Troubled Veterans Get a Hand VA Offers Legal Alternatives to Those Accused of Crimes
(AP) –Aug. 7, 2009- DENVER -- The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an ambitious program offering legal intervention on behalf of veterans with arrest records, an effort aimed at preventing repeat crimes among service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VA started its Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative early this year -- before public attention intensified on a Fort Carson, Colo.-based unit from which a handful of soldiers have been accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning from Iraq, where they faced intense combat. Most of the soldiers had been arrested on charges of domestic violence, assault, illegal gun possession, or alcohol and drug violations before the slayings.
A July 15 Army report said more study is needed to determine whether there is a link between the soldiers' alleged crimes and their heavy combat duty and lengthy deployments.
The VA is training 145 specialists at its hospitals nationwide to help veterans who are in jails, awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences. Other VA programs target homelessness and help veterans readjust after serving prison terms for serious crimes.
To date, more than 1.9 million U.S. service members have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest deployment since 3.4 million were sent to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War.
James McGuire, the Los Angeles-based director of the VA's incarcerated veterans outreach programs, said some war veterans "are obviously struggling."
"The VA is very attuned to this and received an education about all this after Vietnam, when the whole issue of PTSD came up," he said, using the abbreviation for post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a typical case, VA specialists would report to a civilian court on an accused veteran's medical history -- and available VA benefits or programs that might help. Prosecutors and judges would decide whether and how to use that information when deciding if a veteran should undergo treatment instead of incarceration.
The VA also is participating in 10 "veterans courts" to help former service members accused of crimes get into treatment programs, in exchange for reduced sentences or dismissed charges. More than 40 such courts are planned across the country, McGuire said.
The courts are patterned after drug courts, where defendants are offered treatment instead of jail.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man." ~ Mahatma Gandhi, Indian spiritual/political leader.
Mr. Gandhi probably never envisioned a time or place that animals would actually not be held as the lowest form of life, but people - specifically people who are mentally ill in America. They are considered lower than animals and allowed to be treated in ways that would prompt immediate arrest if the sick citizens were animals.
I think it is time for more of us to help the helpless. Give Assistance to the Incarcerared Mentally Ill. It is a Good Work.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain goodworks. These things are good and profitable unto men. ~Titus 3:8
I cannot make you allow my links to work on the Petition to Save Sgt. Russel.
I cannot force you to allow my petition to help Sgt. Russel register and retain signatures.
I cannot get a court order to force my Internet censorship to end. The judges are probably prison profiteers, too, in my experience.
I cannot make my discussion items at Care2 post and stop my fonts from changing to tiny.
I cannot make my e-mails sent from Yahoo actually reach the addressees.
Censorship is used to preserve mentally ill people - including soldiers suffering from PTSD - to keep prisons full and profitable.
ALL I CAN DO IS FILM IT, RECORD IT, GET AFFIDAVITS FROM PEOPLE WHO CANNOT USE THE LINKS ON THE PETITION TO SAVE SGT. RUSSEL, AND SHOW OUR MILITARY PERSONNEL THE PLAN FOR THEIR COMRADES WHO GET SICK DURING ACTIVE DUTY. AND I WILL.
MOST AMERICAN LEGION HALLS HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO SHOW VIDEOS. THEIR MEMBERS NEED TO SEE THE FILMS OF THIS INTERFERENCE TO GETTING HELP FOR THE MANY VETERANS WHO WIND UP IN PRISON AFTER PTSD EPISODES CAUSE THEM TO ACT INAPPROPRIATELY. AND THEY WILL.
HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! Please participate in this effort to help a soldier who is in grave danger.
Petition to Save Sgt. Russel - Hospitals, Not Prisons for Sick Soldiers! This Is Real Support for Our Troops - Saving Them from Prison After Getting Sick While Serving in the Military.
A 2007 Army survey of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that soldiers' mental health deteriorates significantly each time they go to war.
Overall, the Army's suicide rate reached a record level in 2008 and is still climbing.
More than 27%of the noncommissioned officers surveyed on their third or fourth deployment reported depression, anxiety or acute stress -- compared with 18% of those on their second deployment and 11% on their first tour.
