Rest in Peace Commander Richard Woltman. 3/14. You will be forever admired, missed and loved by all who knew you and those yet to learn from your great example.
Haunted by memories, a veteran seeks help
Returning from tours of duty, veterans with PTSD have places to go to get care
by Brittany Wait
November 10, 2011
On their first Fourth of July together, Nancy Woltman remembered looking up at the sky waiting for the first firework to go off, and it did. Seconds later, a high-pitched bang hit her eardrums. In that moment, she looked down and found her husband on the ground. It took him back to when he carried an M60 machine gun and his unit came under fire in Vietnam.
It’s not uncommon to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, about 7 percent of the general U.S. population will develop PTSD in their lifetime, according to the Department of Defense. PTSD is an anxiety disorder developed after experiencing trauma like a natural disaster, terror attack, accident or assault. More commonly, a person will develop signs of PTSD after returning from war. That’s what happened to Richard Woltman.
He was drafted into the Army to fight in the Vietnam War in 1964. When he came home, he soon realized how much the war had changed him. Not only that, but civilians treated him as the enemy he was trained to fight. “It was like going from being the top of the heap in battle against the enemy to coming back we were just thrown under the bus,” Woltman, 70, of Hauppauge, said.
Now, the government and Northport VA Medical Center understands the disorder and can help returning veterans. When he returned home, he met Nancy, the love of his life, got married and had two children. At the time, she didn’t know what PTSD was. She heard people, like her husband, who developed this were “nuts.” Instead of ignoring his actions, she tried to better understand what he experienced by flipping through grotesque photos with him.
It took him 24 years to realize he couldn’t live with the nightmares, flashbacks and high level of stress. “Asking for help is the big change I made, I finally asked for help,” he said. Woltman went to the Northport VA Medical Center for help with his PTSD and has received counseling at the Babylon Vet Center since then. Once he attended regular sessions, he said, his anger died down.
The most effective treatment helps the person explore how the trauma has negatively affected his or her thinking in a more balanced way, according to Dr. Ganesan Krishnamoorthy, program manager of the residential PTSD treatment program at the Northport VA Medical Center.
Many times treatment helps the person transform a catastrophic memory into something they can talk about, he said. In 2010, more than 408,000 veterans received treatment for PTSD at the VA, up from 255,000 in 2006, according to the VA.
Recently, an interactive role-playing online simulation, called Family of Heroes, was made available for veterans’ families to learn how to adjust to post-deployment life, including how to identify PTSD and suicidal intent. It can be found at http://www.familyofheroes.com.
For the new generation of returning veterans, there is also a mobile application called PTSD Coach, which provides updated information, treatments, tools for screening, skills to handle symptoms and helpful links.
Also, there’s a 12-week program at the VA, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that teaches families how to communicate with loved ones with a mental illness. Northport resident Nancy Hollinshead worked with local veteran groups and the VA to jump-start the free program. She took a similar class in Patchogue to better understand her 21-year-old son who is bipolar, and is now certified to co-teach the class. http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=family-to-family&template=/customsource/classlisters/coursepicker.cfm&targetpage=ftflistdetail.cfm
“It’s a life-changing class,” Nancy Hollinshead said. “It’s all about teaching family members how to better cope, also understanding that they can’t fix everything.” The class covers depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD and other illnesses. The next class, starting March 6, is almost filled, but they are looking to offer a second class.
Each case of post-traumatic stress is different as far as traumatic experience. Woltman has nightmares from Vietnam because of what he saw, but a soldier who served in Iraq or Afghanistan could hit the ground when a car backfires because of flashbacks of improvised explosive devices going off.
To this day, when Woltman walks into a room, he scans the perimeter to find the safest way out, having his back to the wall. He often has flashbacks; reliving the time he lost 36 friends in a firefight in Vietnam on Dec. 5, 1965.
The soldiers’ names are carved on the Vietnam Wall in Washington. “I know exactly where; panel 3E between 125 and 132 rows,” he said.
