News

For Veterans, yoga offers multiple health benefits! If chronic pain has you down, give yourself a lift - with yoga. Research increasingly shows yoga may be an effective prescription for pain relief. Physical activity, in general, is the best thing you can do to break the cycle of chronic pain, according to Dr. Donna Ames, a psychiatrist with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Pain causes you to favor the parts of your body that hurt by becoming inactive, adopting unnatural positions - such as stooping over to one side - or overusing other parts of your body. Yoga may help relieve chronic pain not only through movement, but also through deep breathing and meditation, which reduce stress and help take your mind off your pain. Stress can make pain worse by lowering your tolerance to it and by increasing cortisol, a body chemical that causes inflammation, or swelling and redness. A person in pain becomes anxious and begins breathing too quickly, explained Ames. Rapid breathing can build up acid in your muscles that can make your anxiety and pain worse. By learning to breathe more deeply and slowly, you can calm yourself and break the cycle of increasing anxiety and pain. What is Yoga Anyway? Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines performing different postures with breathing and relaxation techniques. Millions of people across the United States practice yoga in health clubs, yoga studios, recreation centers and a growing number of VA Medical Centers (VAMC). Yoga helps you focus on the present, rather than the past or future. Those who practice yoga on a regular basis may enjoy: Less stress and anxiety Less back pain and pain in general Improved sleep Better heart health Lower cholesterol and blood pressure Increased balance, flexibility and strength Because there are many different kinds of yoga, you should talk with your health care team and a yoga instructor before starting a class. Some forms of yoga are more physically demanding, while others focus more on relaxing. Just as everyone's pain is different, so is treatment. "One type of yoga program might help one Veteran but not another," said Ames. For instance, some yoga moves, such as back bends or head stands, can be very dangerous for Veterans with certain spinal or eye problems. A yoga practice can be tailored to your individual needs and body, according to Ames. Yoga can even be done seated. Your VA health team can help you choose the best treatment plan for your pain based on your health history, type of pain and personal needs. Use My HealtheVet's pain journal to track and record your pain level and share this information with your care team. Less Pain, More Sleep Volunteer Joyce Smith leads yoga classes at the Memphis VA. Here, she shows a yoga pose to Veteran Mildred Raef. Operation Desert Storm Marine Corps Veteran Matt Crowder walked into his first yoga class in 1997, when he moved to California. Chronic low-back pain kept him from running, and swimming and walking didn't help. "Before I found yoga, I often had trouble sleeping soundly through the night," said Crowder. "Each yoga class gave me more confidence that I would eventually feel better." Not only is Crowder still doing yoga, he teaches classes both at a private yoga studio and as a volunteer at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. Though his days are not pain-free, he said yoga "provides pretty effective pain management." For Crowder, the best part of yoga has been the "cumulative effect" of stretching. "I never learned how to stretch," he said, "and I didn't know how to exercise safely with my [back] condition." While he teaches a gentler form of yoga at the VAMC, the power yoga class Crowder leads at the studio keeps him motivated to keep practicing and learning. Deep breathing is what helps him move through his day safely and calmly. Some pleasant bonuses of his yoga practice are less stress and better sleep, which Crowder said result from less pain and more physical activity. Five things to Know about Yoga Some VAMCs offer free yoga classes to Veterans. Your health care team or VAMC patient advocate can help you find a suitable class Some Veterans use yoga to help their Posttraumatic Stress Disorder because it can improve sleep and help relieve stress, anxiety and depression A yoga class can provide a social outlet and chance to connect with other Veterans Not all instructors are trained alike - there is a wide range of training programs. Make sure you choose a qualified yoga instructor with the proper experience and credentials Yoga practice is very individual. Just because the Veteran next to you can hold a pose all day doesn't mean you should. Listen to your body and go at your own pace. If you have chronic pain, why not give yoga a try? Pain might be the only thing you have to lose. Learn More My HealtheVet Healthy Living Centers Online Yoga Take Control with Yoga National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Yoga for Vets
