Opening Soon: New Polytrauma-Rehabilitiation Center



Outside of a contemporary building

New facility features 56 private inpatient rooms and an aquatic center with a treadmill therapy pool.










On Saturday, April 12, eager crowds attended the ribbon-cutting for the new Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida.


According to Dr. Steven Scott, many had the same reaction he did when he first visited the new facility. “Wow!” Scott is Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, at the new center.


The Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center will serve as the first stop for many on the road to recovery and reintegration into the community for returning Veterans and active duty servicemembers. It will help Veterans readjust to society in a family-focused facility that combines all of their rehabilitation needs in one place.


The center is a state-of-the-art facility that provides comprehensive, compassionate, high-quality, interdisciplinary care to patients and their families. It’s an example of modern, award-winning architecture that creates a home-like healing environment.


VA’s Polytrauma System of Care is for Veterans and servicemembers with multiple injuries that result in physical, cognitive and/or psychological impairments and functional disability.


The new facility features 56 private inpatient rooms, a therapeutic climbing wall, an aquatic center including a treadmill therapy pool, a virtual reality simulation center, a multi-surface mobility training area and an outdoor recreational therapeutic activity space including a basketball court, putting green and horseshoe pit.


This environment features “patient neighborhoods,” natural light, day rooms and an atrium with a “town center” and a “main street” and exterior deck for patients and their families to socialize and relax.


Among the many features of the center, all patient rooms support a lift-free environment and have television programs with the patient-centered Get Well Network – interactive software so patients can access health information and watch movies, television or surf the Internet.


Final touches are being completed and the new center will open soon.



Wide corridor in a contemporary building with palm trees and a check-in counter

Unique environment has patient “neighborhoods,” natural light, a therapeutic climbing wall and a virtual reality simulation center.


“This center fulfills the promise we have made to our Veterans,” said Dr. Scott. “If you get injured, we promise we will give you the best rehabilitation care. And that promise is what I see when I look at this building.”


Rehabilitation efforts plan to focus on successful community re-integration, vocational rehabilitation, educational support and life span and secondary conditions to aging, with traumatic brain, spinal cord and amputation injuries.


A Neighborhood Called Bravery


The units in the new center are broken into “neighborhoods” and with military- inspired names of Duty, Patriot and Valor on the second floor and Motivation, Bravery, Honor and Courage on the third floor.


Each spacious room includes a comfortable family niche, large roll-in showers, a personal memorabilia display and outward facing windows for natural lighting.


A key component of VA’s Polytrauma System are the teams of clinicians from a range of fields who develop and implement individually-tailored rehabilitation plans to foster recovery as quickly and as completely as possible.


 This center fulfills the promise we have made to our Veterans. 


Additional inpatient and outpatients services featured in the new Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center include:


  • Integration with the VA Amputation System of Care which provides acute and long-term medical, rehabilitation and prosthetic needs for individuals with amputations.
  • Assistive Technology Labs that offer comprehensive evaluation, prescription and training for the use of technology to optimize Veterans’ and active duty servicemembers’ independence and community participation goals.
  • Expansion of tele-rehabilitation services that include standardized protocols for remote TBI evaluation, devices for in-home monitoring of TBI symptoms and the TBI Coach, an app for the self-management of TBI symptoms.

The Polytrauma System of Care at the Tampa VA Hospital is expected to continue to evolve over time, potentially seeing an increase in the need for the hospital to continue providing mental health support for posttraumatic stress, substance abuse and complicated issues secondary to deployment. The newly constructed space is flexible to accommodate the evolving needs of Veteran and active duty patients today and into the future.


Since April 2007, more than 500,000 Veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn entering the VA health care system have been screened for possible TBI with more than 53,000 by the Tampa VA Hospital alone.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Opening-Soon-New-Polytrauma-Rehabilitiation-Center.asp

Help with Concussions in Veterans’ Hands Today



A man uses an iPad at a table

New app designed to educate about concussions and related symptoms and treatments.










The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed Concussion Coach, a mobile application that provides portable tools to recognize symptoms and to identify and make use of coping strategies.


It’s designed to meet the needs of Veterans and others who have suffered mild to moderate concussions.


The Concussion Coach application is designed to educate users about concussions, related symptoms, treatments and to enable users to recognize and assess symptoms.


 In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the clinical recommendations…to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain. 


It also identifies resources for managing symptoms, planning tools to build resilience, and provides access to crisis resources, including personal support contacts and ways in which the user can obtain professional healthcare.