Better security should have been in place. During a psychotic episode, Sgt. Russel was being escorted from the mental health clinic at Camp Liberty when he overpowered a guard and took his weapon. "They escorted him out with a guy with a gun," Wilburn Russell said. "That was the worst thing they could have done.
MANY VETERANS from Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan are imprisoned today for inappropriate behavior caused by PTSD, along with 1.25 million other mentally challenged people. Psychiatric patients should be either be committed to quality mental hospitals or released under an Assisted Outpatient Treatment program, depending on their offenses. We demand that Sgt. Russel not join the ranks of America's incarcerated mentally ill, none of whom should be imprisoned, but treated instead!
HOMELESSNESS, PRISON, AND DEATH MUST CEASE BEING AMERICA's ANSWER TO MENTAL ILLNESS.
Thank You for Giving Your Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally ill. Say to prison profiteers, "Hands off American vets!" If Sgt. Russel had lost his eyesight or a limb in Bagdhad, he would get a medal and lifetime benefits. Sgt. Russel lost more - he lost his mental stability during the last part of three consecutive deployments to Iraq. Everyone on base knew he was psychotic, his supervisors and other soldiers. One of the victims told his mother about Sgt. Russel's mental meltdown on his final conversation with her on Mother's day. It was common knowledge on the base that Sgt. Russel needed help. It was the Army's fault, and we are lucky Sgt. Russel did not use a grenade. Next time a psychotic soldier's mental meltdown is ignored, it could be much worse.NO MAN LEFT BEHIND!
is a 44-year-old communication specialist from Sherman, Texas who served 16 years in the U.S. Army. Sgt. Russel was near the end of his third tour in Iraq when he allegedly gunned down five fellow service members at a Baghdad combat stress clinic. Sgt. Russel has been charged with murder. This sick soldier is no cold-blooded killer.
Please use this opportunity to show the private prison owners and investors that our military personnel who transition back home from the War on Terror combat zones are not going to be used to boost their stock portfolios.
Sgt. Russel was himself the first of six victims of his bout with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for which he was receiving treatment. Sgt. Russel's breakdown should have been recognized sooner, and he should have been sent home.
"We've never, I don't believe, had a force that we've put through seven years of continuous combat like this, where such a large percentage of the force is going on these multiple deployments," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff and point man on mental health issues.
"They broke him," Sgt. Russel's father, Wilburn Russell said, wiping away tears. Before the shooting, Russell had e-mailed his wife to tell her "his life was over," his father said.
The undersigned demand that murder charges against Sgt. Russel be dropped. He deserves care and support, not prison. We protest American military personnel coming home to America and becoming PRISONERS OF WAR after serving their country and breaking under the strain of repeated combat missions.
DECRIMINALIZE MENTAL ILLNESS. No one can be punished or rehabilitated into a state of mental health.
An American soldier broke under stress and killed five of his comrades. He had been undergoing treatment for his stress, but obviously he needed to be relieved of duty and sent home for more intensive therapy. How many more Sgt. Russels are in Iraq? How many will transition home soon?
DON'T LET OUR SOLDIERS COME HOME AND BECOME PRISONERS OF WAR IN JAIL FOR PTSD EPISODES!
The military said Sergeant John Russell of the 54th Engineer Battalion, based in Bamberg, Germany, was suspected of being the man who went on a shooting spree on Monday at Camp Liberty, near Baghdad airport, in an incident that the top U.S. military officer suggested may have been triggered by stress.
Now why on earth would they Sgt. Russel be charged with murder?
There are SIX victims to his tragic case of PTSD. Sgt. Russel was the first victim.
Among the Balkan soldiers, 54.1% had PTSD after battle. We have many soldiers who will eventaully be transitioning back home. I hope we have better waiting for 54% of them than prison! I wrote this for the soldiers:
HOMELESSNESS, PRISON, AND DEATH MUST CEASE BEING AMERICA'S ANSWERS TO MENTAL ILLNESS.
Our soldiers do not deserve prison if they brake under pressure. Like most mentally ill people, someone noticed Sgt. Russel's deteriorating condition and failed to give him the treatment needed. Sgt. Russel should have been sent home long ago, I am sure. I protest his prosecution for being sick. No!
