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Sexual Violence, What Is It And How To Protect Yourself

The feel of his dry papery hands on the back of my neck sends cold chills down my back. I want to scream and run out his office but the hours that I have spent working keeps me in the chair. This opportunity for this promotion is with in my grasp.  

When he called me into his office I was walking on air knowing my work was finally going to be acknowledged!  The time with friends and family that I have sacrificed putting in extra hours and taking on new projects is going to pay off.  

I took a seat across from his desk and listened excitedly as he told me that he had noticed all of the hard work I had been putting in.  

“Let’s take this conversation to after-hours drinks and you can show me how much you want this promotion.” he says sliding his hands down my shoulders.  

I freeze, my stomach feels like I am going to puke. I don’t know what to do, if I say no, I will not get the promotion, and then I may be on the list for the next round of layoffs. I don’t know who to talk to about this. I feel ashamed, humiliated, scared, and alone.  

What is Sexual Violence? 

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual activity that affects someone without their consent (NSVRC, 2010).  

Every year, an average of 433,648 people, ages 12 and older, experienced rape and sexual assault in the United States (RAINN, 2021a).  

Sexual violence can come from acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals, employers, or strangers and causes lasting trauma to individuals, families, and communities (RAINN, 2021b).  

Sexual violence threatens people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations; anyone can experience sexual violence (RAINN, 2021a). 

If you are a victim of sexual violence, you are not alone and it is NOT YOUR FAULT. 

Forms of sexual violence

  • Rape, sexual assault, and any type of forced or coerced sexual encounters from a stranger, acquaintance, co-worker, supervisor, friend, family member, intimate partner, or spouse. 
  • Sexual encounters perpetrated while a person is unwilling or unable to give consent. 
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching or physical contact that makes a person uncomfortable. 
  • Sexual harassment, such as inappropriate compliments, sexual jokes, lewd remarks, or repeated sexual advances. 
  • Sexual exploitation, such as offers of something in exchange for sexual favors (ex. the giving of job promotions, money, or any other benefits in return for sexual contact or material). 
  • Showing one’s genitals or a naked body to other(s) without consent. 
  • Masturbating in public. 
  • Watching someone in a private act without their knowledge or permission.  

Consent 

What it IS  

Consent IS a clear and freely communicated agreement between legal-age participants to engage in sexual activity. 

Consent IS something that has to happen every time, for every type of activity and can be withdrawn at any point. 

What it is NOT  

Consent is NOT physiological responses like an erection, lubrication, arousal, or orgasm . 

Consent is NOT something that can be given by individuals who are underage, intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, asleep, or unconscious. 

Consent is NOT something that can be given under pressure of intimidation, or threat. 

Consent is NOT something that can be given under unequal power dynamics, such as sexual activity between an employer and an employee as it cannot be freely given in such a situation. 

Consent is NOT perpetual. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities, or for the same activity on other occasions. For example, having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future. 

Consent is NOT wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing. 

How Common is Sexual Violence? 

It is estimated that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape at some point in their lives (NSVRC, 2010). 

In addition, studies have shown that at least 47% of transgender and non-binary individuals have experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime (James et al., 2016). 

What is Military Sexual Trauma? 

Military sexual trauma (MST) is a form of sexual violence. MST occurs when a service member experiences sexual assault or sexual harassment at any point during their military service (DAV, 2019). 

How common is Military Sexual Trauma? 

In 2018, over 6,000 service members reported experiencing sexual assault during military service, however, many sexual assaults go unreported and it is estimated that that actual number of sexual assaults for that year numbed over 20,000 (DAV, 2019). 

About 1 in 4 female veterans and 1 in 100 male veterans in the VA healthcare system have reported experiencing MST (DAV, 2019). It is important to understand that these numbers do not reflect unreported MST, the rates of which may be higher among men. 

Furthermore, studies have found that, at least, 15.2% of transgender women and 30.0% of transgender men have experienced sexual violence during their military service (Beckman et al., 2018). 

Resources for Victims of Sexual Violence 

RAINN 

RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country.  

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to access their National Sexual Assault Hotline. 
You can also access their online chat hotline by clicking here. 
For the Spanish online chat hotline, click here

Stop Street Harassment 

Stop Street Harassment is a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting and ending gender-based street harassment worldwide. 
Call 855-897-5910 to access their National Street Harassment Hotline.
You can also access their online chat hotline, by clicking here

FORGE 

FORGE is a national transgender anti-violence organization, federally funded to provide direct services to transgender, gender non-conforming and gender non-binary survivors of sexual assault. 
To access their database of videos, articles, and webinars on sexual violence, click here 

1in6 

1in6 is a nonprofit organization that provides support and information to male survivors of sexual abuse and assault, as well as their loved ones and service providers. 
To access their online chat hotline, click here

Anti-Violence Project 

Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is an organization that is dedicated to providing support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected victims of all forms of violence. 

Call 212-714-1141 to access the anti-violence hotline. 

You can also report violence by clicking here

National Sexual Violence Resource Center 

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center is an organization that provides resources and tools to end sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. 
To access their directory of organizations that provide resources to victims of sexual violence, click here

Safe Helpline 

Safe Helpline  is a confidential system that provides live, one-on-one support and information to MST survivors. 

Call their Telephone Helpline at 877-995-5247 
Visit the Online Helpline by clicking here
Download the free Self-Care App(iOS and Android).

For More Sexual Violence Information & Resources: 

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State, and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss how Veterans and their families can improve their lives.

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Article Sources 

Beckman, K., Shipherd, J., Simpson, T., & Lehavot, K. (2018). “Military Sexual Assault in Transgender Veterans: Results From a Nationwide Survey.” Journal of traumatic stress, 31(2), 181–190. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22280 

DAV. (2019). “Military Sexual Trauma – MST.” Retrieved from www.dav.org/veterans/resources/military-sexual-trauma-mst/ James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality. [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/USTS-Full-Report-FINAL.PDF 

National Sexual Violence Resource Center, NSVRC. (2010). “What Is Sexual Violence? Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [PDF]. Retrieved from www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Factsheet_What-is-sexual-violence_1.pdf 

RAINN. (2021a). “Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics.” Retrieved from www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence RAINN (2021b). “What Consent Looks Like.” Retrieved from www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent 

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Back In The Basement, And How To Get Out!

Conflicting emotions swirl as I pull into the driveway. Gratitude for having a place to live. Resentment for needing a place to live.

My mom’s house. I’d lived here before enlisting. I never thought I’d be back except to visit. Yet, here I am. Finished with military service and needing help making ends meet. 

Friends tell me I’m not the only one. Others move back in with assorted family members when times are tough. It’s a good thing, they tell me. I can get my bearings. Ease the pressure of accumulating bills.

But being here feels wrong. Like I failed a test I didn’t know I was taking.  I’d dealt with worse things in service. Why does this seem so difficult?

Economic dependence on family has a long history in the United States. Into the 20th century it was common for multiple generations of a family to live together. This interdependent arrangement shared labor, social, and financial resources. Economic and cultural changes led to fewer adult children living with their families of origin.

Now, increasing numbers of adult children are back living with parents or other family members. Economic challenges are a primary reason.

  • 1960 to 2010 data shows an increase from 1990 to 2010 in adults aged 25 to 64 living with their parents, and financially dependent on them (Kahn et al., 2013)

Trends in income dependency within intergenerational households by age, 1960–2010 (Kahn et al., 2013)
  • 2012 data shows that 194,000 Californians aged 50 to 64 were back to living with their parents due to their own economic hardships (Hamilton, 2014)
  • 2014 data shows that more 18 to 34-year-olds lived with their parents than with anyone else (Fry, 2016)
  • 2017 data shows that in large metro areas, up to 28% of 25 to 40-year-olds lived with their parents due to lack of money. (Kirkham, 2019)
(Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic; Data: Census Bureau)

2020 data shows that of the 1 in 10 adults moving due to COVID-19, 61% moved to a family member’s home. By November 2020, financial stress had become the main reason for moving. (Cohn, 2021) (Cohn, 2020)

In a 2019 survey, 75% of 18-to 34-year-olds defined adulthood as having financial independence.  Participants defined financial independence as affording day-to-day essentials without outside support. 80% agreed that achieving financial independence is harder than for previous generations.