Its development came about as a result of knowledge gained by VA medical staff in treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


Concussion Coach is available for mobile Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and IPod Touch) from the App Store and will be available to Google Play later in 2014.



Close up of an iPad being used

Brain injuries caused most often from falls and accidents


While combat injuries to Servicemembers and injuries to professional athletes gain media attention, TBI is most often caused by falls, vehicle accidents and violence. TBI is a major cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults.


The application is a useful tool and is not intended to replace professional diagnosis, medical treatment or rehabilitation therapies for those who need them.


“We believe that Concussion Coach will support treatment with a healthcare professional by providing portable, convenient tools for the user to recognize symptoms and cope with concussion-related problems,” said Dr. Micaela Cornis-Pop, Speech Pathologist and lead expert for the application.


“In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the science and the clinical recommendations that have emerged from the recent efforts of researchers and practitioners across many agencies, organizations, and institutions to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain,” she added.


Concussion Coach was collaboratively developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services and the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology.


For additional information, go to the Concussion Coach website.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Help-With-Concussions-in-Veterans-Hands-Today.asp

Help with Concussions in Veterans’ Hands Today



A man uses an iPad at a table

New app designed to educate about concussions and related symptoms and treatments.










The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed Concussion Coach, a mobile application that provides portable tools to recognize symptoms and to identify and make use of coping strategies.


It’s designed to meet the needs of Veterans and others who have suffered mild to moderate concussions.


The Concussion Coach application is designed to educate users about concussions, related symptoms, treatments and to enable users to recognize and assess symptoms.


 In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the clinical recommendations…to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain. 


It also identifies resources for managing symptoms, planning tools to build resilience, and provides access to crisis resources, including personal support contacts and ways in which the user can obtain professional healthcare.


Its development came about as a result of knowledge gained by VA medical staff in treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


Concussion Coach is available for mobile Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and IPod Touch) from the App Store and will be available to Google Play later in 2014.



Close up of an iPad being used

Brain injuries caused most often from falls and accidents


While combat injuries to Servicemembers and injuries to professional athletes gain media attention, TBI is most often caused by falls, vehicle accidents and violence. TBI is a major cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults.


The application is a useful tool and is not intended to replace professional diagnosis, medical treatment or rehabilitation therapies for those who need them.


“We believe that Concussion Coach will support treatment with a healthcare professional by providing portable, convenient tools for the user to recognize symptoms and cope with concussion-related problems,” said Dr. Micaela Cornis-Pop, Speech Pathologist and lead expert for the application.


“In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the science and the clinical recommendations that have emerged from the recent efforts of researchers and practitioners across many agencies, organizations, and institutions to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain,” she added.


Concussion Coach was collaboratively developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services and the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology.


For additional information, go to the Concussion Coach website.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Help-With-Concussions-in-Veterans-Hands-Today.asp

Help with Concussions in Veterans’ Hands Today



A man uses an iPad at a table

New app designed to educate about concussions and related symptoms and treatments.










The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed Concussion Coach, a mobile application that provides portable tools to recognize symptoms and to identify and make use of coping strategies.


It’s designed to meet the needs of Veterans and others who have suffered mild to moderate concussions.


The Concussion Coach application is designed to educate users about concussions, related symptoms, treatments and to enable users to recognize and assess symptoms.


 In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the clinical recommendations…to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain. 


It also identifies resources for managing symptoms, planning tools to build resilience, and provides access to crisis resources, including personal support contacts and ways in which the user can obtain professional healthcare.


Its development came about as a result of knowledge gained by VA medical staff in treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


Concussion Coach is available for mobile Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and IPod Touch) from the App Store and will be available to Google Play later in 2014.



Close up of an iPad being used

Brain injuries caused most often from falls and accidents


While combat injuries to Servicemembers and injuries to professional athletes gain media attention, TBI is most often caused by falls, vehicle accidents and violence. TBI is a major cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults.


The application is a useful tool and is not intended to replace professional diagnosis, medical treatment or rehabilitation therapies for those who need them.


“We believe that Concussion Coach will support treatment with a healthcare professional by providing portable, convenient tools for the user to recognize symptoms and cope with concussion-related problems,” said Dr. Micaela Cornis-Pop, Speech Pathologist and lead expert for the application.


“In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the science and the clinical recommendations that have emerged from the recent efforts of researchers and practitioners across many agencies, organizations, and institutions to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain,” she added.


