Monday, May 21, 2012

Follow me to a new page!!!

To all you friends and followers who have been so supportive of me and my blog I have some great news. 
I have been asked to continue my blog on a site called Life After the Army

While I will not compromise the idea's behind this blog I do know that Life After the Army offers a wider audience of Soldiers and Veterans and they offer a lot more resources as well as several other writers.
So I ask for your continued support by following me to Life After the Army and to continue to support my efforts to provide a voise for Soldiers and Veterns. As always you can contact me by email.

Eugene Hicks 1SG (Ret.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Taking the stigma out of mental health issues

Mental health professionals talk to Congress about taking the stigma out of mental health issues for soldiers

May 16, 2012 | By Kitty Felde

One in three U.S. military personnel with post-traumatic stress never seeks treatment, according to a recent survey of 4,000 military family members.
Mental health professionals from various branches of the military told Congress on Wednesday that the biggest challenge to getting service members to seek help is the stigma of mental illness.
The U.S. military is trying to make it easier for active duty and former personnel to use mental health services. Democratic Congresswoman Grace Napolitano of Norwalk and members of the Mental Health Caucus heard about increased support from military leaders who say mental health professionals improve the “operational readiness” of their units.
Navy psychologist Dr. John Ralph told members that every branch of the military has started "embedding" mental health professionals within units.
"A traditional model for mental health care," he said, "is that a service member may have to take off work, drive to the hospital, see a mental health provider, explain to his or her boss why he or she is gone for that many hours. And it’s difficult to do that for many reasons."
Embedding also increases the trust of soldiers and sailors for psychologists and psychiatrists.
But Colonel John Forbes, director of psychological health for the U.S. Air Force, said the best way to get airmen to seek help is assure them they’ll keep their jobs after they do so.
Forbes said the Air Force retains 75 percent of personnel diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
"So when you’re thinking about what reduces stigma, it’s what happens to that individual," said Forbes. "If they’re going to be separated, or if some bad thing’s going to happen to their career, that’s obviously going to raise stigma on an organizational level."
The Veterans Administration reports that it’s addressing mental health issues with about one in four veterans who seek health care services. That’s more than a million vets reporting traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders.
The VA is now trying to reach military people where they are. So far, they’ve downloaded the VA’s new “PTSD Coach” mobile phone app more than 55,000 times. The app contains a self-assessment and connections to mental health professionals.
The VA is also promoting an interactive website with hundreds of short videos where service members tell their own story about mental health issues. The Make the Connection website is being advertised on billboards, via text messaging, and there's even a QR code that will take mobile phone users directly to the site.
Last year, the Defense Department reported 282 military suicides.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How many miles will you pledge this Memorial Day?

wear blue Runs for the Fallen
This Memorial Day, we are asking members of our worldwide community to hit the streets and run in honor of the fallen. A long run, or short walk, the distance doesn't matter. But we are asking members to go online and pledge miles in honor of the Fallen so that together we can create a community dedicated to honoring the ultimate sacrifice.
While Americans may pause to reflect, for many, Memorial Day represents a long weekend typically filled with backyard celebrations and sunshine. For members of wear blue: run to remember, it is a day to remember each life sacrificed in a positive, life-affirming way.
Photo by Zach Wingfield - Amica Seattle Marathon
It is not about pledging money, it's about pledging miles so that together we can create a living memorial. How many miles should you run? What number is meaningful to you?
 3 miles for the 3 years you have been deployed?
 5 miles for the 5 branches of the American Military?
 9 miles for the 9 times you moved while in the military?
 11 miles for the 11 years since September 11, 2001?

LT Kim XO, Me and CPT Hallett Commander A Co 1-17th, NTC 2009
Wear Blue was started by Lisa Hallett after the death of her husband CPT John Hallett (I was his First Sergeant in A Company 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry) John died during our deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. This is a phenomenal organization and something great to be a part of. My fiancée Cynthia ( is an avid supporter and has participated in several projects with them. She will be running the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon with them this year.
Me running the XTC Boise foothills 12k 2011

Cytnhia running the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon with
the wear blue: run to remember group.