Obstacles blocking financial independence include debt, high cost of living, unemployment, and underemployment. Extra obstacles for veterans include feeling misunderstood, alone, and unprepared for civilian life. Veterans have access to a range of organizations and services designed to help them. Services cross many areas affecting economic dependence/independence. Some services are conventional; others are not. Examples include:

APPRENTICESHIPS 

Construction
Helmets To Hardhats
• training and career opportunities in construction trades
• earn while learning

Energy Industry
Troops to Energy Jobs
• translate military skills
• 3 paths
o Ready Now
o Apprenticeship
o Further education
• locate and apply for jobs

Other
Service Members and Veterans | Apprenticeship.gov
• use the Apprenticeship Finder to search by occupation or location
• GI Bill benefits apply
• service-connected disability path offered

CAREER RESEARCH & PLANNING

My Next Move for Veterans
• ‘What do you want to do for a living?’ help from the Dept. of Labor

Find careers like your military job | My Next Move for Veterans
• translate military skills to civilian jobs

O*NET Interest Profiler | My Next Move for Veterans
• on-line tool for exploring what you like doing and how that relates to potential careers

PVA | Paralyzed Veterans | Career Program
• free career support for all veterans
• employment and vocational counseling
• online and recorded seminars on career topics for veterans

EDUCATION & TRAINING

Agriculture

Little Farms for Veterans

• hands-on education and training in sustainable agriculture
• for veterans and their families
• helps graduates with farm acquisition and maintenance

Veterans & Beginning Farmer

• employment and training in agriculture
• for veterans, and farmers with disabilities or other functional challenges
• site includes links to farms, ranches, and organizations in the program
• watch a video of how agriculture and veterans help each other

Veteran Farmer Training – Rodale Institute

• paid training in organic agriculture
• typically 2 – 4 months of immersive learning
• housing stipend for relocation

Beekeeping

Heroes to Hives

• free 9-month training program open to all veterans
• credits transferrable to Great Plains Master Beekeeping course
• watch a video of veteran experiences with beekeeping and the program

Environmental

Veterans Conservation Corps
• learn resource management areas like wildfire protection, recreation enhancement, habitat restoration
• training and certification for veterans up to age 35
• term of service with paid living allowance
• list of participating Corps changes with evolving programs & projects

Other

Career Training – Institute for Veterans and Military Families

• free training program
• career tracks in Business Management, Customer Service, and Information Technology
• assessment identifies interests and skill alignment
• certification and job search help

EMPLOYMENT

Hiring Heroes – MISSION BBQ

• restaurant chain with a dual mission,
o great barbecue
o honoring military and first-responders
• watch a video on why Mission BBQ wants veterans

Veteran Friendly Employers – Veteran Jobs

• 2021 list
• links go to veteran job sections of the listed employers

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

11 Free Programs To Help Veterans Succeed As Entrepreneurs
• lists free programs focused on supporting veteran entrepreneurs
• qualifying criteria per program included (e.g., veterans, family members, service-connected disability)

FINANCIAL HELP 

What education benefit programs are offered by VA?
• summaries and links for various programs
Veteran Scholarships and Grants
• help with education tuition, books, lodging, and expenses

Financial Resources for Veterans
• programs and organizations assisting with financial difficulties

LIFE SKILLS

Moving Forward: Overcome Life’s Challenges – Veteran Training
• problem-solving tools & techniques
• free and anonymous VA program
• self-paced, online learning

Resumes4vets.org
• convert military experience into a civilian-ready resume
• free resume review and improvement feedback
• creation tools to get you started
Secure Your Money Secure Your Future! – Know A Vet
• financial planning basics
• links to a variety of resources

For some, being dependent on parents or other family members feels like a step backward. It can lead to conflict and difficulties. It can also be supportive and strengthen family bonds. Read more:
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ Experiences Living with their Parents after Separation from the Military
COVID-19 recession forces grown kids to move home
Moving back in with your parents may be your worst fear—and your best idea yet
Regardless of each personal situation, using available resources can help.

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

                        -Bertha Calloway

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State, and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss types of military discharge and options related to each. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

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How to Stretch Your Retirement Dollars

And more tips to help financial security after retirement

I sip from the glass of water in front of me, uncomfortable as the only person at the table without a coffee and donut. But prices are up again. I hear the light-hearted retelling of deployment stories and bragging about grandkids.

I don’t feel light-hearted.

I barely notice when everyone except Chris is gone. “What’s up?” he asks, moving to the chair across from me. I hesitate, but he says, “Maybe I can help.” I stare at the tabletop, take a deep breath and say, “I think I retired too soon. Social Security doesn’t pay nearly as much as my job did.” I gesture around the table, though the other chairs are empty now, and say “You all seem to have money. I know Bill has a part-time job, but he says it’s for fun. If I return to work, it won’t be for fun.” I sound resentful now. Retirement wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Financial and retirement planning is not just for the young. Continuing to plan up to and beyond retirement helps avoid unpleasant financial surprises.

The Retirement Financial Planning Checklist from Aging in Place suggests reviewing income sources, taxation, and expenses to assess financial readiness for retirement.

Review Income sources

Retirement income sources are not the same for everyone.  But income from Social Security is available to most retirees. The Social Security Administration (SSA) says veterans “can get both Military Retirement and Social Security Benefits.” Click here to learn how military benefits interact with Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Pensions, disability compensation, and certain other benefits are sources of income for veterans. Money Crashers explains military retirement pay and pension benefits here. USA.gov provides information here, including contact details for help with questions.

Savings programs like 401(k), IRA, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), provide retirement income for participants.  These programs offer choices of how to handle the funds once you retire. They also have rules about withdrawing money and how taxation affects the withdrawals. For details see:

You might have other income sources like rental properties, part-time work, or investments.  Be sure to include them in your review.


Review Taxation

Misunderstanding how taxes apply to retirement income can sabotage financial planning. Income in retirement is not all tax free and your tax rate might not be lower than before retirement. Read these myth-busting articles for insight:

For information about taxable and non-taxable retirement income refer to resources like these:

Some organizations offer tax help to veterans at no cost. Click here to see a list compiled by Know A Vet.

Review Expenses

In retirement some expenses go down. Some go up. Benefits help reduce expenses. Are you eligible for additional benefits as a military retiree? Click here to see a list compiled by Military.com of potential benefits. Click here for the VA’s list of benefits for elderly veterans.

Discounts on goods and services also help reduce expenses. Click here to see the Best Discounts for Veterans in 2021 compiled by VA Claims Insider.

It’s also helpful to know what isn’t covered by benefits. Click here for information from Deploy Care on what the VA covers for senior veterans and what it doesn’t. 

Some people think they are too old to begin financial and retirement planning. Read these articles for reasons they might be wrong:

Click here for more information from Know A Vet about financial and retirement planning.

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State, and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss VA benefits for Veterans and their families. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

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Secure Your Money Secure Your Future!

I stare at the credit card bill, then look at my bank balance on the screen in front of me. How could this be? Again, I cannot make the minimum payment. My pay shows in the transaction list. Is it the right amount? I don’t know. I’d worked overtime recently, but my pay doesn’t’ seem much more than usual. I sigh, feeling defeated. Every month I vow to pay the credit card bill in full, but never do. Each month more interest and late fees accumulate. At this rate, I will never be able to stop working.

Rent was paid, thank goodness. But we need to eat, and gas the car. I still haven’t made last month’s car payment. I worry that someday the car will be repossessed. Then how would I get to work? And the kids to soccer practice? Reaching into my pocket to check for cash, I remember I’d spent it last night taking the kids and their friends out for pizza and a movie. I shake my head in frustration. Why were we always out of money at the end of the month?

FINANCIAL AND RETIREMENT PLANNING 

Financial worries can affect anyone. The cost of civilian life might be higher than expected. Post-service income might be lower than expected. Both can cause financial worries. Financial and retirement planning can help address these worries.  

