserve your current health and restore you to better health. Enrollment begins with the application process. The very first step in obtaining access to VA health care benefits is to apply.

8. Weight Loss for Those with Disabilities

It seems simple: Exercise harder. Eat better. Lose those extra few pounds. But what are the options for a person who can’t stand, let alone crank out pushups or run a 5K? How does someone eat healthy when grocery shopping and cooking dinner are both major challenges?

9. PTSD: Exposure versus Cognitive Therapy

The Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting a 17-site, $10 million study that will examine the two leading forms of treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy.

10. Vitamin E Slows Alzheimer’s in VA Trial

Vitamin E helped slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in Veterans with mild to moderate symptoms in a trial reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. More than 600 Veterans from 14 VA medical centers around the country took part in the VA-sponsored trial.

Here’s the link to all the VA Hospitals, Clinics and Vet Centers.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/July/10-of-the-Stories-Most-Read-by-Vets-on-VA-Web-Site.asp

VA Health Care System Named Most Wired – Again!

Back of a mobile health clinic showing a door and wheelchair lift

Mobile Telehealth Clinic is one example of “wired” health care.

Second Year in a Row for Honor

The Department of Veterans Affairs, representing 151 VA medical centers, has been named to the 2014 “Most Wired” hospitals list, the second year in a row the Department has been selected for the honor.

The list, which is released by Hospitals & Health Networks, in partnership with McKesson, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the American Hospital Association, is the result of a national survey aimed at ranking hospitals that are leveraging health information technology in new and innovative ways.

The nationwide survey regarding information technology (IT) in health care was conducted between January 15 and March 15, 2014, and polled 1,901 hospitals and health systems representing 680 completed surveys, or roughly 33 percent of U.S. hospitals. The VA health care system is one of only 20 organizations that met this year’s Most Wired — Advanced criteria.

According to Most Wired, while 375 health care facilities were named as “core” Most Wired winners, VA was among the 20 to exceed “core” IT development integrating IT in patient-centered care, designating it as a Most Wired — Advance recipient.

This means VA has shown exceptional results in the Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study. The characteristics include:

  • Stronger security systems and faster disaster recovery
  • Adoption of electronic systems and tools to improve business processes, clinical quality and patient safety
  • Use of evidence-based electronic order sets and plan of care and standardized care transition process automated review of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) key indicators with compliance alerts
  • Telehealth offerings
  • Online chronic disease management for patients at home
  • Use of electronic disease registries
  • Managing care transitions electronically

The honor means that VA is doing an exceptional job utilizing information technology to conduct business in a changing industry landscape.

As the nation’s largest health network, VA is constantly looking for ways to serve Veterans in the best, most efficient way possible. Over the past two years, VA has provided Veteran patients and VA health care teams with even more ways to connect and ensure 21st Century health care through the use of technology — from recent VA Blue Button enhancements that allow access to critical VA lab results more quickly, to the deployment of asset tracking devices and opening access to patients’ clinical notes through OpenNotes.

 We provide updated reports…that improve quality performance and health outcomes. 

At VA, we are constantly working to improve our practices and enhance our understanding of which technologies work best for our network. These efforts will continue to enhance patient care for our nation’s Veterans.

An important example of VA’s implementation of modern technology is the use of electronic data for performance improvement in patient care, management of care transitions and patient engagement.

Electronic Data Supports Quality Measures

According to interim Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Carolyn Clancy, “The Department of Veterans Affairs is using electronic clinical data to support clinical quality measures throughout its health care system. In addition, electronic data is used to support clinical reminders for the Patient Aligned Care Teams as well as individual health care providers. Electronic data informs our Corporate Data Warehouse which has developed multiple enclaves to evaluate specific data areas.

“Our VA IT systems help VA staff throughout our VA health care system identify clinical risks which in turn guide care to meet a patient’s future needs,” stated Stephen Warren, Executive in Charge for Information and Technology. “These integrated system help provide regularly updated reports of observed to expected events in order to compare performance and, most importantly, to inform interventions that improve quality performance and health outcomes.”

All VA medical centers nationwide were named to the 2014 “Most Wired” list.