PHYSICAL INJURIES, deformities, and limitations such as blindness can be perceived easily and addressed medically, although those who are thus afflicted frequently have lifetime impairments that require ongoing treatment.Mental scars after wars and other traumatic events can also last a lifetime, and people who suffer enormous mental agony after harrowing experiences also need professional attention and special allowances for their conditions.
NO MAN LEFT BEHIND
Homeless Veterans with PTSD (Click on picture to see gallary)
People who are blind, paraplegic, or have other physical limitations usually find the public to be sympathetic to their physical handicaps, and society makes allowances to benefit those who are physically afflicted.There are laws to ensure that public buildings are wheelchair accessible.News broadcasts and many other television shows offer the option of having the printed text running at the bottom of the screen for the sake of hearing-impaired viewers, and sign language is commonly used in public meetings.Many books are available in Braille, and large libraries usually have a Braille section.Handicapped parking spaces are reserved for people with mobility issues, and these set-aside parking spaces are protected by levying heavy fines against people who use them illegally.All of this and more is done to help enable physically impaired people to function better in society.
Mental dysfunctions are not perceived with the naked eye, as physical handicaps are.After wars and traumatic events, victims of PTSD may find immediate help and sympathy among family and friends.Counselors are made available to people who live through plane crashes and other catastrophic events because everyone understands that profound tragedies can cause those affected to be mentally and emotionally scarred.People who need help adjusting after losing loved ones are encouraged to go through grief counseling.However, the outpouring of sympathy and understanding has a short timeline.
Society seemingly lacks the willingness to make long-term allowances for mentally afflicted persons' inclusion in regular society that it makes for people who are physically handicapped. Instead, people who suffer extended psychological damage are expected to "snap out of it," and "pull themselves together."Individuals who "go crazy" after falling victim to permanent psychological damage are likely to eventually be treated like most other mentally ill people in society and are eventually given the same three options:homelessness, prison, and death. That is why America's inmates and homeless population includes many veterans from the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War, and other conflicts. .
Many soldiers who saw their comrades die suffer PTSD .
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more traumatic events that threatened or caused grave physical harm.
It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma.This stressor may involve someone's actual death, a threat to the patient's or someone else's life, serious physical injury, an unwanted sexual act, or a threat to physical or psychological integrity, overwhelming psychological defenses.
In some cases it can also be from profound psychological and emotional trauma, apart from any actual physical harm. Often, however, incidents involving both things are found to be the cause.
The Obama administration announced that American troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by 2011.Our soldiers will transition back home, and many of them will be no different from the Balkan soldiers, among whom 54% were mentally damaged by their war experiences.Our soldiers who exited recent conflicts in the Middle East already have a heightened suicide rate.Additionally, many ex-military personnel, like other civilians with mental health issues, have a propensity to use drugs and alcohol in efforts to "get their heads on straight."
Two American Soldiers
By 2011, American soldiers in Iraq are coming home; 54% may suffer PTSD
Think of the rate of soldiers who are likely to be affected by PTSD according to the Balkan study:54.1%.Hopefully, a good many soldiers who transition back to the United States from Iraq by 2011 and are suffering from PTSD will avail themselves of the mental health services offered to them.The U.S. military has taken steps to increase and improve services offered.
Some returning soldiers will be able to meet society's expectations of people who have endured trauma and "pull themselves together."Some will adjust in a short amount of time to civilian life.They will have the support of family, friends, perhaps their churches and other community support.Many of the soldiers were actually in the Army Reserve, and they should be able to resume their regular employment.As time goes on, most sufferers of PTSD will experience reduced symptoms of the disorder over time, especially if they also get professional help. But what about those who don't adjust after a short time?What about our veterans who will never "bounce back"?Many will be permanently afflicted mentally.
Soldiers who are amputees or otherwise permanently handicapped during wars get lifetime benefits and are afforded all of the allowances society willingly makes to ensure the inclusion of physically handicapped persons in society:wheelchair ramps, reserved parking, special services for the hear impaired, and more.