Set Goals 

Setting goals helps you see where you want to be financially. Common financial goals include reducing debt, saving to buy a home, and saving for retirement.  Click here (https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-set-financial-goals) for goal setting guidance from NerdWallet or here (https://www.clevergirlfinance.com/blog/examples-of-financial-goals/) from Clever Girl Finance.

Budget 

A budget is a spending plan for how you will achieve your financial goals. Start by identifying all your income and expenses. Review your budget to see if you can find unnecessary costs. Be sure to include all sources of income. For help, watch the below budgeting video from the Department of Labor’s financial planning series.

Click here for budgeting tips, video, and template from the Navy Federal Credit Union MakingCents website, www.navyfederal.org/makingcents

Manage Debt 

Many people have some form of financial debt such as a home mortgage, student loan, or unpaid credit card balances. How you manage debt determines whether debt is helpful or harmful. High interest rates and late-payment fees can impede reaching financial goals. Click here (https://militarysaves.org/images/stories/pdf/materialstepbystep.pdf)for steps to managing problem debt from Military Saves, and here from Investopedia (https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/digging-out-of-debt/). 

Save & Invest 

The Balance.com defines saving as “the intentional act of setting money aside for a specific goal or purpose”. Common savings goals are an emergency fund, homeownership, and retirement nest eggs. Finding money to save may require a different job, a second job, or less spending. For some saving strategies visit the MilitarySaves Make a Plan: How to Save page (https://militarysaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save), or the American Savings Education Council Savings Resources — ASEC page (https://www.asec.org/services-5). 

Investopedia says, “savings can be used to increase income through investing”.  The military Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and civilian 401(K) are retirement savings methods that allow for investment growth. Both plans have legal requirements regarding contributions, taxation and withdrawals. Clickhere (https://themilitarywallet.com/tsp-leave-military-civil-service/) for suggestions from The Military Wallet and here from tsp.gov (https://www.tsp.gov/living-in-retirement/ ) on managing your TSP once you leave service. Click here for 401(k) basics from The Motley Fool (https://www.fool.com/retirement/plans/401k/).  

Other retirement plans like IRAs (Individual Retirement Account) are also options for saving and investing. You can also invest outside a retirement plan. Read 9 Steps to Begin Retirement Planning | Military.com (https://www.military.com/money/retirement/second-retirement/9-steps-for-retirement-planning.html) and Save and Invest | Investor.gov (https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/investing-basics/save-and-invest) for more information. Visit this site, Retirement Savings Toolkit | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov) (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/retirement-savings-toolkit ) for a variety of saving and retirement planning guides.  

Financial worries can seem overwhelming. Financial and retirement planning resources and support can help sort things out. Click here to listen at the Know A Vet? website to veterans sharing their financial issues and how they tackled them.  

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

Article Sources

Alexander, F. (2021, January 9). Creating a financial planning process for yourself. Clever girl finance. Retrieved January 22, 2020 https://www.clevergirlfinance.com/blog/financial-planning-process/  

American Savings Education Council (n.d.) Savings resources. ASEC. https://www.asec.org/services-5  

Cusson, M.P. (2020, November 11). Financial planning for veterans. Investopedia. Retrieved January 20, 2021 from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-advisors/011415/financial-planning-veterans.asp#:~:text=Key%20Takeaways%201%20When%20military%20veterans%20separate%20from,in%20which%20vets%20are%20likely%20to%20need%20help 

Employee Benefits Security Administration (n.d.). Retirement savings toolkit. U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/retirement-savings-toolkit  

Guina, R. (2018, September 12). What should you do with your TSP when you leave the service? The Military Wallet. https://themilitarywallet.com/tsp-leave-military-civil-service/  

Hagen, K. (2020, December 11). 401(k) basics: everything you need to know. The Motley Fool. https://www.fool.com/retirement/plans/401k/  

Lewis, M.R. (2020, June 12). How to do your own financial planning. wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/Do-Your-Own-Financial-Planning  

Military.com (n.d.) 9 steps to begin retirement planninghttps://www.military.com/money/retirement/second-retirement/9-steps-for-retirement-planning.html  

Military Consumer (n.d.). Military consumer, your tool for financial readiness.  Retrieved January 20, 2021 from  https://www.militaryconsumer.gov/ 

Military Saves (n.d.).  For savers. Retrieved January 20, 2021 from  https://militarysaves.org/for-savers  

Navy Federal Credit Union (n.d.). Improving personal finances. MakingCents. https://www.navyfederal.org/makingcents/knowledge-center/financial-literacy.html  

Principal (n.d.). Build your own financial plan: a step-by-step guidehttps://www.principal.com/individuals/build-your-knowledge/build-your-own-financial-plan-step-step-guide  

Securities and Exchange Commission Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (n.d.). Save and invest. Investor.gov. https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/investing-basics/save-and-invest 

The Balance (n.d.) Budgeting and personal finance.  https://www.thebalance.com/budgeting-4074043  

Thrift Savings Plan (n.d.). Living in retirementhttps://www.tsp.gov/living-in-retirement/  

Uyeno, J. (2019, January 26). Why is a personal budget important? The Nest. https://budgeting.thenest.com/importance-roles-budget-24912.html  

Voight, K., Benson, A. (2020, December 11). What is a financial plan, and how can I make one? Nerdwallet. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/what-is-a-financial-plan 

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How Mobile Technologies Can Help Our Veterans- Apps and Programs

As I look out my window across the fields, I see the lone road winding its way down the hill and past my house off into the evaporating distance. No cars pass and haven’t passed for a good hour and the gloom of evening is beginning to descend. This has been my view now for several months and often feels emblematic of the feelings of isolation and claustrophobia that being trapped inside by the pandemic can bring.  

Now, perhaps more than ever, we have come to appreciate modern technology in our struggle to stay connected with the world. Amid a global pandemic, human contact has become increasingly difficult to find, within a world separated by face masks, social distancing, and capacity limits, seeing a familiar face for a good old-fashioned chat can feel like a thing of the past. However, the rise of communication technologies such as Zoom, allowing us to call or video chat with friends and loved ones, has become part of everyday life for many, providing the electronic equivalent of a warm embrace and a reminder of the light at the end of the tunnel.

For Veterans, the ability to be able to reach out to others is crucial, and mobile technologies can play a huge part in making this possible. While apps such as FaceTime or Zoom provide a noble service, there are apps that allow Veterans to directly communicate with other Veterans, enabling vets to meet and socialize with others with shared experiences, allowing them to feel more comfortable. ObjectiveZero, https://www.objectivezero.org/, is a free app, developed by two Veterans Justin Miller and Chris Mercado, that allows Vets across the US to seek out other Vets and either receive help or provide support to others. 

If you are a veteran looking for some support you can sign up and view various ambassadors who have served in the military and select who you would like to get in touch with, either by text, call or video chat. It is even possible to filter who you would like to speak with by options such as: Branch of Service, Campaigns Served, Distance, or Gender among other options. On the other hand, Veterans can sign up as ambassadors and make themselves available to provide help and support to Veterans seeking it. Proving to be a success already, the app has already received over 1000 downloads in the US and more than 16000 messages and 350 hours of phone calls of support have been completed already. Furthermore, the app offers anonymity, which can be important for Veterans. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), military workers repeatedly list fear of embarrassment and letting down other comrades as pressures in hiding symptoms of mental health deterioration, meaning that the anonymity offered by the app can help Veterans overcome the stigma of discussing their mental health. 

ObjectiveZero is just one of many recently developed apps designed to help our Veterans. Perhaps the most established Veteran-specific app is PTSD Coachhttps://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/ptsdcoach_app.asp. 

Launched in 2011 as the VA’s first mobile app for Vets, it specializes in providing help and support to Veterans suffering from PTSD.

As of 2020, the app has received over 500,000 downloads in more than 115 different countries and is available free of charge. The app features an easy-to-use interface that is split into 4 sections: Manage Symptoms, Track Progress, Learn, and Get Support.  