The full list of 2014’s “Most Wired” hospitals and the entire report can be found in the July cover story detailing results and available at 2014’s “Most Wired” and a video further explaining the key findings of the 2014 Most Wired Survey “Most Wired Hospitals Find Value in IT.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/July/VA-Health-Care-System-Named-Most-Wired-Again.asp

Nurse Navigator Simplifies the Maze for Patients

A woman stands at a computer in an office with a sign that says Nurse Navigator

Joan Stewart, Nurse Navigator, consults with Army Veteran Tom Eckerson.

A caller was distressed and needed immediate help for his elderly brother, a Veteran who had been treating his own condition with over the counter medicine. The Vet suddenly seemed incoherent.

From her control center at Fort Harrison’s VA Hospital, Nurse Navigator Joan Stewart listened and carefully coordinated the path for patient and caregiver alike. Having maneuvered one Veteran to safety, the registered nurse checked her computer and surveyed the hospital’s busy waiting area for the next person in need.

The Nurse Navigator is a recent, unique and important part of the hospital’s patient-centered strategy for efficient health care access that is personally rewarding for Veterans.

Debera Charlton, Nurse Manager for Ambulatory Care at VA Montana Health Care System, visualized and implemented the strategy a year and a half ago. She credited Stewart and two preceding Nurse Navigators, Loreen Skinner and Karen Zawacki, for helping her realize a dream she says works.

 I took this position so that I could have more contact with patients. 

Charlton, a cancer survivor, first saw the effectiveness of Nurse Navigators in the private sector. “They steer cancer patients through often complex treatment systems,” Charlton said. “Where non-emergency, walk-in patients had previously received treatment in the emergency department, the Nurse Navigator is able to identify what a patient needs through triage and direct the route to a point of access.”

She constantly interfaces with members of the Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs) to assure continuity of care is provided, a collaborative position with all the PACTs and not independent of them.

“I took this position in January so that I could have more contact with patients. I talk to about 27 patients daily, which is a lot,” Stewart said from inside the glass-walled cube that provides privacy for face-to-face and phone consults.

Someone covers for her during breaks. Otherwise, she is the only Nurse Navigator for VA in Montana.

“The most important thing is access.”

Most inbound calls for routine appointments are handled by other schedulers. “The Veterans that I speak to want same-day access and their medical need is either urgent or emergent,” Stewart said. She talks to patients with questions ranging from administrative matters like billing and enrollment to behavioral health consultations and treatment for complex physical ailments. “The most important thing is access.”

Stewart, a retired Montana Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, Helena native, mother of three, and nurse with 30 years of experience, knows her patients and her craft. “They don’t come in here unless they need help now,” Stewart said as she helped one Veteran enter the lab next door.

“I enjoy the patient education aspect of this job,” she added. Stewart recently earned a master’s Degree using the VA Scholarship Program and is one of four instructors who will participate in nurse-led education clinics aimed at building knowledge on personal health.

Fellow registered nurse Helen Williams, the Veteran Health Education Coordinator, said that Stewart is a shining example of someone who has personalized her education and is returning her knowledge to the VA.

“Joan, can I come in and talk?” asked a Veteran with silver hair, polarized glasses and cane. Joan Stewart, Nurse Navigator, immediately got up, smiled, greeted the man by name and helped her patient to a chair in the privacy of her navigation center.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/July/Nurse-Navigator-Simplifies-the-Maze-for-Patients.asp

VA Hosts July 4th Ceremonies for Veterans

A smiling girl holds a US flag


It’s time to honor the birthday of the United States of America and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

A day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night of concerts and fireworks, and a reason to fly the American flag. It’s a special time to remember those men and women whose sacrifices helped to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave — our Veterans.

Across America, VA Medical Centers are celebrating with special events for Veterans and their families.

Marion, Illinois

The staff at the Marion, Illinois, VA Medical Center will be at their local baseball game handing out “VA FANS” and talking about VA health care services. They will also have a special Veteran guest, a ball player for the Negro League, Melvin Duncan, who will be throwing out the first pitch. All followed by fireworks for the entire city of Marion.

