New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - This story was re­ported un­der a part­ner­ship with the Con­necti­cut Health I-Team (, a non­profit news or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to health re­port­ing.

lon­gi­tu­di­nal stud­ies on it. Veter­ans’ ad­vo­cates say this is a symp­tom of na­tional in­dif­fer­ence to the on­go­ing wars.

“There’s no na­tional fo­cus,” said Paul Rieck­hoff, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Iraq and Afghanistan Veter­ans of Amer­ica or IAVA.

So, some are speak­ing out about their ex­pe­ri­ences to raise aware­ness.

Thomas, 49, a Mil­ford vet­eran with PTSD and trau­matic brain in­jury, grad­u­ated from Yale Law School be­fore he spent 17 years in the Navy and Navy Re­serve, work­ing in in­tel­li­gence. He was de­ployed twice to Afghanistan, where it was rou­tine to be banged around in Humvees while duck­ing ex­plo­sives and to be con­stantly try­ing to save oth­ers from death and in­jury. At home, Thomas was an­gry and “drank like a fish,” he said. His first mar­riage dis­solved.

In his sec­ond mar­riage, with PTSD symp­toms in­clud­ing hy­per­vig­i­lance, he slept with a loaded gun un­der his pil­low and had am­mu­ni­tion “all over the place.” One night his wife woke him as he screamed dur­ing a night­mare. Lost in his flash­back dream, he didn’t rec­og­nize her and nearly hurt her.

“Re­ally bad things could have hap­pened,” he said.

Thomas, who spent about seven years in cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral ther­apy at the VA, is now pur­su­ing his fifth ca­reer since he left the Navy in 2008. He re­cently started a waste-to-en­ergy com­pany.

Rand Corp., a non­profit pol­icy think tank, has done dozens of re­search re­ports on veter­ans for the gov­ern­ment and other en­ti­ties, but hasn’t re­ceived a re­quest to pur­sue the PTSD-life con­se­quences con­nec­tion in the post 9/11 co­hort. “There are not many fun­ders who pri­or­i­tize that type of work,” said Terri Tanielian, a Rand ex­pert on veter­ans’ men­tal health.

A 2017 sur­vey of IAVA mem­bers found that men­tal health and sui­cide pre­ven­tion, jobs and re­form of the U.S. Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs were top con­cerns. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­ferred 62 Con­necti­cut veter­ans to 96 re­sources for help with em­ploy­ment, fi­nances, ed­u­ca­tion, dis­abil­ity claims, men­tal health and com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.

State Veter­ans Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Thomas J. Saadi said he has seen “many veter­ans go on to re­build what they’ve lost in their lives once they re­ceive the sup­port ser­vices they need.”

Boehm, 34, a Meri­den vet­eran, lost out on a ca­reer as a lab tech­ni­cian, a job she held in the Army. She planned to con­tinue that work af­ter dis­charge, but af­ter be­ing raped twice in the mil­i­tary, she couldn’t men­tally sep­a­rate the Army job from the rapes. Af­ter her dis­charge, she lined up in­ter­views for lab tech jobs, but couldn’t go through with them.

“I started hav­ing flash­backs, cry­ing,” she said.

Af­ter the rapes, Boehm be­came sui­ci­dal, drank ex­ces­sively and was an­gry. She was di­ag­nosed with PTSD. Friends dropped her and fam­ily “walked on eggshells” around her, she said.

She plans to grad­u­ate from South­ern Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­sity in May. She said her PTSD de­prives her of get­ting high grades be­cause of re­lated anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and prob­lems con­cen­trat­ing. She works as a nanny and co-owns a busi­ness that makes mer­maid-themed items. She hopes to pur­sue grad­u­ate school.

She re­ceives in­di­vid­ual coun­sel­ing at the Rocky Hill Vet Cen­ter and started tak­ing new med­i­ca­tions last month.

“I’m in a bet­ter head space than I was,” she said.

Ja­son DeViva, a VA Con­necti­cut Health­care clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, said with “ef­fec­tive treat­ment, we can re­move some of the ob­sta­cles that stand in the way of veter­ans liv­ing the kind of life they want to live.”

But ac­cess to treat­ment is still a hur­dle for veter­ans with PTSD, rang­ing from long waits for VA ap­point­ments to dis­tance to re­ceiv­ing pri­vate care, said Han­nah Si­noway, an IAVA ser­vices of­fi­cer.

Mur­ray, 44, a Bridge­port Army and Na­tional Guard vet­eran, faces other ob­sta­cles. He is liv­ing in VA tran­si­tional hous­ing in Leeds, Mass., af­ter be­ing in prison for two years.

Mur­ray said he was con­victed of vi­o­lat­ing a pro­tec­tive or­der ini­ti­ated by his ex-wife and for threat­en­ing. He at­trib­uted his mar­i­tal prob­lems to PTSD caused by his ex­po­sure to death and am­bushes in Afghanistan. He said some­times he shut down and didn’t talk to his wife for weeks. He had road rage. His wife ac­cused him of hit­ting her when he was hav­ing night­mares.

PTSD “ru­ined my life,” said Mur­ray, who has an as­so­ciate de­gree in busi­ness man­age­ment from Sa­cred Heart Uni­ver­sity and was ac­tive in the Veter­ans of For­eign Wars. A long­time truck driver, he lost his com­mer­cial driver’s li­cense and job af­ter he was ar­rested.

Thomas Burke, co-founder of High Ground Veter­ans Ad­vo­cacy and pas­tor of North­field Con­gre­ga­tional Church in We­ston, said long wars and pub­lic in­dif­fer­ence can cause veter­ans with PTSD to feel hope­less.

“Be­cause our na­tion doesn’t take the end of the war se­ri­ously, that grad­u­ates to ‘why would my PTSD ever end?’ ” he said.

Me­lanie Sten­gel / Con­necti­cut Health I-Team

Vet­eran Michael Thomas of Mil­ford

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.