This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.

The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.

Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.


“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.

The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.

“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”

Equine programs

Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.

Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.

BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.

In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia will challenge any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.


According to a report by DefenseOne.com, a statement by the Russian government on Nov. 10 laid out a very hard-line position against the ban on what the United Nations is calling “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or LAWS.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
This screen capture fro a video released by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows a robot equipped with weapons. (Youtube screenshot)

“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”

The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
An Endeavor Robotics 710 Kobra checks out a vehicle. (Youtube screenshot)

The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.

In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard yeoman wins Instagram contest with Virginia Beach-themed shoe design

Yeoman 2nd Class Kenny Jones wears his pride for Virginia Beach — its culture, its beachfront, its military presence — on his sleeve.

He’ll soon be wearing that pride on his feet.

Jones, who last month celebrated six years of service for the Coast Guard, recently won an Instagram contest to design a Nike shoe. The contest, organized by the @nikesbornothing Instagram account (and not affiliated with Nike), encouraged fans of the Nike SB Dunk shoe to design a version to represent a city of their choice.

Jones, 28, picked Virginia Beach, the place where he grew up. His father, a Navy man who served on submarines, moved the family there when Jones was in first grade.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

The shoe he designed is Navy blue, a nod to the region’s large Navy and Coast Guard populations, and the Nike swoosh is silver, a reference to the Navy’s steel ships.

On the side is a trident, representing the King Neptune statue that guards the Virginia Beach oceanfront. A musical symbol references some of the music superstars that hail from Virginia Beach, like Pharrell and Timbaland. Blue waves and a tan outsole evoke the sand and surf.

Sometimes Virginia Beach can be overlooked, Jones said, but it’s a place that people are proud of, and his design was a way to display this pride.

“I want them to continue to feel proud of the area that we’re from,” Jones said. “Everything about it, whether it’s the oceanfront that we have, or the military aspect, to be proud of those who serve in this area.”

For Coast Guard members, Hampton Roads, a coastal region that includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, the city where Jones lives and works for the Coast Guard Communications Command, has special meaning, he added, since so many members have been stationed in the region.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

When he posted his Virginia Beach design on his Instagram account, it attracted a boatload of likes. In late March, the @nikesbornothing account announced that Jones’ design had won its “Have a Nike SB Day” contest.

It wasn’t just fellow Nike enthusiasts that embraced Jones’ design. Posting on Twitter, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner congratulated Jones for his win, adding, “I cannot wait to wear the real thing.”

Jones also received a shout out from Jason M. Vanderhaden, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, who tweeted his congratulations.

For Jones, who said he is naturally a quiet guy, the response, especially from prominent leaders like Warner and Vanderhaden, has been an overwhelming experience.

And he’s taking it as a sign.

Jones took the money he was saving for a new pair of Nikes and instead used it to buy a new iPad and Apple Pencil. He’s watching online videos to teach himself design, a way of “investing in myself.”

“I feel like I got an opportunity, so I don’t want to waste it,” he said.

He wants to pursue the dream he’s had for a long time: to design shoes and other apparel. These days, when he’s not at work or spending time with his wife and their three-year-old son, he’s working on making that dream come true.

And he’s waiting for a special custom pair of Virginia Beach-themed Nike SBs. As the contest winner, Jones’ custom design will be created by a company called ReverseLand.

When will the shoes be available? He says he’ll let his fans know on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

An adversary pilot was rescued after ejecting off San Diego coast

A Navy helicopter crew rescued a civilian pilot who ejected from a contracted fighter jet off the coast near Point Loma August 22, Navy and Coast Guard officials said.


The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat Hawker Hunter jet, for unknown reasons, roughly 115 miles off the coast, Navy officials said. No information about the pilot’s condition was available.

The Navy-contracted plane had participated in a pre-deployment training exercise for the ships of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Navy officials said. The Composite Training Unit Exercise, which tests the strike group’s deployment readiness, began earlier this month, according to the Navy.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Arabian Gulf. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex Millar.

The Coast Guard was summoned about 4:30 p.m. to assist in the pilot’s rescue, but a helicopter crew assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt hoisted the pilot out of the ocean before a Coast Guard helicopter crew responded, officials said.

The pilot was taken to Naval Medical Center San Diego for a medical evaluation.