(Thanks Peggy Willoughby, PAO, Marion VAMC)

Man at a party smiling from behind a grill

VA Police Sgt. Marvin Seifer being “grilled” at White City, Oregon, BBQ

Southern Oregon

Every year, the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics in White City, Oregon celebrate the 4th of July with a barbecue and carnival for the 500-plus residents. The day’s events include entertainment, “carnival” booths with prizes and music by “T.J. & The Spurs.” VA staff and volunteers prepare and serve hamburgers, chili dogs, salads, chips, pie, watermelon, ice cream and refreshments.

(Thanks Rhonda Haney, PAS, VA Southern Oregon)

 Saluting the men and women who help keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave — our Veterans. 

New York

The VA New York Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System will be hosting a group from the New York Mets coming to visit with Veteran patients on Monday, July 7. NY Mets General Manager and Vietnam Veteran Sandy Alderson and former player Rusty Staub will meet with patients for a barbecue on the patio at VA St. Albans Community Center. Many of the Veterans at the long term care facility are big fans of the former Mets players.

(Thanks Claudie Benjamin, PAO, VA New York Harbor)

Woman on a motorcycle with a Veteran in the sidecar

Community Living Center Veteran residents enjoy motorcycle rides around Denver


Veteran residents at Denver’s VA Community Living Center will enjoy a special treat on July 6 with the 7th Annual Harley’s Heroes Run to the Community Living Center. Local motorcycle enthusiasts come in force to the Denver center with side-car equipped Harley Davidson Motorcycles and give Veterans rides around the Denver Metro Area. About 50 motorcyclists are expected and almost all of the 30 residents take up the offer for the ride. The event is supported by Buckley Air Force Base active duty participants along with Marine Reservists from the base.

(Thanks Dan Warvi, PAO, Eastern Colorado Health Care System)

Color guard marches across a baseball diamond as players watch and clap

Portland VA Medical Center hosts Welcome Home Celebration ceremonies on July 4th in Bend, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Portland VA Medical Center hosts Welcome Home Celebration ceremonies on July 4th in Bend, Oregon

On July 4, the Portland, Oregon, VA Medical Center will honor and show its appreciation for service members by hosting a Welcome Home Celebration for Veterans and their families in the Pacific Northwest. The event takes place at a baseball game in Bend, Oregon, featuring the Bend Bucks vs. Tacoma. Veterans and their families were invited to enjoy free tickets and food and an opportunity to learn about VA benefits and services.

(Thanks Dan Herrigstad, PAO, Portland VA Medical Center)

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/July/VA-Hosts-July-4th-Ceremonies-for-Veterans.asp

Senior Veterans Going for the Gold – One More Time

A senior man in a swimming pool smiles

Recreation therapy fills a special need in the lives of older patients.

The 2014 National Veterans Golden Age Games will take place June 28-July 2 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains on the campus of the University of Arkansas.

It’s the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States and the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

The competitive events include air rifle, bowling, cycling, field (discus, shot, javelin), golf, horseshoes, mind sports (checkers, dominoes), nine-ball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track, with demonstration sport badminton.

A senior man throws a horse shoe

James McDonough, 89, pitches horseshoes at the Golden Age Games.

James McDonough of Denver is a Veteran of the Coast Guard and brought soldiers ashore during the Normandy landings (D-Day) June 6, 1944. He is extremely active and prepares for the games year round. He will be participating in javelin, horseshoes, bowling, and table tennis this year. He will be 89 on June 24.

According to Carla Carmichael, “The National Veteran Golden Age Games provide opportunities for Veterans to compete in sports and recreational events. An active lifestyle is critical to promoting health and independence while preventing illness or disability and prolonging quality of life.”

National Director of the Golden Age Games, Carmichael added, “Recreational and other rehab therapists at local medical centers work with the Veteran to participate based on rehabilitative goals established individually.”

Sports and fitness are vital ingredients of VA’s National Rehabilitation Special Events. Physical activity and friendly competition engage the mind as well as the body and recreation therapy fills a special need in the lives of older patients at VA health centers across the country. VA research and clinical experience verify that physical activity is particularly important to the health, recovery and overall quality of life for older people.