Concussion Coach was collaboratively developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services and the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology.


For additional information, go to the Concussion Coach website.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Help-With-Concussions-in-Veterans-Hands-Today.asp

Help with Concussions in Veterans’ Hands Today



A man uses an iPad at a table

New app designed to educate about concussions and related symptoms and treatments.










The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed Concussion Coach, a mobile application that provides portable tools to recognize symptoms and to identify and make use of coping strategies.


It’s designed to meet the needs of Veterans and others who have suffered mild to moderate concussions.


The Concussion Coach application is designed to educate users about concussions, related symptoms, treatments and to enable users to recognize and assess symptoms.


 In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the clinical recommendations…to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain. 


It also identifies resources for managing symptoms, planning tools to build resilience, and provides access to crisis resources, including personal support contacts and ways in which the user can obtain professional healthcare.


Its development came about as a result of knowledge gained by VA medical staff in treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


Concussion Coach is available for mobile Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and IPod Touch) from the App Store and will be available to Google Play later in 2014.



Close up of an iPad being used

Brain injuries caused most often from falls and accidents


While combat injuries to Servicemembers and injuries to professional athletes gain media attention, TBI is most often caused by falls, vehicle accidents and violence. TBI is a major cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults.


The application is a useful tool and is not intended to replace professional diagnosis, medical treatment or rehabilitation therapies for those who need them.


“We believe that Concussion Coach will support treatment with a healthcare professional by providing portable, convenient tools for the user to recognize symptoms and cope with concussion-related problems,” said Dr. Micaela Cornis-Pop, Speech Pathologist and lead expert for the application.


“In developing the Concussion Coach, we applied the science and the clinical recommendations that have emerged from the recent efforts of researchers and practitioners across many agencies, organizations, and institutions to better understand the nature and consequences of injury to the brain,” she added.


Concussion Coach was collaboratively developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services and the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology.


For additional information, go to the Concussion Coach website.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Help-With-Concussions-in-Veterans-Hands-Today.asp

Helping Veterans Find and Keep a Home



A nurse talks with a senior man about medications

Sarah Scalia assists Veteran Arthur Carter with routine life skills. Photo by Jeff Bowen, VA Medical Media Photographer










April is Occupational Therapy Month


“I’ve been too busy lately to sit around and think about how depressed I am.” When Sarah Scalia heard that, she knew she had helped a Veteran change his life.


And realized he had defined her job, occupational therapist, “better than I ever could have dreamed.”


Occupational therapy is a discipline that aims to promote health by enabling people to perform meaningful and purposeful activities.


As the largest health care system in the nation, VA is the single largest employer of occupational therapists.


Scalia works within HUD-VASH, a partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and VA Supported Housing (VASH).


HUD supplies a number of Section 8 housing vouchers designated for Veterans and VASH supplies ongoing case management services to help the Veteran obtain and maintain affordable housing with the voucher.


“As the first occupational therapist hired into a VA homeless program, I have had the privilege of a blank canvas on which to paint our services for our Comprehensive Homeless Program here at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.”


Scalia was asked to help a Veteran who had accumulated so much clutter in his apartment that he was at risk of eviction. He had a long history of depression and alcohol dependence and only had a two-foot wide path from his bed to his chair in the living room.


Her assessment confirmed that his living space was a direct reflection of his depression: decreased self-worth and motivation. He did not want to become homeless again but he felt overwhelmed. “I assured him his goal was attainable, rolled up my sleeves; put some gloves on and spent three days a week for a month and a half with him.”


Scalia’s assignment includes assessing Veterans going into housing to ensure they are functionally able to reach the goal of maintaining housing long term. So far, she has conducted evaluations on 105 Veterans.


She also assists on cases for Veterans who are already in housing, assessing functional knowledge and skills associated with many basic activities of daily living, but mainly budgeting and home management.


As she explains, “It’s the nature of the job when developing a new program that the format of services must change and shift according to the needs of the population being served.”


Occupational therapists use a holistic approach and address activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing and grooming, as well as more advanced activities such as cooking, shopping, driving, parenting, and returning to work. They are skilled at assessing performance, analyzing the components of tasks and helping to improve performance through adapting the way a person is performing the task, the use of equipment, or by adapting the environment.


VA occupational therapists work with individuals who suffer from a mentally, physically, developmentally or emotionally disabling condition by using treatments that develop, recover, or maintain clients’ activities of daily living. They work with thousands of Veterans of all ages.