WASHINGTON – Hearing loss, including tinnitus, which is a ringing, buzzing or other type of noise that originates in the head, is the most prevalent service-connected disability among Veterans, with more than 30 million Veterans suffering from a form of it due to frequent exposure to loud noises from weaponry and aircraft. Because of the pervasiveness of hearing loss among Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is recognizing October as Audiology Awareness Month by highlighting important VA research on the subject and advances made in treating Veterans with hearing loss. “VA researchers have a rich history of contributions to audiology,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. “From working with the National Institutes of Health to develop and evaluate hearing aids to a comprehensiveprotocol for managing tinnitus at VA and other audiology clinics nationwide, VA is proud to be a leader in this field.” VA researchers conduct a wide range of studies in audiology—from biomedical investigations to large clinical trials and epidemiologic database studies. Much of the work takes place at VA’s National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research in Portland, Oregon, one of the world’s leading facilities for research in the field. Studies include older Veterans whose hearing problems have been compounded by aging and younger Veterans who may have suffered hearing loss as a result of blasts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Recent VA research includes the following: In 2013, researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System published the results of a study comparing group and individual visits for hearing aid fittings and follow up. The team found no differences in how well the hearing aids performed, or how often they were worn. They concluded that group visits could reduce costs while providing community support for patients. In 2014, VA researchers in Loma Linda, California, linked exposure to jet propulsion fuel with auditory processing problems—changes that occur inside the brain rather than the ear. A 2015 VA study yielded promising results on transcranial magnetic stimulation as a tinnitus treatment. The therapy involves holding a magnetic coil to the head. The team now hopes to conduct a larger trial. A 2016 study of nearly 200 Veterans with tinnitus explored the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on how Veterans manage the hearing condition, and offered guidance for clinicians. Below are a few examples of ongoing studies: VA researchers in Pittsburgh, Sioux Falls, Omaha, and Portland are collecting data from nearly 470 Veterans to learn more about auditory complaints in those who have been exposed to blasts. The team will focus on the interplay among hearing problems, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD. A VA trial aims to improve monitoring of hearing changes caused by the drug cisplatin, used to treat cancer. Some 4,000 Veterans receive the drug in a typical year, and up to 40 or 50 percent will experience some hearing loss or tinnitus. The researchers say early detection can prevent significant damage. Together with a lab group at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, VA researchers are seekingbiomarkers—including cellular changes— that could warn of impending hearing loss. The work is expected lead to new preventive measures or treatment. In addition to VA’s audiology research work, the Department announced last month – ahead of National Audiology Awareness Month – that Veterans who need routine audiology appointments will be able to directly schedule them, without the need for a referral from their primary care provider. The move is expected to get Veterans into appointments more quickly. The new expedited process was piloted at three VA sites last year and is now being rolled out nationwide. For more information VA’s audiology services, visit www.ncrar.research.va.gov. Information about VA research on audiology may be found at www.research.va.gov/topics/hearing.cfm.   ###
The American Legion, in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training and others, will host a Hiring Our Heroes job fair in Warwick, R.I., on Oct. 18. The event will be held at the National Guard Armory, 541 Airport Road in Warwick. An employment workshop will kick off the event from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., when job seekers will be able to meet with a team of hiring experts. The Hiring Our Heroes employment workshop focuses on résumé writing, tips for navigating hiring fairs and interviewing techniques. After the workshop, a job fair will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will feature prospective employers seeking to hire veterans, servicemembers and their spouses. Current military personnel, veterans and their families are welcome to attend. Attendees should come with their résumés in hand, and be prepared to network or even interview on the spot. No registration is necessary; however, registering for the event allows job seekers to upload their résumés to be viewed by employers ahead of time. Register online here.