"6,444 American Service Members have given their lives in the Global War on Terror. This Memorial Day, pledge to run or walk at least 1 mile in honor of our Soldiers. Please follow the link below to pledge your miles and share this on your Facebook status so others can pledge their miles too. " from wear blue website.
So pledge your miles and post on either my Facebook page or on my Blog as a comment. Cynthia has pledge 27 miles and here are the names we are running for;
Iraq (Mosul 2004-2005) 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment 
CPT William Jacobsen, JR. 21 Dec, 2004
SSG Robert Johnson 21 Dec 2004
SPC Lionel Ayro Dec 21, 2004
SPC Clint Gertson Feb 19,2005
1SG Michael Bordelon May 10, 2005
SGT Robert Ayres III Sept 29, 2007
Afghanistan (2009-2010) 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry 
SGT Tom Troy 18 Aug 2009
CPT John Hallett  25 Aug 2009
SPC Dennis Williams 25 Aug 2009
SPC Kevin Graham 26 Sep 2009
SPC Kyle Coumas 21 Oct 2009

So get off your butt and hit the street with your unit PT shirt on, you will feel beter when you open that beer later......

Monday, May 7, 2012

Veterans Facing Significantly Longer Mental Health Care Waits Than Publicized

I have had a one year wait for my claims, I have been waiting so long my advocate at the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) forgot who I was, and I am still waiting. I submitted a request to have surgery on my wrist and that took me 8 months to get done. This is really becoming a trying experience.

Posted by

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has been greatly overestimating how quickly it provides care to veterans, according to a report released this week by the VA Inspector General.
First-time patients seeking mental health services are supposed to receive an initial examination within 24 hours and a full follow-up exam within 14 days. Last year, the VHA reported that 95% of its patients were being seen within this two week window.

But the Inspector General determined the 95 percent figure only measured how long it took to conduct the evaluation once it had been scheduled, not how long the patient waited to be seen. Using the same data, this new report found that nearly half of veterans seeking health care for the first time waited an average of 50 days before receiving a full evaluation.
The IG report also found that only two-thirds of patients received treatment within 14 days of being evaluated, another VHA requirement.
“This report confirms what we have long been hearing, that our veterans are waiting far too long to get the mental health care they so desperately need,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “It is deeply disturbing and demands action from the VA.”
The Veterans Affairs Committee commissioned the Inspector General’s report.

Staffing Shortages

Part of the problem is that there are not enough employees to keep up with the increasing demand for care. VHA staff has increased 45 percent since 2005, but the number of patients has increased by almost the same amount.
Last week, the VA announced that they plan to hire an additional 1,600 clinicians, including psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and professional counselors, in addition to another 300 support staff. This marks an almost 10 percent increase to the more than 20,000 existing mental health workers at the VHA.
Still, there is concern that this may not fix the extended wait times for veterans. These discrepancies originated with the VHA’s inability to accurately collect and analyze data. A working group has been established to address the problem and develop a new system for tracking these benchmarks.

Changes Promised

“Getting our veterans timely mental health care can quite frankly often be the difference between life and death. It’s the critical period, not unlike the ‘golden hour’ immediately after a traumatic physical injury,” Murray said.
VA Under Secretary for Health, Robert Petzel, assures that the VHA is moving quickly to make changes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Be careful of what your resume may not say about you

When I retired from the Army I was well prepared, so I thought. I had a resume' that I thought was my ticket to a new job and and I had learned from the Transition Assistance Program on Fort Lewis techniques for interviewing. After all I was

"Highly organized with an ability to manage multiple projects, tasks and priorities effectively and in a timely manner.  Strong work ethic with outstanding communication and follow-through skills."

I would soon learn that it was not what my resume' told employers about me but what my resume' did not tell employers about me that hindered my job hunt. While I was at Fort Lewis I submitted 45 resumes both in the civilian workplace and the federal workforce (Joint Base Lewis McChord) I started submitting resumes early. I retired on 31 March 2011 and my job search started in August 2010, I kept a Excel spread sheet that showed the company name, where I found the opening (USA Jobs, Craigslist, etc.) when the closing date was, when I applied, how I applied (email or "snail mail" or in person), what documents I provided (cover letter and DD214), and if or when I was contacted and by whom.