Remembering the Veteran with the clutter, Scalia noted that, “Once we got his apartment cleaned out, I began teaching him how to maintain the cleanliness we had achieved. His HUD-VASH social worker reported that his depression symptoms significantly decreased.


Scalia explained, when he was able to sit on his couch for the first time in over a year he said, “Now I could have a friend over. And, I could cook them dinner now that I can use my stove and oven.”


“He continues to live in a safe, clutter-free apartment. He has re-gained employment and his Mental Health Clinic team says our occupational therapy assistance helped to make a great difference in the symptoms they had been struggling to address for this Veteran for a long time.”


“I facilitated his engagement in occupation, meaning that I helped him with his problem solving skills, therapeutically challenging his thought processes associated with throwing things away and teaching him to recognize how and why certain items triggered an increase in his depression symptoms.”


Scalia is also designing a series of group protocols to improve HUD-VASH Veterans’ skill set associated with maintaining recovery: a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) enhanced with education and experiential activities provided to promote mindfulness of our senses and how sensory processing affects our responses to everyday life.


The other will be a community re-integration group to promote social interaction, independence, and a sense of community among Veterans who are obtaining permanent housing. She will be co-facilitating this group with a HUD-VASH social worker.


About her job? “Quite frankly, it’s a beautiful thing! Multiple clinical services working toward the same goals, the goals of the Veteran.”


Since Scalia’s initiation of this new service, two additional VA occupational therapists have joined her in the unique assignment, Ellen Radford in Boston and Geoffrey Sittler in Portland, Oregon. More about them in a future story.


April is Occupational Therapy Month, a perfect time to reflect on the work VA does to help Veterans live a full and productive life.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Helping-Veterans-Find-and-Keep-a-Home.asp

Peer Specialists Held in High Regard by Veterans



A woman and man look and point at a brochure

Christina Valenzuela, right, is a peer specialist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. Photo by Tami Schutter










Recovery from mental illness is often possible. That’s the goal of VA’s peer specialist mental health program—to have Veterans who have recovered from mental illness serve as role models for other Veterans. The concept is simple: Veterans will connect better with those who have experienced the same things.


A recent survey conducted by VA researchers in Syracuse, N.Y., and Pittsburgh, along with colleagues at the RAND Corporation, showed the achievements, and difficulties, of hiring Veterans with serious mental illnesses. The findings, published in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, pointed to widespread success and some room for improvement.


VA is largest employer of mental health peer specialists


VA has employed peer specialists for mental health since 2005 and is, in fact, their largest single employer in the world. The program expanded dramatically when President Obama signed an order in 2012 to improve mental health care for Veterans. That led to VA hiring more than 900 peer specialists nationwide to help treat Veterans with mental illness.


Ninety-two of VA’s 138 Local Recovery Coordinators, or LRCs, responded to a 2010 survey asking them about the peer specialist program. The LRCs, who are generally psychologists or social workers, were asked to rate the difficulty and effectiveness of hiring, training and employing peer specialists and to gauge their impact on care.


Seventy percent of the respondents said peer specialists had been hired at their site. Virtually all were familiar with the program. Over half of the LRCs who worked with peer specialists reported that implementation was going well. The most frequent response on the survey was that the Veterans held the peer specialists in “high regard.” They were having a positive impact on care and were of great assistance.


Unfortunately some respondents couldn’t define exactly what the peer specialists should be doing. In a few facilities, coordinators felt the peer specialists weren’t being used enough.


Research yields suggestions to improve training


Another topic that came up was training. Peer specialists currently undergo training, ranging from 40 to 80 hours, just to be certified. Topics include, for example, how to use your story as a recovery tool and how to listen effectively. Based on the survey responses, the researchers suggested that integrating the LRCs into the training process and allowing them to tailor the content based on need and location would further enhance the program’s effectiveness and ensure everyone involved understands his or her role.


When it came to care, responses were overwhelmingly positive. Peer specialists were seen as role models, showing it is possible to cope successfully with mental illness, and in some cases, to recover. Wrote the study authors, “PS were reported to provide hope and an extra resource for Veterans.”






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Peer-Specialists-Held-in-High-Regard-by-Veterans.asp

How Can I Live a Healthier Life?



Close up of feet wearing running shoes on a track

Jump start your health by getting better informed, developing healthy habits, and enrolling in health care.










Start Here, Start Today

National Public Health Week, April 7-13


Have you ever felt that everyone around you offers, at times unsolicited, health advice and tips?