In the past, Hawker Hunter jets have been contracted by the Navy to play the role of an enemy aircraft in offshore training.

In two instances, in October 2014 and May 2012, the pilots who assisted in the training exercises crashed in a field near Naval Station Ventura County as they prepared to land. Both pilots died.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of June 16

Military memes are like digital morale, and we have collected the most potent 13 from this week for your pleasure.


1. Definitely going to get made fun of on the ship for that one (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Gonna be especially tough when you get sent to different ships.

2. The Army does not know how to party (via ASMDSS).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Soldiers do, but not the Army.

ALSO SEE: The US Navy might pull these old combat ships out of mothballs

3. In the end, only the DD-214 remains.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
At least you get to cover your truck in Eagles, Globes, and Anchors.

4. This is why socialized pay in the military is so weird:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Remember, future enlistees, E3 pay is E3 pay is E3 pay.

5. All this for a Camaro (via Team Non-Rec).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
A Camaro you can’t even drive when you’re stuck out at sea.

6. Double points when they want to talk about morale (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

7. “Keep on firing, buddy. I’m behind cover and my guardian angel is 3… 2… 1…” (via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
BOOM!

8. Peace. Out. (Via Lost in the Sauce)

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Find someone else to fight your war. I’m headed to college and stuff.

9. Turns out, the camouflage works better than anyone predicted (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
This guy won the dirtbag, shammer, and hide and seek championships for this year. Triple crown!

10. All about the Benjamins, baby (via The Salty Soldier).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
The answer is no. Thanks for the money.

11. Chiefs will avoid it at all costs (via Decelerate Your Life).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
They’ll go so far as swim PT just to avoid it.

12. Just remember to bring something to use in exchange (via Decelerate Your Life).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
The supply bubbas know how to get what’s theirs.

13. He can’t help you now, staff sergeant (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
College and the civilian job market don’t look so scary right before another NTC rotation.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s top stealth fighter might have gotten a range boost

China’s most advanced stealth fighter is ready for aerial refueling operations, giving it the ability to pursue targets at greater distances, according to Chinese state media.

The “fifth-generation” Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter entered military service in 2017 and was incorporated into Chinese combat units in February 2018. This aircraft, the pride of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, put on quite a show at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, where it showed off its payload of missiles for the first time publicly while rocking a new paint job.


China Central Television (CCTV), a state-run broadcaster, revealed recently that the aircraft has been equipped with a retractable refueling probe, which is embedded on the right side of the cockpit. The refueling probe was embedded to help the fighter maintain stealth, something with which the J-20 has struggled. A consistently-exposed probe extending from the fuselage would make the J-20 much more visible to enemy radar systems.

Four of the six onboard missiles are stored internally in a missile bay, a design feature intended to make the J-20 more stealthy, Chinese military experts told China’s Global Times.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

The two Chengdu J-20s making their first public appearance.

Although the exact range of the Chinese stealth fighter, nicknamed the “Powerful Dragon,” is unknown, the aircraft has a suspected combat radius of roughly 1,100 kilometers, making it suitable for long-range strikes and intercepts. With aerial refueling capabilities, the J-20 can extend its reach, giving China the ability to better patrol the disputed waterways where it desires to exercise authority.

The J-20 could be refueled by a Chinese HU-6 aerial tanker.

The J-20’s chief designer says the world has yet to see the best that the aircraft has to offer, stressing that certain capabilities were unable to be presented at the recent airshow.

Chinese experts argue that the J-20 as a combat platform superior to the American F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, two elite fighters which have both been tested in combat. The J-20 has only taken part in combat training exercises. Furthermore, while the J-20 was expected to receive a new engine, the technology remains unreliable, the South China Morning Post recently reported.

The J-20 continues to rely on either Russian imports or inferior Chinese engines, which have, according to some observers, prevented China from achieving the kind of all-aspect stealth of which a true fifth-generation fighter should be capable. The J-20 has decent front-end stealth, but it is noticeably less stealthy at different angles.

The J-20 was rushed into production, but as China works some of the kinks out, it could potentially lead to the development of a much more lethal and effective aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

2 of Asia’s strongest militaries working deal to gain edge against China

A meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in October 2018 may yield more progress on a deal that would allow their armed forces to share military facilities.