Legionnaire Zachary L. Green knew at a very early age that he wanted to become a Marine. The valuable skills he learned in the Corps played an integral part in shaping his success as an entrepreneur. Green left the military and became a firefighter with the Wyoming Fire Department in Ohio. It was there, while sitting on the back of a fire truck, that he found the inspiration to create products designed to keep firefighters and civilians safe. Green was determined to find a way for firefighters to see while navigating dark stairwells and rooms through use of photoluminescent technology. The Marine took what he learned about the technology behind military Kevlar helmet bands with "cat eyes" and applied the same concept to similar gear worn by firefighters. His self-illuminating products create a light source sufficient enough to rely on during treacherous, low-visibility scenarios. The innovative technology is essential to accomplishing the mission of many occupations due to the products’ self-sustaining capabilities. “As a firefighter, this is something that I am very passionate about,” Green said. “Anything that relies on batteries or electricity is going to fail when you need it the most.” The Cincinnati native’s company, MN8-Foxfire, showcased the first set of products – an illuminating helmet band and a do-it-yourself illuminating adhesive strip kit for stairwells and other indoor areas – in 2010. Since then, the product line has grown to include self-illuminating neon exit signs and reflective visual coatings for fire hydrants, ladders and other tools. The highlight of Green’s journey as an entrepreneur occurred recently when he witnessed members of the New York City Fire Department on television wearing his technology while performing a rescue at one of the new World Trade Center Towers. It touched the Legionnaire to see the nation’s heroes outfitted with his company’s products. Today, more than 60,000 firefighters in over 25 countries use Foxfire products on the job. Green attributes much of his company’s success to the capabilities of his products paired with the fact that the technology is also environmentally friendly, cost-saving and safer than current battery-operated equipment. The Legionnaire never imagined his business would grow as rapidly as is has. Like many other business owners, Green faced hurdles and was even told he would fail by people close to him. “The key is to adapt and overcome obstacles that may arise," he said. "It is similar to military leadership and confidence courses. It doesn’t matter how you move your ammo can over the wall with your web belt. What matters is that you applied creativity and worked together. “   by Andrea C. Dickerson
Marine Corps veteran Cole Lyle channeled the inspiration he felt for the brothers and sisters in arms he served with during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. While in country, Lyle dedicated the sparse free time he had volunteering at Camp Bastion Field Hospital and Medical Treatment Facility’s Trauma Clinic, which was understaffed at the time. Little did the Marine know, what he witnessed there would be inextricably linked to his life – even after his separation from the military. Lyle returned to the states after his deployment and found himself diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a post-deployment health assessment. He sought help for his PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs. To supplement the concoction of prescribed sleep aids and anti-depressants prescribed to treat his symptoms, Lyle also sought counseling at VA Vet Centers. None of that could stop his world from spiraling downward. Lyle left the Marine Corps in 2014, simultaneously juggling a divorce while additionally experiencing unemployment. “Intra-personal relationships were harder to maintain than necessary, along with not having the familiar support system of my fellow Marines and the chain of command,” he said. “In the same few months, I would experience what most veterans now are all too familiar with: the loss of military friends to preventable suicide.” That series of events prompted Lyle to take matters into his own hands. “Life as I’d known it had been ripped away, and one night alone, I decided to end it all," Lyle said during his testimony on personal experiences with PTSD, at a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security in April. "It is only for the timing of a friend, a fellow Marine, arriving on my doorstep at that exact moment that I’m here right now. Semper Fidelis, indeed,” The next day, Lyle quit his medications cold turkey. The Marine decided to try a different approach to combat the unwavering residual effects of his PTSD. After spending months on waiting lists to obtain a service dog through various charities, Lyle purchased a German Shepard named Kaya using more than $10,000 of his own money and with the help of his family. “I found out that service dogs were an option, but they were not provided by the VA,” Lyle said. “I went to the non-profit organizations leading the charge on this issue, but they had long wait times due to their constrained budgets and the high demand. I was incredulous that the VA did not provide dogs. It seems like a very obvious solution.” Through Assistance Dogs International, Lyle trained Kaya to help him deal with his nightmares and anxiety attacks. Lyle says her presence and assistance helps reduce many of his symptoms. “In a very intangible way, dogs provide a sense of purpose that medications can’t," he said. "They give us a reason to wake up in the morning." Now, the pair attend college classes and professional sporting events together. Lyle rappelled into the political arena as a lobbyist after a trip to the nation’s capital. While walking around D.C., a senator stopped Lyle, inquiring about the circumstances that led him to use a service dog. “Everywhere I go, people always ask me why I have a service