 No matter what, make the effort. I can make the effort. 

A few of the “stars” from the 2013 games

Robert “Sparky” Sparkes, a 94 year-old World War II U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran, works out and trains year-round, hiked the Appalachian Trail between Georgia to Maine three times since the age of 60 and inspires teammates daily with a positive attitude and will to compete.

Army Veteran Gael Keshoemaker experienced a stroke two years ago and faced speech and other significant physical challenges. In 2013, she participated in bowling as well as shuffleboard, table tennis and horseshoes. Her motto is, “No matter what, make the effort. I can make the effort.”

Dale Hosler, 83-year old Korean War Army Veteran, enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. He works out at least three times a week lifting weights and using cardio equipment and focuses on conditioning and strength training. “I look forward to it all year so I’m ready to participate.”

A woman in a wheelchair bowls

Judy Ruiz bowling at the Golden Age Games

Judy Ruiz, Marine Corps Veteran, lost her ability to work as a result of multiple sclerosis. She previously did not participate in sports but now feels that because of them, she has more hand and eye coordination, physical strength and range of motion. “Rehabilitative sports are great physically, mentally and socially. It’s good for the mind, body and soul.”

Read their stories (Inspiring Stories on the bottom of the page) and more about The National Veterans Golden Age Games.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/June/Senior-Veterans-Going-for-the-Gold-One-More-Time.asp

I Cannot Be This Person

Close up of a woman with an angry expression

Marine Veteran Laura Hendrixon

In observance of PTSD Awareness Month: June 2014, Inside Veterans Health, in collaboration with VA’s National Center for PTSD, presents the following profile of a Veteran who is living with PTSD and turning her life around with treatment.

Finding it hard to be home alone or feel comfortable in public places, Marine Veteran and MST survivor Laura Hendrixon is determined to get better for her family.

Laura Hendrixon had always thought PTSD came only after combat exposure — until it happened to her. “After being in the Marines for a year and a half, I was sexually assaulted by another Marine who was also a co-worker and a friend of mine,” she said. “It’s embarrassing to talk about, but I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be stronger.”

The trauma affected her so much that she was afraid to take a shower when she was home alone. “…I would basically be in panic mode the whole time,” she said. “I would think …‘Oh my gosh, I want to get a shower, but I can’t get a shower because I’m home by myself and if I’m in the shower, I’m not going to be able to hear if somebody comes in the house.’ I would get scared to the point that I wouldn’t close my eyes when I’m taking a shower.”

Laura was diagnosed with PTSD. Her VA doctor suggested she get into treatment. “I finally had a doctor point out to me that, you know, it would be really good if I went through this treatment,” she recalled. “I knew I needed to do it because I can’t wait to have kids and I was like, “I cannot be this person with kids. I’m going to, like, wrap them up in bubble wrap.”

 It’s embarrassing to talk about, but I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be stronger. 

Laura’s treatment at VA was a form of talk therapy called Prolonged Exposure (PE). In PE, the goal is for the patient to have less fear about her memories. It is based on the idea that people learn to fear thoughts, feelings and situations that remind them of a past traumatic event. By talking about her trauma repeatedly in a safe environment with a therapist, the patient learns to get control of her thoughts and feelings about the trauma. She learns that she does not have to be afraid of her memories.

“I made a list of things I needed to be able to do: make left-hand turns, ride in an elevator, go somewhere by myself, get showers. It’s like, I need to learn how to deal with this stuff, now,” she explained. “It was very difficult at first. I had to go back to that moment and, you know, describe exactly how I felt, emotions and fears and everything about the moment. It did get easier. You actually record yourself and then you listen to it, so in some way it tricks your brain into accepting that this did happen to me and, you know, I’m going to be OK and it’s going to get better.”

Laura also credits her husband for much of the progress she has made. “My husband is a lifesaver,” she said. “We’re going to counseling together and they’re helping us talk through some of the daily struggles that I have with PTSD. He’s so good for me; he encourages me to do things I’m not comfortable with. I definitely plan to keep moving forward with it. I’m always thinking, like, “Just do it!” I can do all kinds of stuff.”