The proposed agreement, likely to be discussed during the 13th India-Japan summit in Tokyo on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, 2018, would increase their security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region by allowing the reciprocal exchange of supplies and logistical support, according to the Deccan Herald.

The proposed deal was first discussed in August 2018, when Japan’s defense minister at the time, Itsunori Onodera, met with India’s defense minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, in New Delhi. It came up again in October 2018 during a meeting in Delhi between Modi and Abe’s national-security advisers.


Sources with knowledge of preparations for the summit told the Herald that the deal would allow Japan and India to exchange logistical support, including supplies of food, water, billets, petroleum and oil, communications, medical and training services, maintenance and repair services, spare parts, as well as transportation and storage space.

It’s not clear if any agreement would be signed in October 2018, though there are signs India and Japan want to conclude it in the near term, given plans to increase joint military exercises next year and in 2020, according to The Diplomat.

The deal would not commit either country to military action, but it would allow their militaries — both among the most powerful in the world — to access ports and bases run by the other.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

Ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and the US Navy sail in the Bay of Bengal as part of Exercise Malabar, July 17, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)

For India, that means it would be able to use Japan’s base in Djibouti, which is strategically located at the Horn of Africa between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, overlooking one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

In addition to Japanese troops, Djibouti also hosts a major US special-operations outpost at Camp Lemonnier, just a few miles from China’s first overseas military outpost, which opened in 2017 and which US officials have said raises “very significant operational security concerns.”

In turn, Japan would be able to access Indian bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which sit on important sea lanes west of the Malacca Strait, a major maritime thoroughfare between the Indian and Pacific oceans. (The majority of China’s energy supplies currently flow through the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Strait.)

India has started stationing advanced P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes and maritime surveillance drones at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

At the summit in October 2018, Japan is also expected to raise India’s potential purchase of 12 Shinmaywa US-2i search-and-rescue and maritime surveillance planes, which would also be stationed at the islands.

Delhi reached a similar logistical-support deal with France— which has territories in the southern Indian Ocean and a base in Djibouti — in 2018 and with the US in 2016. (India and the US reached another deal on communications and technical exchanges in September 2018.)

Further discussion of an India-Japan logistical-support deal comes as those two countries and others seek to ensure freedom of movement in the Indian Ocean and to counter what is seen as growing Chinese influence there.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

The JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on Oct. 4, 2018.

(JMSDF/Twitter)

Japan, which, like India, has territorial disputes with China, has sought to expand its military’s capabilities and reach.

In October 2018, Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, sailed into the port at Colombo, in Sri Lanka — a visit meant to reassure Sri Lanka that Japan would deploy military assets to a part of the world where Chinese influence is growing.

A few days after the Kaga left Colombo, Sri Lanka navy ships were scheduled to conduct exercises with both the Indian and Japanese navies.

Japan has also expanded its security partnerships with countries around the Indian Ocean and pledged billions of dollars for development projects in the region.

Beijing’s activity around the Indian Ocean region is particularly concerning for Delhi.

China’s base in Djibouti, its role in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, its 99-year lease of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, and other infrastructure deals with countries in the region have set Delhi on guard, Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia expert at the geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor, told Business Insider in October 2018.

“India’s view is that South Asia’s our neighborhood, and if another rival military power is expanding its presence — whether in Bhutan, whether in the Maldives, whether in Sri Lanka, whether in Nepal — that is a challenge, and that is something that we need to address,” Pervaiz said.

India’s focus is likely to remain on its land borders with rivals China and Pakistan, Pervaiz said, but Delhi has made moves to bolster its position in the Indian Ocean region — a change in focus that has been called “a tectonic shift.”

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine during floating at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.

(Indian navy photo)

India is working to develop a port at Chabahar on Iran’s southern coast, which would provide access to Central Asia and circumvent existing overland routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

India is particularly concerned about Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean and has held anti-submarine-warfare discussions with the US and is seeking to add more subs to its own force.

“For India, the concern now is that although it maintained this kind of regional hegemony by default, that status is beginning to erode, and that extends to the Indian Ocean,” Pervaiz said. “India wants to maintain [its status as] the dominant maritime power in the Indian Ocean, but … as China’s expanding its own presence in the Indian Ocean, this is again becoming another challenge.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just grounded its entire B-1 Bomber fleet

US Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the entire Air Force bomber fleet, ordered a safety stand down for its B-1B Lancer bombers on June 7, 2018, following an emergency landing by a Lancer in Texas in May 2018.