  • The Manage Symptoms area allows the user to find coping methods for when they are feeling stressed or upset with features such as mindfulness tools, muscle relaxation, and sleep tools.  
  • Track Progress allows the user to take a short assessment on their PTSD symptoms and it will provide personalized feedback and allows one to track their progress over time. 
  • Learn features resources that allow the user to understand more about PTSD and contains answers to frequently asked questions, it also enables the user to find a local care provider/treatment facility.  
  • Get Support can help the user create their own support network by providing important contact lines for crises, search for mental health services nearby, and tips on how to reach out to people you trust.  

A trial carried out in 2014, surveying 45 Veterans receiving PTSD treatment, found there was 90% positive feedback about the impact of PTSD Coach alongside their treatment, highlighting the positive impact mobile technologies can have for our Veterans. 

Specifically, for the unprecedented times, we are currently experiencing, the VA has also launched a recent app for Vets called Covid Coach, https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/COVID_coach_app.asp, designed to help Veterans cope with the pressures caused by the pandemic. This app is not specifically aimed at those with PTSD, but rather for all Veterans who are finding the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health, offering advice on self-care and coping methods, and how to combat loneliness in such a hard time and allows the user to connect with others safely.

Other useful apps that are also available for free include PE Coach (Prolonged Exposure Coach), https://mobile.va.gov/app/pe-coach, another mHealth app developed by the VA. PE Coach allows a Veteran who is receiving treatment for Prolonged Exposure to collaborate with their therapist through the app, using it to help deliver EBT (Evidence Based Treatment) by carrying out exercises assigned to the patient by the therapist remotely and measuring PTSD symptom change. A survey by VA mental health clinicians in 2014 found positive results in their perceptions of the app about its advantages, compatibility with care, and the complexity of the app. 

In a time where seeking out in person help is a difficult task, technology can play an important part in providing human contact and assistance in Veterans’ lives. The selection of apps earmarked in this article can help provide social contact for Veterans, help them with practicing self-help methods, record their symptoms and emotions in order to keep track of them, and improve the success of professional therapy. Despite this, it is still very important to remember that these apps should not be relied upon as a replacement for medical assistance, but rather as a supplement to medical care.

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss other ways technology can improve the lives of Veterans and their families.

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Sources: 

Morland, L. A., Ruzek, J. I., & Rosen, C. S. (2015). Technology and PTSD care: An update. PTSD Research Quarterly, 26(2), 1-10. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/technology-ptsd-care-update/docview/1700956134/se-2?accountid=28179 

Institute of Medicine. (2013). Returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of readjustment needs of veterans, service members, and their families. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. 

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Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Among Veterans

The blinking digital numbers on the scales seem to be taking forever. I can’t believe I agreed to have dinner with my friends last night.  Now I have to get up an hour earlier so I can get in extra time working out before work.  

The next morning after my workout at the gym, I grab my stuff and head to the shower. I keep replaying seeing the fat rolls on my sides doing the side plank, I knew I shouldn’t have gone out to eat last night. Pinching by sides to confirm what I saw; I know today is going to be a horrible day. 

Walking out of the gym one of the women from my class stops me, “Wow! How do you stay so thin?” she asks me.  

I mumble something, put my head down and pull my oversize sweater down a little further. 

I don’t know why people lie to me. I can see the fat rolls on my sides. Do they think the fake compliments make me feel better? 

Eating Disorders Vs. Disordered Eating 

Eating disorders are psychiatric illnesses that cause severe, frequent, and persistent unhealthy eating habits to develop (Petre, 2017; “Disordered Eating,” 2019).  Eating disorders are typically characterized by an obsession with food, body weight, and/or body shape leading to behaviors such as severe restriction of food intake, uncontrollable food binges, or purging behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising (Petre, 2017).  

Disordered eating refers to a wide range of abnormal eating behaviors that do not meet the criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis (Richman, 2017a). Such behaviors can include an inability to control eating habits; skipping meals to either fast or to eat other foods in excess; obsessive calorie counting; using laxatives to help release food from the body; having an excessive exercise routine; using food to cope with stress; or engaging in “healthier” eating to a harmful extent (Richman, 2017b; “Disordered Eating,” 2019). Like eating disorders, disordered eating is typically associated with higher stress and decreased self-esteem based on body shape or weight (Disordered Eating, 2019). Although disordered eating is far more common than eating disorders, disordered eating behaviors can develop into an eating disorder (Richman, 2018). 

Common Types of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors 

Anorexia Nervosa 

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by very restricted eating patterns that lead sufferers to be considerably underweight compared with people of similar age and height. People with anorexia nervosa generally have an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, preoccupation with constant thoughts about food, and difficulty eating in public (Petre, 2017).  

There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa:  

Subtype 1 – The Restricting Type 

Those who suffer from subtype 1 lose weight exclusively through dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise (Petre, 2017). 

Subtype 2 – The Binge and Purge Type 

Those who suffer from subtype 2 may restrict food intake for a period of time and then eat large amounts of food, or they may just eat very little. In either case, however, eating is followed by behaviors such as vomiting, taking laxatives, or exercising excessively in order to rid the body of calories (Petre, 2017). 

Anorexia nervosa can be very damaging to the body. Over time, individuals with this disorder can experience the thinning of their bones, infertility, as well as heart, brain, or multi-organ failure and death (Petre, 2017). 

Bulimia Nervosa 

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by frequently eating very large amounts of food in a short period of time, usually until the person becomes painfully full; this is called a binge. During a binge, the person may feel like they cannot stop eating or control how much they are eating.  

Following a binge, individuals with bulimia will induce vomiting, take, laxatives or diuretics, or excessively exercise in order to offset the calories consumed in the binge; this is called a purge. While these symptoms appear very similar to those of the binge and purge subtype of anorexia nervosa, individuals with bulimia usually maintain a relatively normal weight, rather than becoming underweight (Petre, 2017).  

Bulimia nervosa can cause swollen salivary glands, tooth decay, acid reflux, severe dehydration, hormonal disturbances, electrolyte imbalances, stroke, or heart attack (Petre, 2017). 

Binge Eating Disorder and Binge Eating Behavior 

Binge eating disorder is believed to be one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. People with this disorder eat large amounts of food until they are uncomfortably full, often feel a lack of control when binge eating, and do not use any purging behaviors to compensate for the binging (Petre, 2017).  

Binge eating behaviors are a pattern of disordered eating that is less severe than binge eating disorder and does not meet the criteria for an eating disorder. 

People with binge eating disorder and binge eating behaviors are often overweight or obese which increases their risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (Petre, 2017). 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) 

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that is characterized by a lack of interest in eating or distaste for certain smells, tastes, colors, textures, or temperatures. This disorder often leads to restricted food intake, weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, and even requires tube feeding in severe cases (Petre, 2017). 

Purging Behaviors 

Purging behaviors can be a pattern of disordered eating but, if severe enough, can also be diagnosed as an eating disorder classified under the category of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED). Individuals with purging disorder engage in purging behaviors, such as vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or excessive exercising. However, they do not restrict their food intake or binge eat (Petre, 2017). 

Orthorexia Nervosa 

Orthorexia Nervosa is a pattern of disordered eating in which a person has an obsessive focus on “healthy eating,” often eliminating entire food groups from their diet that are viewed as unhealthy. This can lead to malnutrition and severe weight loss (Petre, 2017). 

Diagram

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[Graphic compiled and created by Natalie Schroeder] 

Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating in Veterans with Trauma Experiences 

Studies have found that rates of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, as well as disordered eating behaviors, are potentially higher among veterans than among the civilian population (Buchholz et al., 2018; Cuthbert et al., 2020; Slane et al., 2016). 

Several military-associated traumas have been associated with higher prevalence of severe eating disorder symptoms and patterns of disordered eating among both male and female veterans (Cuthbert et al., 2020; Richman, 2017a; Richman, 2017b; Richman, 2018; Blais et al., 2017; Forman-Hoffman et al., 2012; Striegel‐Moore et al., 1999a; Brewerton et al., 2018). 

 These military-associated traumas include: 

Interpersonal violence (IPV) has also been associated with higher risks for developing an eating disorder among both male and female veterans (Huston et al., 2019).  