dog, because I don’t have an injury that they can see,” Lyle said. “The senator said he didn’t think that it was right that the VA doesn’t provide service animals. He called me to his office, and we talked about it for a few minutes.” The senator urged Lyle to write out a detailed plan that included the importance of how service dogs positively impact veterans and reforms he would like to see made. Lyle took the senator’s words to heart, drafting what is now known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act. Introduced in the House March 16, and passed on to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the proposed legislation would create a five-year, $10-million pilot program mandating the VA to pair veterans suffering from PTSD with service dogs. “The goal is not to replace pills or therapy with dogs," Lyle said. "Those things work for some people. Give veterans other options if those two don’t work for them. "I would like to see this legislation benefit veterans from past and current conflicts in order to benefit those that might serve in future wars. I would hate to see future veterans struggle from the same issues as those who served in the past.” Currently, the House bill sponsored by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has 124 cosponsors. The Senate version was recently introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and was also referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs. A number of notable government officials support the proposed legislation including Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “This bill has a wide swath of support in the Senate and House,” Lyle said. “This proposed piece of legislation is great because it provides options for those who have already tried evidence-based treatments and have not seen success.” At the American Legion’s 98th Convention in Cincinnati, a resolution was passed urging the VA to clearly define regulations and current eligibility requirements for a veteran to receive a referral to agencies providing service dogs for mental and/or physical conditions until Congress passes legislation mandating VA to provide service animals for eligible veterans. With a glimmer of hope in his eyes, Lyle said he hopes the legislation will be passed soon and bring a sense of relief to veterans struggling to cope with everyday life. “Service dogs provide a positive avenue to regain a small sense of purpose so veterans can get out of post-traumatic stress and into post-traumatic growth," he said.   By Andrea C. Dickerson
PHOENIX (AP) -- Despite a new report raising serious questions about the quality of care within the Phoenix VA Health Care System, a top official in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs said Wednesday that significant progress has been made. VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin addressed the VA Inspector General's report while introducing a newly appointed director for the Phoenix system. The report, which was released Tuesday, found Phoenix VA staff inappropriately canceled medical consults that possibly contributed to the death of one veteran who did not get a recommended stress test. Consults include appointments, lab tests, teleconferencing and other planned patient contacts. "That is a situation we take very seriously," Shulkin said. Shulkin said the cancellations were not made by managers, but lower-level staff who were unclear about the proper way to cancel consults. "That's why we've invested in additional training, in additional auditing and additional clarification of our policies to make sure that everyone is clear on how to do this," Shulkin said. However, he said the report also showed how the Phoenix facilities have improved in the last two years such has more hiring, 70,000 square feet of additional space and "fast track" care for the emergency room. "We've seen our consults and our wait times come down significantly. And most important, we've seen our patient satisfaction - what veterans are saying about their care and their access to care in Phoenix - rise significantly from 66 percent into the mid-70s," Shulkin said. Yet, the report states there were 38,000 open consults at the Phoenix VA as of last July. The Phoenix system enrolls about 85,000 veterans Shulkin acknowledged more needs to be done including a less archaic appointment scheduling system and more medical staff. Nearly 730 employees have been hired at the Phoenix system since it became the center of a national scandal in April 2014, according to Shulkin. Veterans Affairs internal investigations identified 35 veterans who died while awaiting care. Earlier in the day, Shulkin and new director Rima Ann Nelson met with veterans groups as well as members of Arizona's Congressional delegation, including Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is challenging McCain in the November election. McCain, in a statement, expressed continued skepticism of Nelson. She previously was the director of the VA Regional Office in Manila, Philippines and the medical center director for the St. Louis VA Health Care System, where she faced accusations of mismanagement. "As ground-zero of the scandal in veterans' health care, the Phoenix VA clearly has a long way to go to fully reform," McCain said. "It is unacceptable that Ms. Nelson is the seventh director in three years - no organization can operate efficiently with such a high turnover rate." In contrast, Kirkpatrick said she left the meeting feeling hopeful. "The meeting was productive and included an in-depth introduction to the Phoenix VA's new leadership," Kirkpatrick said in a statement. "I have expressed my repeated concerns about the many ways the Phoenix VA is failing our veterans - these are troubling, systemic problems that too often start at the top." Shulkin praised Nelson as a leader who knows how to make decisions and acts on behalf of veterans, calling her part of the solution.  