“It’s something that you can never forget,” Woltman said. “It will always be with any veteran that has been in combat. Other veterans will forget what they did, but combat you can’t forget what you went through, what you did…”
Even though he said counseling helped relieve his symptoms, “the fear, it’s always there.”
Medal of Honor Recipients Speak Out About Post Traumatic Stress
“Don’t let the enemy defeat you at home”
Medal of Honor Recipients Promote Mental-Health Support http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=59525
Army generals speak out about their PTSD
“When I came Home” “I wanted to be a functional Human being”.. here are links to the article/interview, video documentary of homelessness in New York City located in Youtube and Google Video. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5436699
De Oppresso Liber, Combat Faith Lay Ministry: www.combatfaith.com.
The Mother’s Son
by, Rudyard Kipling
“Fairy Kist” From “Limits and Renewals” (1932)
- I have a dream—a dreadful dream—
- A dream that is never done.
- I watch a man go out of his mind,
- And he is My Mother’s Son.
- They pushed him into a Mental Home,
- And that is like the grave:
- For they do not let you sleep upstairs,
- And you aren’t allowed to shave.
- And it was not disease or crime
- Which got him landed there,
- But because They laid on My Mother’s Son
- More than a man could bear.
- What with noise, and fear of death,
- Waking, and wounds and cold,
- They filled the Cup for My Mother’s Son
- Fuller than it could hold.
- They broke his body and his mind
- And yet They made him live,
- And They asked more of My Mother’s Son
- Than any man could give.
- For, just because he had not died,
- Nor been discharged nor sick,
- They dragged it out with My Mother’s Son
- Longer than he could stick….
- And no one knows when he’ll get well—
- So, there he’ll have to be:
- And, ‘spite of the beard in the looking-glass,
- I know that man is me!
Why are veterans homeless?
333 ½ Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003-1148
Toll Free: 800.VET.HELP
Toll Free Fax: 888.233.8582
“In addition to the complex set of factors affecting all homelessness — extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income, and access to health care — a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse, compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
A top priority is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment which is free of drugs and alcohol.
While “most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men … most housing money in existing federal homelessness programs, in contrast, is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with dependant children,” according to “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?” in Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, published by Fannie Mae Foundation in 1997.
Doesn’t the Department of Veterans Affairs take care of homeless veterans?
To a certain degree, yes. According to the VA, in the years since it “began responding to the special needs of homeless veterans, its homeless treatment and assistance network has developed into the nation’s largest provider of homeless services, serving more than 100,000 veterans annually.”
With an estimated 400,000 veterans homeless at some time during the year, the VA reaches 25% of those in need ... leaving 300,000 veterans who must seek assistance from local government agencies and service organizations in their communities.”
This link is to the Transition Assistance Program to provide information, resources, links and down-loadable guides for the active and reserve military as they re-enter civilian world. http://www.transitionassistanceprogram.com/register.tpp
This link will take the reader to current issues in Legislation: http://capwiz.com/military/home/
Here are some sites/links that will direct the reader to information concerning PTSD:
Blue Star Mothers have written a down-loadable PTSD guide with resources located on this page: http://www.bluestarmothers.org/
DOD Help Line 1-800-796-9699
U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) 1-800-237-1336
IAVA – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: http://www.iava.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=49
Homeless Veterans Treatment Programs – 1-888-725-3000
Military Onesource: 1-800 342-9647
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) 1-800-VFW-1899
The last link just above this sentence will take the reader to the National Alliance to End Homelessness: “VITAL MISSION – END HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS” The NAEH site is full of information , resources, advocacy, plans short term and 10 year plan to end homelessness and suggestions as to what we as individuals on up to level of government can do to address this chronic problem in America. http://www.naeh.org/
1 in 4 homeless is a vet, study says
By Kimberly Hefling – The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Nov 8, 2007 10:16:21 EST
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the U.S., though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.
And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.
The Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from VA and the Census Bureau. Data from 2005 estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.
In comparison, VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.
Some advocates say such an early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
“We’re going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.