You can see the entire AboutFace video profile of Laura Hendrixon.

For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem during June and throughout the year, professionals and members of the public can visit the National Center for PTSD website. This site offers resources such as:

  • PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.
  • PTSD Continuing Education opportunities for providers, including PTSD 101 Courses, on the best practices in PTSD treatment (CEs/CMEs offered).
  • AboutFace: Online videos of Veterans talking about how PTSD treatment can turn your life around.
  • For continued involvement, please subscribe to the PTSD Monthly Update. Stay up to date on new information about PTSD and trauma year round.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/June/I-Cannot-Be-This-Person.asp

Connecting Veterans with Telehealth

A nurse and Veteran talk with a physician through a video conference

Telehealth — making care accessible and patient-centered.

In fiscal year 2013, more than 600,000 Veteran patients received some element of their health care via telehealth.

That’s 11 percent of the Veterans in the VA health care system who participated in 1.7 million telehealth episodes of care.

For those thousands of Veterans, the future is now with telehealth, a radically different way for patients to receive and clinicians to provide care.

According to Dr. Adam Darkins, “Telehealth in VA is the forerunner of a wider vision, one in which the relationship between patients and the health care system will dramatically change with the full realization of the ‘connected patient’. The high levels of patient satisfaction with telehealth and positive clinical outcome, attest to this direction being the right one.”

Darkins is VA’s chief consultant for telehealth services.

Telehealth is aimed at making care convenient, accessible and patient-centered. Telehealth helps Veterans live independently in their own homes and local communities.

Covers Over 44 Clinical Specialties

A key component of VA telehealth is Clinical Video Telehealth, real-time video consultation that covers
over 44 clinical specialties including: Tele-Intensive Care, TeleMental Health, TeleCardiology,
TeleNeurology, TeleSurgery, Women’s Telehealth, Tele-Primary Care, TeleSCI care, TeleAmputation
Care, TeleAudiology, TeleSpeech, Remote Nursing Home Consultation, TelePathology and more.

Home Telehealth, which provided care for 144,520 Veterans in fiscal year 2013, helps patients with chronic conditions in their homes, providing non-institutional care, chronic care management, acute care management, health promotion and disease prevention.

Forty-five percent of these patients live in rural areas and may otherwise have had limited access to VA health care. The number of Veterans receiving care via VA’s telehealth services is growing approximately 22 percent annually.

An senior Veteran speaks to a nurse and doctor on a video screen

The number of Veterans receiving care via telehealth growing about 22% a year.

More Than a Million Mental Health Encounters

TeleMental Health — VA has delivered more than 1.1 million patient encounters from 150 VA facilities to 729 community based outpatient clinics, a 24-fold increase in consultations since fiscal year 2003.

In fiscal year 2013, VA delivered more than 278,000 telemental health patient encounters to over 91,000 patients.

The scope of VA’s telemental health services includes all mental health conditions with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, compensation and pension exams, bipolar disorder, behavioral pain and evidence-based psychotherapy.

The ability to receive and store clinical images via telehealth is called Store-and-Forward Telehealth (SFT). This affected 311,369 Veterans in fiscal year 2013. It enables the acquisition of clinical images at sites close to the patient, and for the interpretation and reporting of these to occur remotely and asynchronously.

Use of TeleDermatology up by 279 percent

Currently the major areas of SFT care in VA are TeleRetinal Imaging, to screen for diabetic eye disease and prevent avoidable blindness, and TeleDermatology, which has increased by 279 percent over the past three years to more than 45,000 patients receiving care in fiscal year 2013.

New programs under development include Telepathology, TeleWound care, TeleSpirometry and TeleCardiology.

Dr. Darkins adds, “Telehealth is often described as helping provide the right care in the right place at the right time which translates into many Veterans receiving care in their own home and local community. In doing so, telehealth often avoids the need to travel, but can also alert VA that a patient needs to be rapidly seen in the clinic or hospital.”

Learn more about VA’s telehealth services and watch videos that do a great job of explaining telehealth programs and how they can provide better access to health care for Veterans.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/June/Connecting-Veterans-with-Telehealth.asp

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