People who suffer from eating disorders and disordered eating are likely to have experienced multiple traumas in their lifetime.  

Research has found that disordered eating may provide short-term relief from negative feelings or emotions related to trauma, although long-term engagement in these behaviors can lead to severely negative health outcomes (Richman, 2017b).  

Women, in particular, reported disordered eating as a way to change their shape and weight to avoid the attention that may lead to more traumatic experiences (Richman, 2017a; Richman, 2017b; Cuthbert et al., 2020; Forman-Hoffman et al., 2012). 

The Role of the Military Environment on Eating Behaviors 

Studies have found that the military environment may play a significant role in the development of eating disorders and disordered eating patterns in active military personnel.  

Strict military weight and fitness requirements, for example, can lead to the use of disordered eating behaviors to meet these requirements. In addition, needing to eat quickly during basic training, having erratic meal schedules during deployment, and having less appetizing or healthy meal options on military bases can also encourage disordered eating behaviors among military personnel (Richman, 2018; Ashby, 2017; Cuthbert et al., 2020). 

Eating disorders and disordered eating patterns that develop during military service are likely to persist long after leaving.

Eating disorders and disordered eating patterns that develop during military service are likely to persist long after leaving the military (Cuthbert et al., 2020; Richman, 2017).  

The transition from military to civilian life is a very sensitive period, often generating a lot of stress and anxiety. As such, many eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors can also emerge during this transition period (Cuthbert et al., 2020; Richman, 2017; “Eating,” 2016). 

the military (Cuthbert et al., 2020; Richman, 2017).  

The transition from military to civilian life is a very sensitive period, often generating a lot of stress and anxiety. As such, many eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors can also emerge during this transition period (Cuthbert et al., 2020; Richman, 2017; “Eating,” 2016). 

Comorbid Mental Health Conditions 

Multiple studies that have focused on individuals with eating disorders found that sufferers often have additional mental health challenges (Striegel‐Moore et al., 1999a; Striegel‐Moore et al., 1999b; Maguen et al., 2012; Cuthbert et al., 2020; Brewerton, 2007; Higgins et al., 2012; Masheb et al., 2014).  

Such challenges include: 

In addition to the experiential, sociocultural, and psychological factors that contribute to eating disorders and disordered eating behavior, veterans are also faced with a lack of resources.  

As with much of the civilian population, veterans lack access to adequate mental health services (Hester, 2017).  

Research has also found that many veterans live in areas that have fewer supermarkets, fitness facilities, and parks (Zenk et al.,2017).  

These factors are likely to amplify unhealthy habits. 

Resources 

Mental Health Professionals 

Finding a health professional to help treat mental health problems is very important for eating disorder recovery. 

The VA provides mental health services for veterans. To learn more, click here.  

You can also contact your local Veteran’s Service Office. 

To find a psychiatrist near you, click here.  

To find a psychologist near you, click here

To find a counselor near you, click here

For more mental health resources, click here

Treatment Centers 

Treatment Centers 

A professional team that specializes in eating disorders can be one of the most effective resources for eating disorder recovery.  Some treatment centers for eating disorders have specialized programs for military members, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which can help address the unique needs that servicemen and women may be facing in addition to an eating disorder. Be sure to choose a provider that is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). 

Click here to find an eating disorder treatment center near you. 

Unfortunately, if insurance companies do not contract for specific services or do not honor treatment recommendations, the cost of eating disorder treatment cost up to $30,000 a month. It is important to understand your benefits. To learn more, click here

There are also scholarships available for clients who are seeking higher levels of care such as Inpatient, Residential and/or Partial Hospitalization Programs. Project Heal is an organization that partners with treatment centers across the United States to sponsor individuals for treatment at their facilities. In addition, many for-profit companies also provide scholarships through their non-profit branches. To learn more about scholarship options, click here

 Support Groups 

Support groups, though not a replacement for treatment, are a free or low-cost way to gain support from others. Click here to find an in-person support group near you. There are also virtual support groups available. Click here to find a virtual support group through the National Eating Disorder Association. 

For more free and low-cost support resources, click here

Eating Disorder Hotline Listings 

National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237 

This helpline offers support Monday–Thursday from 9 a.m.–9 p.m. EST, and Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. EST.   

Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673 

You can talk to someone day or night and can also call if you need referrals to eating disorder treatment centers. 

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: 1-630-577-1330 

The hotline operates Monday–Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. CST. Trained hotline volunteers offer encouragement and support to those having problems around eating or binging, as well as assistance to family members who have concerns that their loved one might have an eating disorder. 

Overeaters Anonymous: 1-505-891-2664 

This hotline is available to people worldwide who need a referral to an Overeaters Anonymous support meeting in their area and provides help for people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, food addiction, or any other type of eating disorder. 

The United Way’s 211.org: Call 2-1-1 

This hotline is available 24/7 and can offer information and referrals to eating disorder treatment organizations in your area. 

Crisis Textline: Text CONNECT to 741741 

This textline helps people with eating disorders and other mental health issues by connecting callers with trained crisis volunteers who provide confidential advice, support, and referrals. The textline is available 24/7, 365 days a year. 

Nutrition Resources 

Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) provides nutritional services for veterans and their families across VHA health care facilities. To learn more, click here.  

The VA also provides Registered Dietician Nutritionists. To learn more, click here

TRICARE is a health care program for service members, veterans, and their families that covers a limited set of services from a nutritionist or registered dietitian. To learn more, click here

Home Base Nutrition Services for veterans provides nutrition counseling for patients seeking support for various topics, including weight-management, diabetes, and the management of food allergies/intolerances. To learn more, click here

Premade meal delivery services, such as Personal Chef To Go can be very helpful for veterans who do not have time to cook, or who don’t have access to healthy food options. To find discounts on premade meal delivery services, click here

Meals on Wheels and Food Pantries may also be an option. 

Fitness 

MOVE! is a weight management program offered through the VA that helps veterans develop healthy eating behaviors and increase their physical activity. To learn more and register, click here. Through TELEMOVE!, veterans who have a busy schedule or who live far from a Veterans clinic can meet with a registered dietician from their own home. To learn more, click here

If you do not qualify for these programs, there are also gyms and fitness centers that offer discounts to veterans. For a list of these facilities, click here

Bariatric surgery includes a variety of weight-loss procedures, such as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), sleeve gastrectomy (SG), and adjustable gastric band (AGB), that are an option for veterans with class II and III obesity. However, veterans must meet specific criteria for a surgical evaluation through the VHA. 

To learn more about bariatric surgery offered through the VHA, click here

The VHA’s strict requirements for bariatric surgery, however, may make it inaccessible to some veterans. In addition, these procedures are not widely offered within the VHA. As of 2020, only 23 of 170 VA Medical Centers offered bariatric surgery (Cuthbert et al., 2020). Furthermore, bariatric surgeries are expensive, and costs may represent a barrier to receiving such surgeries (Cuthbert et al., 2020). If you are unable to get bariatric surgery through the VHA, you can contact your local VSO.  

There are free weight-loss surgery grants available through the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America (WLFSA) and there may be free weight-loss surgery clinical trials available as well. To learn more, click here.  

In addition, you may also want to look into raising money for surgery using fundraising resources like gofundme

MST Resources  

Veterans and service members can receive MST care, free of charge, even if they do not qualify for other VA benefits. For more disability benefit information visit the VA’s MST fact sheet, click here and the VA’s Health Care Services for MST fact sheet click here, or contact your local Veterans Service Office.  
 
Safe Helpline  is a confidential system that provides live, one-on-one support and information to MST survivors. You can Call the Telephone Helpline at 877.995.5247, visit the Online Helpline by clicking here, or download the free Self-Care App (iOS and Android).  

Strength and Recovery – Men Overcoming Military Sexual Trauma is a brochure from the VA that provides MST resources.  

Safe HelpRoom Sessions for Military Men is an online community of sexual assault survivors in the military that meets on Sundays.  

1in6 provides free and anonymous weekly chat-based support groups for male victims of sexual assault.  
 