While services to homeless veterans have improved in the past 20 years, advocates say more financial resources still are needed. With the spotlight on the plight of Iraq veterans, they hope more will be done to prevent homelessness and provide affordable housing to the younger veterans while there’s a window of opportunity.
“When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it,” said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles, which provides substance abuse help, job training and shelter to veterans.
“I think they’ll be forgotten,” Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. “People get tired of it. It’s not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They’ll just be veterans, and that happens after every war.”
Keaveney said it’s difficult for his group to persuade some homeless Iraq veterans to stay for treatment and help because they don’t relate to the older veterans. Those who stayed have had success — one is now a stockbroker and another is applying to be a police officer, he said.
“They see guys that are their father’s age and they don’t understand, they don’t know, that in a couple of years they’ll be looking like them,” he said.
After being discharged from the military, Jason Kelley, 23, of Tomahawk, Wis., who served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, took a bus to Los Angeles looking for better job prospects and a new life.
Kelley said he couldn’t find a job because he didn’t have an apartment, and he couldn’t get an apartment because he didn’t have a job. He stayed in a $300-a-week motel until his money ran out, then moved into a shelter run by the group U.S. VETS in Inglewood, Calif. He’s since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
“The only training I have is infantry training and there’s not really a need for that in the civilian world,” Kelley said in a phone interview. He has enrolled in college and hopes to move out of the shelter soon.
The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness — mostly related to post-traumatic stress, said Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at VA.
Overall, 45 percent of participants in VA’s homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both, Dougherty said.
Historically, a number of fighters in U.S. wars have become homeless. In the post-Civil War era, homeless veterans sang old Army songs to dramatize their need for work and became known as “tramps,” which had meant to march into war, said Todd DePastino, a historian at Penn State University’s Beaver campus who wrote a book on the history of homelessness.
After World War I, thousands of veterans — many of them homeless — camped in the nation’s capital seeking bonus money. Their camps were destroyed by the government, creating a public relations disaster for President Hoover.
The end of the Vietnam War coincided with a time of economic restructuring, and many of the same people who fought in Vietnam were also those most affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, DePastino said.
Their entrance to the streets was traumatic and, as they aged, their problems became more chronic, recalled Sister Mary Scullion, who has worked with the homeless for 30 years and co-founded of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia.
“It takes more to address the needs because they are multiple needs that have been unattended,” Scullion said. “Life on the street is brutal and I know many, many homeless veterans who have died from Vietnam.”
VA started targeting homelessness in 1987, 12 years after the fall of Saigon. Today, VA has, either on its own or through partnerships, more than 15,000 residential rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for homeless veterans nationwide. It spends about $265 million annually on homeless-specific programs and about $1.5 billion for all health care costs for homeless veterans.
Because of these types of programs and because two years of free medical care is being offered to all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Dougherty said they hope many veterans from recent wars who are in need can be identified early.
“Clearly, I don’t think that’s going to totally solve the problem, but I also don’t think we’re simply going to wait for 10 years until they show up,” Dougherty said. “We’re out there now trying to get everybody we can to get those kinds of services today, so we avoid this kind of problem in the future.”
In all of 2006, the Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 495,400 veterans were homeless at some point during the year.
The group recommends that 5,000 housing units be created per year for the next five years dedicated to the chronically homeless that would provide permanent housing linked to veterans’ support systems. It also recommends funding an additional 20,000 housing vouchers exclusively for homeless veterans, and creating a program that helps bridge the gap between income and rent.
Following those recommendations would cost billions of dollars, but there is some movement in Congress to increase the amount of money dedicated to homeless veterans programs.
On a recent day in Philadelphia, case managers from Project H.O.M.E. and the VA picked up William Joyce, 60, a homeless Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair who said he’d been sleeping at a bus terminal.
“You’re an honorable veteran. You’re going to get some services,” outreach worker Sam Santiago told Joyce. “You need to be connected. You don’t need to be out here on the streets.” http://www.navytimes.com/news/2007/11/ap_homelessveterans_071108/