Between friends and family, health care providers and the media, we are bombarded by healthy living messages.


Intellectually, we all realize the importance of eating well, exercising regularly and not smoking. But many of us live busy, hectic lives and it’s easy to get off track.


VA wants to remind you it’s never too late to get back on track and start taking steps towards a healthier you. April 7-13 is National Public Health Week. Sponsored by the American Public Health Association, this year’s theme is Public Health: Start Here. It’s the perfect time to jump start your health by getting better informed, developing healthy habits and enrolling in health care.


So start here, start today and see you at the finish line!


It’s never too late to get back on track and start taking steps towards a healthier you.


Start Here: Be Informed


A key part of taking charge of your health care is being informed. When you have the most up-to-date and relevant health care information, you can actively participate when making decisions that affect your health.


We all have friends and family who, with the best of intentions, offer us their medical advice. Many of us scour the Internet looking for the latest and greatest on symptom relief and cures for various ailments.


In fact, 72 percent of us who use the Internet are searching for health information. But how can we separate fact from fiction and tell what’s safe and effective?


VA has resources to help you become and stay an informed health care consumer:


Start Here: Develop Healthy Habits


Habits, by definition, are routines developed by regular repetition. So start repeating! Once you adopt some of these habits, more will follow.


Start Here: Get Covered


VA puts the health of Veterans at the forefront of all it does. It is important for all Veterans to have access to health care and health insurance. If you do not already have VA health care, find out if you qualify and enroll today.


If you are already enrolled in VA health care, you may be wondering what the Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care law means for you. The law does not change VA health benefits or Veterans’ out-of-pocket costs. VA’s Affordable Care Act has more information.


VA is here to help you get in the race, and steer you forward towards better health and wellness.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/How-Can-I-Live-a-Healthier-Life.asp

Study to Help Women Vets Coping with MST



three women yoga pose

VA researcher Autumn Gallegos (L) and students Brenda Voorhees (C) and Kelly Lannon practice their Warrior 2 pose during a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center.











The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to launch a study this year to determine if a practice called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can help relieve symptoms of posttraumatic stress in women Veterans suffering from military sexual trauma (MST).


About one in five women in the military will report experiencing sexual trauma while serving their country.


“That’s about 20 percent of women Veterans,” said Dr. Autumn Gallegos, a researcher with VA’s Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention in Canandaigua, NY. “Exposure to MST is a significant public health concern and is associated with both mental and physical health burdens, including risk of suicide.”


Gallegos said the negative mental health consequences of military sexual trauma are extensive, and include posttraumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse.


Returning to the Scene of the Crime


“A traumatic event, such a sexual assault, has the potential to detach you from your own body,”Gallegos explained. “After all, your body itself was the crime scene. So, one of our major goals is to help you learn how to re-connect with your body, to have your body once again become a resource for you, a source of comfort and peace.”


Women selected for the study will participate in two-hour group sessions, once each week, where they will engage in four mindfulness practices: sitting mediation, walking meditation, mindful movement (similar to yoga poses) and a body scan.


“During a body scan, you’re simply paying very close attention to sensations in different regions of your body,” Gallegos said. “Through meditations that focus on body awareness, participants gradually begin to reconnect to their bodies, to regard their bodies as a source of strength.”


Promoted to Captain


“All these practices are designed to foster a calm, non-judgmental awareness of your sensations and feelings,” she observed. “We call it Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The idea is to be present in the moment, to be fully aware and alive. And if you can do that, you can choose how you’re going to respond to unpleasant events or memories. You become the captain of your own ship.”


“For women who have been physically and sexually victimized,”she continued, “the practice of reappraising thoughts and physiological sensations with mindful awareness may improve their ability to successfully regulate their emotions, thereby mitigating trauma symptoms. We want to see if this approach to stress reduction is effective for women Veterans who’ve experienced military sexual trauma.”


The Blame Game


Gallegos said that following a sexual assault, victims tend to engage in a lot of self-blame. Along with that, the victim tends to re-experience the event repeatedly, like a broken record playing in her head.


“With Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, you learn to observe yourself and how you’re reacting to a stressful event, or a stressful memory,” the researcher explained. “If you’re able to observe what’s going on inside you, you may be able to train yourself to respond to the stressor in a different way.”


“When all is said and done, we’re teaching you that you have a choice,” she said.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, however, wasn’t developed exclusively for victims of military sexual trauma. Veterans Brenda Voorhees and Kelly Lannon tried it out for other reasons.