For more MST information and resources, click here and here, or visit Know A Vet’s information and resource page.  

PTSD Resources  

Female Veterans with PTSD should call their local VA and speak to a Women Veterans Program Manager, as well as contact their local Veterans Service Office to be connect to resources in their area.   

To find a local support group for women with PTSD, click here.  

For more PTSD information and resources, visit Know A Vet’s information and resource page. 

Interpersonal Violence Resources 

For help finding a domestic violence shelter in your area, click here

To go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website, click here

To locate domestic violence resources in your state, click here

For more IPV information and resources, visit Know A Vet’s information and resource page. 

For more information on eating issues, click here

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss VA benefits for Veterans and their families. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Article Sources

Ashby, M. (2017). “How Does Military Experience Influence the Obesity Trend Among Retired Veterans: A Qualitative Grounded Theory Study.” ProQuest. The University of the Rockies. Retrieved from search.proquest.com/openview/bffb1dbbceb783e450cd6791b6d2670a/1?pq 

Blais, R. et al. (2017). “Military Sexual Trauma Is Associated with Post-Deployment Eating Disorders among Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans.” International Journal of Eating Disorders. Vol. 50:7 (808-816). doi:10.1002/eat.22705 

Brewerton, T. (2007). “Eating Disorders, Trauma, and Comorbidity: Focus on PTSD.” Eating Disorders. Vol. 15:4 (285–304). doi:10.1080/10640260701454311 

Brewerton, T. et al. (2018). “Sensation Seeking, Binge-Type Eating Disorders, Victimization, and PTSD in the National Women’s Study.” Eating Behaviors, Vol. 30 (120–124). doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2018.07.001 

Buchholz, L. et al. (2018). “Rates and Correlates of Disordered Eating among Women Veterans in Primary Care.” Eating Behaviors. Vol. 30 (28–34). doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2018.05.002 

Cuthbert, K. et al. (2010). “Eating Disorders and Overweight/Obesity in Veterans: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Treatment Considerations.” Current Obesity Reports, Vol. 9:2 (98–108). doi:10.1007/s13679-020-00374-1 

“Disordered Eating.” (2017). Women Veterans Health Care. Veterans Health Administration. US Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from www.womenshealth.va.gov/WOMENSHEALTH/OutreachMaterials/GeneralHealthandWellness/Disordered_Eating.asp 

“Eating.” (2016). Know A Vet?. Friends of the Vet Center Inc. Retrieved from www.knowavet.org/?s=eating&submit= 

Forman-Hoffman, V., et al. (2012). “Eating Disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Sexual Trauma in Women Veterans.” Military Medicine. Vol. 177:10 (1161–1168). doi:10.7205/milmed-d-12-00041 

Hester, R. (2017). “Lack of Access to Mental Health Services Contributing to the High Suicide Rates among Veterans.” International Journal of Mental Health Systems. Vol. 11:1. doi:10.1186/s13033-017-0154-2 

Higgins, D., et al. (2013). “Binge Eating Behavior among a National Sample of Overweight and Obese Veterans.” Obesity. Vol. 21:5 (900–903). doi:10.1002/oby.20160 

Huston, J.C., et al. (2019). “Associations between Disordered Eating and Intimate Partner Violence Mediated by Depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in a Female Veteran Sample.” General Hospital Psychiatry. Vol. 58 (7–82). doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2019.03.007 

Maguen, S., et al. (2012). “Eating Disorders and Psychiatric Comorbidity among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.” Women’s Health Issues. Vol. 22:4. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2012.04.005 

Masheb, R., et al. (2014). “High-Frequency Binge Eating Predicts Weight Gain among Veterans Receiving Behavioral Weight Loss Treatments.” Obesity. Vol. 23:1 (54–61). doi:10.1002/oby.20931 

Petre, A. (2019). “6 Common Types of Eating Disorders (and Their Symptoms).” Healthline. Retrieved from www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-eating-disorders#bottom-line 

Richman, M. (2017b). “Exploring the Link between Trauma and Disordered Eating for Female Vets.” Research Currents. Office of Research & Development. US Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from www.research.va.gov/currents/0217-1.cfm 

Richman, M. (2017a). “Research Links Multiple Forms of Trauma with Eating Disorders in Female Vets.” Research Currents. Office of Research & Development. US Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from www.research.va.gov/currents/0717-Trauma_with_eating_disorders_in_female_Vets.cfm 

Richman, M. (2018). “Study: Demanding, Fast-Paced Military Lifestyle May Cause Women to Adopt Poor Eating Habits.” Research Currents. Office of Research & Development. US Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from www.research.va.gov/currents/0618-Demanding-fast-paced-military-lifestyle-may-cause-women-to-adopt-poor-eating-habits.cfm 

Slane, J., et al. (2016). “Eating Behaviors: Prevalence, Psychiatric Comorbidity, and Associations With Body Mass Index Among Male and Female Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.” Military Medicine. Vol. 181:11. doi:10.7205/milmed-d-15-00482 

Striegel-Moore, R., et al. (1999). “Eating Disorders in a National Sample of Hospitalized Female and Male Veterans: Detection Rates and Psychiatric Comorbidity.” International Journal of Eating Disorders. Vol. 25:4 (405–414). doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199905)25:4<405::aid-eat5>3.0.co;2-f 

Striegel-Moore, R., et al. (1999). “Psychiatric Comorbidity of Eating Disorders in Men: A National Study of Hospitalized Veterans.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 25:4 (399–404). doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199905)25:4<399::aid-eat4>3.0.co;2-0 

Zenk, S., et al. (2017). “Weight and Veterans’ Environments Study (WAVES) I and II: Rationale, Methods, and Cohort Characteristics.” American Journal of Health Promotion. Vol. 32:3 (779–794). doi:10.1177/0890117117694448 

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Veteran’s Benefits Are Changing! How Are You Affected?

January 5, 2021, a new federal law was enacted that creates change for many veterans. These improvements to the VA system will affect women veterans, surviving spouses, student veterans, homeless veterans, burial benefits, copays, education, retraining, VA institutional changes and other items.  Check with your local VSO for how benefits will change for you and watch our future newsletters for additional information. 

Below is the press release issued by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  It states the following key provisions under the new law, click here to read the entire press release. 

Education 

  • This section would make a number of changes to VA education programs to improve benefits for surviving family members, sunset the outdated Montgomery GI Bill, Rep. Brownley’s provision to increase VA work-study options, Rep. Underwood’s provision to allow STEM scholarships for clinical health training programs, and Rep. Wexton’s provision to allow Yellow Ribbon Program participation by foreign schools. 
  • The bill would also improve oversight of educational programs by State Approving Agencies and codify the Principles of Excellence for schools receiving GI Bill funding to follow building on 2019 Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearings and legislation from Rep. Levin.    
  • COVID-19 Pandemic Relief 
  • This section would grant the Secretary authority to continue to pay benefits to veterans impacted by the pandemic and allow them to preserve entitlement to benefits when they are unable to complete courses due to the pandemic. This section includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Cunningham, Levin, Bilirakis, Roe, Takano, and Lamb. 

Benefits 

  • Benefits: These provisions would expand benefits to pre-Vietnam war era advisors, increase special pension for Medal of Honor surviving spouses, protect servicemembers claims for Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, required publication of VA’s Disability Benefit Questionnaires, and mandated research to help Agent Orange-exposed veterans who develop chloracne and porphyria cutanea tarda. Based on legislation introduced by Reps. Cox , Lamb, Kildee, Barr & Luria, and Courtney. 
  • Housing: These provisions would expand eligibility for VA Home Loan Guaranty Program to more members of the National Guard and Reserves, reduce the home loan funding fee for veterans impacted by disasters, and extend home loan funding fee rates through 2030. This includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Cunningham, Mast, and Correa. 
  • Reform collections of overpayments to beneficiaries: Requires new rules for VA collections of debts owed by beneficiaries to avoid unnecessary harm to veterans’ credit ratings, as well as prevent many overpayments from happening due to eligibility changes. This includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Pappas and Bost, and Senator Tester. 
  • Burial Matters: These provisions expand federal aid to counties for veterans’ cemeteries; increases funds for State, county, and tribal veterans’ cemeteries operating and maintenance expenses; and provides urns and commemorative plaques for deceased veterans.  This includes legislation sponsored by Reps. Delgado, Sablan, and Brindisi. 