“During the safety investigation process following an emergency landing of a B-1B in Midland, Texas, an issue with ejection seat components was discovered that necessitated the stand-down,” the command said in a release. “As issues are resolved aircraft will return to flight.”


A B-1B bomber from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas made an emergency landing at Midland International Airport in western Texas on May 1, 2018, after an in-flight emergency. Emergency responders made it to the runway before the plane landed, and none of the four crew members onboard were injured.

It was not clear what caused the emergency, though fire crews that responded used foam on the plane.

Photos that emerged of the bomber involved showed that at least one of its four cockpit escape hatches had been blown, but the ejection seat did not deploy.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Aircrew members from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota conduct post-flight checks at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug.u00a06, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May III)

The B-1’s four-man crew includes a pilot, copilot, and two weapons officers seated behind them. All four sit in ejection seats and each seat has an escape hatch above it, according to Air Force Times. Pulling the ejection handle starts an automatic sequence in which the hatch blows off and a STAPAC rocket motor launches the seats from the aircraft. The entire process takes only seconds.

It was not clear at the time of the incident whether the blown hatch or hatches had been recovered or whether the ejection seats had failed to deploy.

A Safety Investigation Board, a panel made up of experts who investigate incidents and recommend responses, is looking into the incident at Midland, the Global Strike Command release said.

The Global Strike Command stand-down order comes about a month after the Air Force ordered a day-long, fleet-wide stand-down while it conducted a safety review following a series of deadly accidents. At the time, the Air Force said it was seeing fewer accidents but that 18 pilots and crew members had been killed since October 1, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman goes viral for pumping breast milk during triathlon

When Jaime Sloan realized that she was on pace to set a personal record at the Ironman 70.3 in Tempe, Arizona in October 2018, she decided not to stop to pump breast milk as she had planned. Instead, the 34-year-old Air Force Staff Sergeant pumped while running, placing the milk in a CamelBak water bottle which she carried for the remainder of the race.


“I had brought my hand pump and I just decided to go for it. I was making good time and I just didn’t want to stop and lose the time on my race,” explained the mom of two, who gave birth to her second child back in March 2018. She admitted that she was “nervous at first that I would get some weird looks or even get disqualified due to nudity, but I did my best to cover up and make it work.”

Jaime Sloan Airman mom pumps breast milk while completing Ironman 70 3

www.youtube.com

At first, a couple of people were concerned, mistaking her breastfeeding cloth as bandages. But once they realized what she was doing, Sloan says the reactions were very positive, adding, “I did get some looks from women but they were just big smiles.”

And pumping certainly didn’t slow the active duty airman down. With her husband, Zachary, and daughter Henley, 2, cheering her on, Sloan finished the race (which includes swimming for 1.2 miles, biking for 56 miles and then running 13.1 miles) in six hours, 12 minutes and 44 seconds — a full 30 minutes faster than her previous best.

Sloan, who has also completed 2 full Ironman races in the past, wants other women to realize that if she can do it, they can, too: “I hope that [my story] can encourage other women and mothers and really anyone who has a lot going on in their lives. No matter what, if someone believes they can do something, they can make it happen because it is possible.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is now putting disabled veterans in foster homes

Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.

“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.

It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Ralph Stepney, a Vietnam War veteran who was homeless a decade ago, watches TV in his room.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.

Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Ralph Stepney (left) and Frank Hundt sit on the front porch of the Baltimore home they share with caregiver Joann West on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.

“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”

The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.


Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.

“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”

VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Caregiver Joann West sits in the living room of her Baltimore home, which she shares with veterans Frank Hundt (left) and Ralph Stepney.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.

“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”

To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.

The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.

Pilot program takes off

Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.

The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.

Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Ralph Stepney holds photos from a cruise he took to Bermuda with West and Hundt. Stepney put the photos into a keepsake album that he keeps at their home.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.

More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.

It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.

In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.

And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.

A guardian ‘angel’

Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Frank Hundt watches TV in his bedroom at caregiver Joann West’s home in Baltimore on May 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)

“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”

Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.

“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”

It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”

Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.

For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”

When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”

“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News. Follow @KHNews on Twitter.