QUESTION:What is America willing to do for veterans who are permanently scarred mentally after serving in military conflicts?Will we offer them the same pitiful outcome that is available to other chronic mental patients in America:homelessness, prison, and death?
Approximately 1.25 million mentally dysfunctional citizens (including many veterans) are currently in prison because of offenses arising out of their mental illness.Is this to be the eventual outcome for our soldiers returning from Iraq between now and 2011, also? We need a program like Kendra’s Law in place across America.Not only would Kendra's Law help our mentally challenged citizens who are in the civilian population avoid becoming prison inmates, but Kendra's Law would also help many of our veterans avoid becoming "prisoners of war" after returning home. Kendra's Law is outpatient commitment for mentally ill participants that combines subsistence assistance and mandatory treatment for mental illness.
Here is bill that has been introduced to improve mental health services to veterans of particular conflicts. One can track its progress through Congress online at http://congress.org/.
(H.R.1544) : 'To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for unlimited eligibility for health care for mental illnesses for veterans of combat service during certain periods of hostilities and war. '
This bill is commendable and necessary to removing financial barriers to treatment for certain vets - a very important bill that needs to pass. Keep in mind, however, that such legislation will not keep veterans out of prisons or restore those who are already in prison back to freedom and wholesome living like Kendra's Law can.
Veterans suffering PTSD who break laws are subject to incarceration. Many vets are already behind bars along with 1 in every 99.1 other Americans
HIGH SUCCESS RATE: Kendra's Law program participants in New York experienced over 80% decrease in incidents of homelessness, incarcerations, and re-arrests. Over 80% proved success rate! Kendra's Law works.
Non-violent mentally ill offenders who are currently imprisoned should be immediately released under an outpatient sentencing law, such as Kendra's Law, thereby eliminating overcrowded prison conditions in one day.
We already have the remedy to the high rates of homelessness among the mentally ill, high incarceration rates, and many senseless deaths that involve psychiatric patients who are not undergoing treatment.Please call your representatives and let them know that you support Kendra's Law across America.Homelessness, prison and death must cease being America's answer to chronic mental illness.
Psychiatric patients who were sentenced to prison for violent crimes should be transferred from prisons where they are inmates to secure mental hospitals, where they would become inpatients, as they should be.They should be kept hospitalized for the length of their prison sentences, even if they were serving life without the possibility of parole.Doctors should NOT have the authority to release mental patients who committed violent crimes.That privilege should remain with the sentencing courts after the patients have been hospitalized for the minimum sentencing period according to their crimes.This would prevent many relapses among psychiatric patients that endanger patients and the community.
All psychiatric patients who commit violent crimes or nonviolent offenses and are released from prisons and mental hospitals should be mandated to participate in an outpatient commitment program like Kendra's Law - at least for the length of their parole or probationary periods.If this is done, our rates of incarceration for the mentally ill behind bars will quickly become practically nil.
Psychiatric patients and society as a whole would be safer and costs to taxpayers lower with Kendra's Law applied across the country.Give our veterans who are returning home psychologically scarred for life the help they need to avoid spending their lives homeless or as POWs in America's prisons.Insist that Kendra's Law replace homelessness, prison, and death as America's answers to chronic mental illness.
PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO BENEFIT OUR RETURNING TROOPS AND OUR NEIGHBORS WHO WRESTLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS TODAY. OUR SOLDIERS DID MUCH MORE FOR US THAN SEND A SIMPLE E-MAIL. Here is a link to contact your representatives and insist on Kendra's Law today: http://www.house.gov/writerep
HOMELESSNESS, PRISON, AND DEATH MUST CEASE BEING AMERICA'S ANSWERS TO MENTAL ILLNESS. COME OUT OF THE DARK AGES! WE NEED KENDRA'S LAW TODAY.
Support mentally ill Americans, including veterans suffering PTSD today. Don't sit back and watch our veterans who voluntarily answered America's call for recruits return HOME to become POW's. Call and write your representatives today and support Kendra's Law. Replace prisons with inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for mentally ill Americans. Please send an e-mail for our vets with PTSD. They did so much more for you: http://www.house.gov/writerep.
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