 Healthcare 

  • Long Term Care 
    • Enhanced oversight for state veterans’ homes regarding COVID-19 infections, response capacity, and staffing levels. 
    • Waiver of VA requirements for receipt of per diem payments for domiciliary care at state veterans’ homes and modification of eligibility for such payments based on legislation from Rep. Golden.  
    • Expansion of modifications to Veteran Directed Care program. 
  • Native Veterans 
    • Prohibition on collection of a health care copayment by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from a veteran who is a member of an Indian tribe based on legislation from Rep. Gallego.  
  • Women Veterans 
    • Authority for Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish medically necessary transportation for newborn children of certain women veterans based on legislation from Rep. Allred. 
    • Continuation of Women’s Health Transition Training program of Department of Veterans Affairs based on legislation from Rep. Cisneros. 
  • Scheduling and Consult Management 
    • Provisions included establish a process for scheduling internal VA appointments and community care appointments, require VA to provide for an initial audit of appointment scheduling, require VA to review its staffing and training, and require VA to determine whether health care positions involved in the consultation and scheduling process are accurately graded. 
  • Other: VA pilot program for clinical observation by undergraduate students based on legislation from Rep. Kaptur.  

Navy Seal Bill Mulder  

  • Service-connection and COVID-19 
    • Specify the circumstances under which a servicemember, including a member of the National Guard or reserves, is considered service-connected for a disability or death from COVID-19. This includes a provision from Chairmen Takano and Moran and Ranking Members Roe and Tester 
  • Assistance for Homeless Veterans 
    • Improves VA’s ability to award grant and per diem program funding to qualified providers of homelessness assistance services, expand HUD-VASH vouchers to veterans with other than honorable discharges, provide legal services for homeless veterans, and extend the coordination of case management services for homeless veterans based on provisions introduced by Reps. Levin and McCarthy in the Reducing Homelessness Veterans Act. 
  • Retraining Assistance for Veterans
    • The legislation provides VA and Labor Secretaries access to the Federal directory of new hires to assist in veterans’ employment, expand the VET TEC training program for more veterans, extend the Off-Base Transition Training program, and direct VA to provide grants to community organizations for veteran transition assistance programs. This includes provisions introduced by Rep. Levin. 

Deborah Sampson Act – Based on the House Passed Deborah Sampson Act led by Chairwoman Brownley, this title would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and would help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans– who are more likely to face hardships and go without needed health care. By expanding access to care for women veterans, combatting sexual harassment and assault, increasing cultural competency for all VA staff, and improving data collection, this is the most comprehensive legislative package for women veterans in a decade.  

Servicemember Civil Relief Act 

  • This title would extend Servicemember Civil Relief Act protections to catastrophically injured service members and their spouses, members of the US Coast Guard, and Gold Star Spouses based on legislation from Rep. Bustos. 

Other – This title establishes certain administrative protocols not covered in the other titles and clarifies matters relating to the Chief Financial Officer of the VA. 

  • Rep Rice’s provision would authorize the Secretary to give preference to offerors that employ veterans, in awarding a VA contract for the procurement of goods or services. 
  • Included is a provision from Rep. Rose to extend USERRA protections to National Guardsmen responding to natural disasters, serving on State Active-Duty orders, or during a National Emergency as designated by the President.  
  • Administrative and Other Matters 
    • This would establish an Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Veteran Affairs based on legislation from Rep. Haaland. 
    • Extend Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) benefits to National Guardsman that meet certain criteria, extend beneficiary protections for fiduciary misuse of a benefit, make changes to how the VA must respond to standard form 95, require the VA to implement steps addressing “high risk” problems and submit several reports to Congress regarding GAO concerns and recommendations. Includes provisions sponsored by Senator Tester and Reps. Roe, Levin, and Pappas. 
    • Protects veterans from fraud at the hands of their fiduciary by closing a loophole that prevented some veterans from recovering misused funds based on a provision sponsored by Rep. Brownley. 
  • Matters Relating to the Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs 
  • This subtitle would require the VA CFO to improve internal financial controls and be more involved in the performance of subordinate financial officers. Includes provisions sponsored by Reps. Lee and Bergman. 

Visit Know A Vet? (www.KnowAVet.org) for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss details on how this new law will affect current benefits, provide new benefits, and change the structure and procedures of the VA. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Sources: 

The United States, The House Committee on Veteran Affairs, Chairman Takano, VA Committee Secure Major Provisions for Veterans in End of Year Package. (December 16, 2020) Retrieved from, https://veterans.house.gov/news/press-releases/chairman-takano-va-committee-secure-major-provisions-for-veterans-in-end-of-year-package 

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What To Do When You Have Post Holiday Blues

I turn the corner and see more Christmas lights being stuffed in a box and my heart breaks a little more. My steps slow down trying to grasp the last bits of the holidays that remain.

Juggling the takeout and keys I finally get my apartment door open.

“Hello?” I say to my empty apartment.

Feeling silly I set the takeout down and get a tray. Flipping on the TV the news anchor continues with the next unwelcome news story.

Squeezing between the Christmas tree and the couch the tray knocks dry needles to the floor. I stand there staring at the needles changing colors on my socks from the blinking lights and reminding me of the kids rushing over to the tree to see which gift was theirs.

Settling down with my dinner I start flipping through the channels hoping to find something to take me somewhere other than my thoughts.

Holiday Blues

The holidays have passed but the stress of the holiday bills and loneliness can make the next few months depressing. Psychology Today gives more information on what causes post-holiday blues and some ways to combat it, click here to read their article. 

With overindulging at holiday parties or because you were home alone, now is the time to start looking at self-care. You can begin with one of these easy self-care ideas from Healthline.com, click here to read the article. 

Other ideas that could help you get over the post-holiday blues include: 

  • Start a new hobby, click here to read Huffington Post’s article. 
  • Start a new exercise routine, watch for local gyms, and online classes for New Year discounts. 
  • Re-read holiday cards and write thank you notes to reconnect to your loved ones. 
  • Call loved ones and friends 
  • Volunteer, click here to volunteer with Know a Vet? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (shorter days) may be adding to your feeling of depression, click here to read an article from the Mayo Clinic to learn about symptoms and treatments for this disorder.

Dealing with Post-Holiday Debt 

Holiday bills add up from the last-minute gifts, the special toys for the kids, holiday food, and postage to get presents to family members on time when you sit down and add up how much you spent could be a shock.  

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), American consumer planned to purchase an average of $998 for 2020 Holiday Season, click here to read the press release. You may have spent more of your savings or went into more debt than you planned, click here to read how to get back on track financially from thebalance.com. 

Starting a second job or side hustle could help you stay connected and earn some additional money to pay down debt, US New and World Report has steps to help you get out of debt, click hereClick here to read our previous article “Act II: Starting a New Career After Retirement”. 

If you find yourself in a financial emergency click here to read the previous article from Know A Vet? Or visit Free Grants for Vets to see what additional resources are available to you Grants for veterans (freegrantsforveterans.org)

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss education options for Veterans and their families. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

Sources

Wehrenber, M., (2020, January 4) Psychology Today. Tips to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues. Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/depression-management-techniques/202001/7-tips-beat-the-post-holiday-blues 

Marlow, A., (2019, April 18) Healthline. 10 Self-Care Strategies That Help Me Manage My Depression, Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/self-care-for-depression#9.-I-developed-a-relaxing-bedtime-routine  

Gonzalez, D., (2020, December 30) Huff Post. Everything You Need To Take Up A New Hobby This Year. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/everything-you-need-to-take-up-a-new-hobby_l_5fd8dc87c5b690d5d30798f8  
 
Mayo Clinic. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722  

National Retail Federation, (2020, October 21) Consumers Prioritize Spending on Family, Friends Ahead of Holiday Season. Retrieved from https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/consumers-prioritize-spending-family-friends-ahead-holiday-season  

Papandrea, D., (2020, December 31) The Balance. How to Quickly Pay Down Holiday Debt. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/quickly-pay-down-holiday-debt-5093806  

Steinberg, S., & Snider, S., (2019, June 13) U.S. News and World Report. 10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt. Retrieved from https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/debt/articles/easy-ways-to-pay-off-debt  

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How to Keep Loved Ones Safe This Holiday Season

The holiday season is supposed to be a time for relaxing and celebrating with friends and family. The most wonderful time of year can also prove harmful to your health and safety. Christmas trees, candles, holiday decorations, and even the holiday dinner can be threats to your health if you’re not careful. Here’s some safety tips to keep your family safe this holiday season. 