The American Legion Department of New Jersey is teaming up with the Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center-New Jersey for a Boots to Business Reboot workshop Oct. 25 in Blackwood, N.J. The free one-day course, which also includes an eight-week online course, will provide entrepreneurship training for veterans who want to start, expand or purchase a small business. The workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m at American Legion Post 281, 2102 Chews Landing Road, Blackwood. Those wishing to participate must register by Oct. 18 here. For more information, contact Gary Spillane, SBA Veterans Small Business Outreach Officer, via email or by phone at (972) 645-2427.
An Arizona Post has partnered with its city for the first time to be proactive in assisting veterans.Glendale, Ariz., Mayor Jerry Weiers asked Post 1433 in his city to assist with the fourth “Stand Up for Veterans” event.Commander Mike Pearson, who served with the Army in Korea from 1989-90 and during the Persian Gulf War, said Stand Up For Veterans is “a counter-stance to Stand Down for Veterans,” which assists homeless veterans.“[Mayor Weiers] had a concept that we should try to reach out to veterans before they were in complete distress,” Pearson said.While the ‘stand down’ concept is “great,” Glendale’s event is “more like an early-entry diversion concept,” according to Pearson.The Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles and a judge who adjudicated lower-level offenses were present at the event last month. Additionally, VA service officers were on-site and a job fair was held.Blue Star Mothers, Disabled American Veterans, and Combat Dolls, a non-profit organization that works to benefit active-duty military as well as veterans, also were present.Pearson said the Post was “a caretaker of the funds,” and Post Senior Vice Commander Ed Besta, who spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, was involved at the city council level as planning committee chairman. Post Quartermaster Laudric Baskin and Besta were “99.99% of the effort from the Post level,” according to Pearson.Pearson said 325 veterans and 126 dependent family members or survivors attended the event.Pearson said that during the event he distributed Buddy Poppies and spoke with about a dozen prospective members. Photo caption: Members of Post 1433 in Glendale, Ariz., assist the city with its Stand Up for Veterans event on Sept. 24, providing resources to veterans. More than 300 veterans and 126 dependent family members or survivors attended the event. Photo courtesy of Mike Pearson By Kari Williams, editorial associate, VFW magazine
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump on Monday told the Retired American Warriors PAC that soldiers who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and die by suicide do so because they “can’t handle” the horrors of war. The Trump campaign says the comments were taken out of context and that Trump was highlighting challenges veterans face. But research shows that more than 80 percent of service members who die by suicide have never been in combat, says University of Utah Professor Craig Bryan, director of the National Center for Veterans Studies (based at the U). Bryan is a national expert on military and veteran suicide and is available to address Trump’s comments and the issue of suicide by military veterans. To speak with Bryan, contact him by email craig.bryan@utah.edu or telephone 210-621-8300 or 334-452-9044.
Here’s a list of some of October’s job fairs and networking events for servicemembers, veterans and military spouses. Oct. 18: Warwick Hiring Fair, 8:30 a.m. employment workshop, 9 a.m. brunch and learn, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. hiring fair, Warwick (R.I.) National Guard Armory. Oct. 19: Fort Lee Job Fair, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Regimental Club, Fort Lee, Va. Oct. 27: Joint Base Andrews Job Fair, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., The Club at Andrews, Joint Base Andrews, Md. Follow the links for full details and keep tabs on upcoming career fairs athttp://www.legion.org/careers/jobfairs.