Hitting ‘Pause’


Voorhees, an Air Force Veteran who served from 1979 to 1986, recently took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class designed to help participants improve their heart health.


“When you meditate, you’re silencing the mind,” she said. “Most of the time we’re multi&emdash;tasking, so it’s nice to slow down and do one thing. And now that I’m a bit older, I like slowing down.”


The 59-year-old compared Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to hitting the ‘pause’ button.


“It helps me slow down and see the world,” she said. “For example, today I went to the post office. There were maybe eight people ahead of me and only one clerk. It was funny watching everybody fidgeting. But instead of getting caught up in the process, I just watched the movie of life unfold.”


“I’m going to need that tomorrow because I’ll be going to the airport,” she laughed.

Let it Be


Kelly Lannon, an Air Force Veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said practicing mindful awareness has helped put an end to the sleepless nights she endured after leaving the military.


“I tried medication,” she said, “but I didn’t like it. I wanted to try something more natural.” She’s glad she did.


“Sometimes, when it’s hard to sleep, I do the body scan meditation,” she said. “It makes you focus on what’s going on with your whole body. When you’re doing that, it‘s hard to focus on anything else.”


“If I‘m really stressed out, the negative thoughts will still come in,” she admitted. “But I don’t push them away— that’s what they taught us in the class— not to push them away. So I just let them be.”


“I just continue with the body scan meditation and let the thoughts be there. Eventually they leave. If you try to push them away, that just makes it worse. The more I push them away, the stronger hold they have on me.”


Of the four types of meditation involved with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the moving meditation is Lannon’s favorite.


“I really like the Yoga,” she said. ”But I haven’t been practicing it on my own. Instead, when I need to slow down during the day, I’ll just sit quietly, close my eyes and breathe. I set aside some time each day to do that.”


As calming as meditation is, however, it can’t compete with Lannon’s absolute favorite stress reduction technique.


“I like a good massage,” she said. “I think that’s wonderful. The only thing is, it’s expensive.”



To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov.


To find out more about health care services available for Veterans who have experienced MST, visit http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/April/Study-to-Help-Vets-Coping-with-MST.asp

Why Slow Down?



A man stands holding a trophy between his wife and a coach

“Deno” Cedeño and his wife Gwen










National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

March 30-April 4, Snowmass Village, CO


“Deno” Cedeño lost his leg to an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in Afghanistan.


On the day he received his prosthetic device, he spent eight hours up and walking around. This week he will be snowboarding on a mountain in Colorado.


“I was given a second chance, so why slow down?” asked Cedeño.


As his wife Gwen puts it, “He gets up every day and pushes himself as hard as he possibly can. He is such a powerful and impressive person and I’m so proud of him every day.”


Cedeno is one of nearly 400 Veterans participating this week in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village in Colorado.


The annual event is a world-leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for U.S. military Veterans and active duty servicemen and women with disabilities.


 I wanted to prove to everyone that I would do everything I could do before my injuries. 


Eight Months from Combat to Clinic


A full year had not passed after the explosion that changed the course of Kristian “Deno” Cedeño’s life, when he arrived at Snowmass Village for the 2013 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.


It was just a few months after first learning how to walk using his new prosthetic leg. But the Army infantryman wasn’t much for staying within boundaries.


Snowboarding was challenging. On day one, a frustrated Cedeño wanted to go home. But sticking with it, he progressed through the week and began to make great strides on the slopes.


Cedeño, still an active duty soldier, was ultimately awarded the DAV Freedom Award, the event’s top participant recognition, for his outstanding courage and achievements at the 2013 clinic.


Cedeño will be back on the mountain again this year, ready to build on his success from the last clinic.


“I owe it to the men and women on my left and right who gave me strength when I didn’t have it. So how dare I put that to waste?”


Now that he’s had another full year adapting to his prosthetic leg, he’s going to be unstoppable.


Other Sports Include Rock Climbing


Set in stunning Snowmass, Colorado, this year the Clinic will celebrate its 28th year by bringing Veterans to the mountain with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.


More than 200 certified ski instructors for the disabled and several current and former members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team serve as ski instructors to meet the unique needs of the participants.


In addition to Alpine skiing, the Clinic also features a number of other sports including cross country, rock climbing, scuba diving, kayaking and snowmobiling.


The Clinic is co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans and is made possible by a number of sponsors through monetary and in-kind donations.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2014/March/Why-Slow-Down-Winter-Sports-Clinic.asp


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