Watch Out for Fire Starters 

The increase in combustible seasonal decorations in many homes during the holidays means more risk for fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, and two of every five decoration fires happen because the decorations are placed too close to a heat source. Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children. Don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace. Never leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended or when you are asleep. Make sure the Christmas tree is not covering heat vents, blocking walkways or near flammable items. 

Also, test your smoke alarms to make sure they’re working properly. Keep a fire extinguisher handy for even more security.  

Click here for more holiday fire safety tips from the American Red Cross. They also offer 10 ways to stay safe as you deck the halls this holiday season. 

Decorate Safely 

Decorating is one of the most exciting activities to get into the holiday spirit. However, thousands of injuries involving holiday decorating are seen in emergency rooms every year. 

When decorating follow these tips from the American Red Cross: 

  • Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t worn out or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord. 
  • If you are buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat. 
  • Place the Menorah on a solid surface away from flammable materials and out of the reach of children. 
  • If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh, and water it to keep it fresh. 
  • When using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow. 
  • When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. Always use insulated hooks and nails outside to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard. 
  • While using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction and always watch for ice and packed snow. 
  • Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees. 
  • Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house. 
  • Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles. 
  • If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace. 

Be Prepared for Travel 

Traveling during the holidays can be taxing, especially in snowstorms and icy conditions. By getting your car ready for winter and using some simple tips to drive safely, you can face almost any weather that comes your way. Make sure your battery is good to go before you hit the road—battery power drops as the temperature drops. Have winter tires with a deeper, more flexible tread put on your car. Check the tire pressure—the tire pressure also drops as the temperature drops.  

Winter conditions or not, be sure to keep an emergency supply kit handy and fully stoked too. A spare tire, jumper cables, and a first aid kit are just a few items you should have on hand. Click here for more on what to include in an emergency supply kit.

Hazards for Kids and Pets 

During the holiday season kids and pets can get overly excited and with the additional excitement comes additional running and playing. From having additional presents and sweets to a spinning dreidel, new and exciting things can cause danger for young children and pets, click here for additional Hannukah safety. 

Click here for in depth holiday safety tips for pet owners. 

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss how deal with after holiday blues. 

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up. 

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How to Approach and Help Someone with Thoughts of Suicide

One voice is all it could take. One smile. One person to reach out and show that they care. One reason to not extinguish the one and only flame that ignites the soul. One reason to keep living. One voice can have a heavier impact than the weight of the world burdened on someone depressed and suicidal. 

Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year—roughly one death every 40 seconds. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24; 4th leading cause of death for adults ages 18-65. However, according to a study by Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS), 80- 90 percent of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication.  

There are 9 different classifications of depression, each with specific symptoms. Recurring thoughts of death or suicide or even a specific plan for it is usually present among those with mild, moderate, and severe depression. Other common symptoms include: depressed mood, loss of interest in activities, sleeping too much or not enough, a decrease or increase in appetite, energy level, and lack of concentration. If any of these symptoms last for about two weeks, there may be a case of mild, moderate, or severe depression. Other things to look out for include missing work, breaking down at work or having trouble getting out of bed. When it gets to severe depression, the person is having overwhelming thoughts of suicide, and self-harm. Severe depression causes a person to magnify all the negatives and to minimize any of the positives in their life. However, depression is also one of the most treatable mental health conditions. 

If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of harm or killing themselves, reach out to someone for help. Call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or call a counselor or doctor to get help immediately.   

If you’re a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, call the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. It’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. 

Knowing exactly what depression is and how it can lead to suicide is important, but equally important is knowing when and how to approach someone with thoughts of suicide; how to start the conversation towards getting them the help they need. When someone close to you is depressed, offering support can be challenging if you don’t know what the person needs. Additionally, depression also effects everyone surrounding the person. Family members and friends often feel helpless, not knowing how to reach out or what to do to help their suffering loved one. The depressed can be embarrassed to say how they feel, anticipating judgment, which makes communication even more difficult. How do you proceed with such little or no direction? Every case of depression is different, but here are a few universal things you can try that will empower both you and your loved one toward recovery and hope. 

1. Educate Yourself About Depression and Other Mood Disorders You may not be able to cure your loved one. But you can educate yourself about depression or the kind of mood disorder he/she must better understand their condition. Doing this will give you more patience and confidence to tolerate the confusing or frustrating symptoms. 

Here are some places to start: 

  • MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource designed to connect veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives. 
  • The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides mental health services at its medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics. All mental health care provided by VHA supports recovery, striving to enable people with mental health problems to live meaningful lives in their communities and achieve their full potential. For more information about VHA mental health services, visit the VA Mental Health website at www.mentalhealth.va.gov.
  • Families for Depression Awareness helps families recognize and cope with depression and bipolar disorder to get people well and prevent suicides. They offer education, training, and support to unite families and help them heal while coping with mood disorders. 
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Family Support Group is a peer-led support group for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. You can gain insight from the challenges and successes of others facing similar circumstances.

2. Ask Questions

Chances are that your friend or loved one is not going to voluntarily give up the information that you need, because he or she is too ashamed of the symptoms and afraid they will be judged. You must dig for the root of the cause. With depression and anxiety, asking questions is crucial because each person’s experience is different. Here are a few questions to consider: 

  • When did you first start to feel bad? 
  • Can you think of anything that may have triggered it? 
  • Do you have suicidal thoughts? 
  • Is there anything that makes you feel better? 
  • What makes you feel worse? 
  • Are you under stress? 

3. Make Them Smile 

Laughter helps and heals; it has powerful physical and mental benefits. Although you can’t laugh off depression, one of the many benefits of laughter is that it acts as a buffer against the negatives of life that can lead to depression. According to a recent New York Times article, laughter may help relieve stress, reduce blood pressure, and help people become more resilient.  

This article from Psychology Today offers four strategies on how to use humor to manage stress. 

4. Remind Them of Their Strength’s 

It is common for depressed people to feel unworthy of love—another aspect that makes communication so difficult. One way of helping them to recover is by reminding them of their strengths. Bring up times in their lives when they showed courage, compassion, integrity, and perseverance. Boost their confidence by recalling specific accomplishments and encourage them down the path of healing.  

5. If You Do Only One Thing, Let It Be Listening 

One of the most basic and powerful ways to connect to another person is to listen and give them our attention—especially if it’s from the heart.  Suspend all judgments, open your ears, and just be the warmth that someone depressed and suicidal desperately needs.  Let your loved one know that they’re not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for healing your loved one. You can offer support, but you can’t make a suicidal person get better.  

Do anything you can to get a suicidal person the help they need. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s appointment.  

Click here for a list of helpful veteran resources and support groups. 

If you’re a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, call the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. It’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. 

You could be the one to save a life. 

For more tips on suicide prevention, including understanding the warning signs and how to talk to a suicidal person, click here.  

Other tips on how to help someone with suicidal thoughts. 

Visit Know A Vet? for a list of resources for a wide range of issues and resources by zip code. Your local VSO can help connect you to other veteran or civilian organizations. To find your local VSO visit Know A Vet? and put your zip code in the box toward the top of the home page for your local Federal, State and County resources.  

Watch for future articles from Know A Vet? that will discuss non-traditional ways to handle anxiety.  

If this information would help someone you know, show them you are thinking of them by forwarding this email.  If you received this email from someone and would like to receive your own FREE newsletter click here to sign up.

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