Of all the positions I applied for I received one call back and that was for a security officer position at the VA hospital in Lakewood. I was needless to say, very dismayed because I thought that I had the qualities that employers were looking for: loyalty having served for over 21 years in the military; a track record of success at multiple levels of leadership; education I had a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Saint Martin's University; but most of all I was a veteran who had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to serve our nation. All of this would not even get me a minimum wage job.

Leadership and Supervision:  A superior leader with demonstrated performance in high-pressure environments.  Earned a solid reputation for improving organizational performance through hands-on training and a leadership approach that emphasized decision-making through active listening.

·         Superbly managed and motivated as many as 166 personnel; renowned for firm, yet compassionate mentorship. 

·         Key player in the planning and execution of four successful Company-sized operations in the Shah Wali Khot district and three operations in the Arghandab River Valley.

·         Taught third-year military science students for two years at Boise State University; developed class syllabi that was approved by the Department of Social Sciences Chair and is still in use.

Problem-Solving and Analysis:  Consistently implements keen analytical abilities and a proven team-based work dynamic with a systems-oriented approach to facilitate efficient and effective solutions.  A critical thinker open to alternative views to optimize decision-making.

·         Authored and implemented Standard Operating Procedures for a Stryker Company consisting of 166 personnel and $60M+ in equipment.

·         Excels at proactively identifying errors and recommending cost-effective solutions on site. 

Selected Military Training:  Basic Rifleman's Course; Military Skier Course; Basic Forward Observers Course; Squad Leaders Basic Course; Marine Corps Scout Sniper Course; Health and Safety Training for Hazardous Material Waste Operations and Emergency Response; Helicopter Rope Suspension Training / Safety Insertion Officer Course / Rappel Master; Basic Security Guard Course; Maritime Tactics / Close Quarter Battle Course; Introduction to Networks / Computer Hardware; Air Assault School; Warrior Leaders Course; Advanced Leaders Course; Army Safety Program Management; Senior Leaders Course; Instructor Training Course; Combat Lifesaver Course

Bronze Star with "Valor" Device; Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (x2); Army Commendation Medal with "Valor" Device; Army Commendation Medal (x4); Army Achievement Medal (x2); Navy Achievement Medals (x2); Combat Action Ribbon (Marine Corps)
These are actual bullets and areas of emphasis that are are my first resume' I ended up scrapping this resume after moving to Boise, Idaho and talking with a representative from the Boise Department of Labor. Ok, I am getting a little ahead of myself, I finally moved to Boise, Idaho and thought for sure that a very pro-military community here would be my best bet for getting a job. Well still no luck and I took a job making $4.25 an hour (VA work study position). I was very upset and felt something must be wrong or I was just not getting it. Where I was working (the Boise Vet Center) a representative from the Department of Labor came in to talk with veterans about employment opportunities and I showed him my resume. He looked over and advised me to down play my military service and especially my combat time. I felt like I was hit in the face, because I felt like my service did not matter and that it should be something I am ashamed of. I could not do that, so I re-wrote my resume and submitted it to several police agencies, Ada County and Canyon County no return call. I was not going to settle for a minimum wage job nor was I going to settle for a job I did not like doing. I was receiving a retirement stipend so I was not bad off.

What I learned was employers are not afraid of what you have done in the military but what they perceive you may suffer from. The biggest hindrance is what the media has put out there about us veterans. People think that we are "powder kegs" or that we suffer from PTSD and they don't want to hire us. Hire a Vet has started here in Idaho I have not looked into the statistics of how it is working but it really seems like a lot of talk.

I am currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California in Social Work and when I graduate I will help veterans here in Boise. I volunteer at the Boise Rescue Mission in the Veteran Mentor Program helping as a volunteer case manager. I will continue to look for jobs that take me out of this area even though it really depresses me because I bought a house here and decided four years ago that I wanted to retire here. Unfortunately I can't find jobs that will allow me to pursue my passion, helping our veterans. The company that I work for currently as a mental health specialist has been so supportive and I am glad that I found them. Riverside Rehab., in Garden City is by far the best organization I have had the pleasure to work with as a civilian, but more on that later.

I would love to hear about your job seeking endeavors, please contact me and I will post them on here. I would love to hear your story's good or bad and how you handled them.