Articles

Border agents in Arizona intercepted an Xbox crammed with meth

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
US border agents uncovered 3 pounds of meth hidden in an Xbox in September 2016. | US Customs and Border Patrol


US Customs and Border Patrol agents in Nogales, Arizona, intercepted 3 pounds of methamphetamine crammed inside an Xbox gaming system on September 15.

The agents came across the narcotics when a 16-year-old resident of Nogales attempted to transit the Morley Pedestrian crossing into the US from Sonora, Mexico.

Also read: Mexican cartels may have used a ‘homemade cannon’ to fire drugs over the border

According to a CBP release, a narcotics-detecting canine directed attention to the Xbox, and after an inspection, the agents seized the drugs, which had an estimated worth of about $10,000.

The 16-year-old was arrested and turned over to Homeland Security Investigations.

Synthetic drugs like meth have become increasingly common as producers and traffickers adjust to factors like marijuana legalization and widespread heroin use in the US.

“That has shifted the marketplace in a way. It means that Mexican illicit-drug exporters have had to … diversify their offerings,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider. “They have moved into … heroin as a source of revenue, but also … into other, I would say, synthetic drugs, like MDMA and various forms of methamphetamine.”

While seizures at the border can only reveal so much about the black-market drug trade, reports from Customs and Border Patrol indicate that heroin and other synthetic drugs are frequently intercepted at the US-Mexico frontier.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Meth seizures were up all along the US border in 2014. | DEA 2015 NDTA

On September 9, a search of a Chevy Tahoe crossing the border at Brownsville, Texas, uncovered 37 pounds of what was believed to be methamphetamine, valued at $740,000. That same day, a search of a Nissan Murano at the Laredo, Texas, border crossing turned up 12 pounds of crystal meth and 4 pounds of heroin, worth a total of nearly $360,000.

In two separate incidents on September 9 at the border crossing at Nogales, Arizona, 17 pounds of meth valued at more than $52,000 was found in the wheel well of a Dodge van, while later that day a 16-year-old woman was found to have nearly 3 pounds of heroin worth almost $48,000 in her undergarments.

On September 13 at the Nogales port of entry, a Mexican woman was found to be carrying three pounds of heroin worth $50,000 in a can of baby formula. On September 15, agents in California found more than 43 pounds of meth worth about $175,000 concealed under the floor mats of a gray 2014 Nissan Sentra.

The following morning, a vehicle search in Ocotillo, California, not far from the US-Mexico border, uncovered 33.5 pounds of fentanyl — the highly potent drug linked to the US’s overdose epidemic — worth $1.5 million hidden in the car’s seats.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India just bought a deadly Russian missile system

While India’s home-grown defense projects, like the Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and the Tejas multi-role fighter, have garnered attention, the Asian nation is also hard at work importing foreign systems. Their latest purchase comes from Russia, and it’s a very lethal air-defense system.


This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

India is close to finalizing a deal to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The S-400, also known as the SA-21 Growler, is an upgraded version of the SA-10 Grumble, and offers longer range. Some versions of this system can hit targets nearly 250 miles away.

India has also recently imported systems from Israel, including a purchase of 131 Barak surface-to-air missile systems, according to a report from Agence France Presse. The report did not state whether the purchase involved the baseline Barak, which has been retro-fitted on to a number of Indian warships, or the newer long-range Barak 8, slated for inclusion on Kolkata- and Visakhapatnam-class guided missile destroyers.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide
INS Kolkata entering Mombasa. (Indian Navy photo)

The sale of the SA-21 Growler to India might mean a closer look at the system for the United States. The U.S. has carried out a number of military exercises with India in the past, one of which allowed India’s modified Kiev-class carrier, INS Vikramaditya, to face off against the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). In this faux fight, the Nimitz group was able to see what the MiG-29K Fulcrum could do.

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

This isn’t the first time Russia and India have worked together — and likely won’t be the last. Currently, the two countries have teamed up to develop a stealth fighter, called the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft or Perspective Multi-Role Fighter, based on the Sukhoi Su-57 prototype. India has a history of modifying imported weapons systems, like the SEPECAT Jaguar and the MiG-27 Flogger, making them far more capable than the original. We’ll have to wait and see if they have the same in mind for the SA-21 Growler.

Get more information about India’s latest defense purchase purchase in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmvsXDIIYnQ
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to camp like a soldier

Camping is a quintessential summer activity, but let’s face it; we’ve gone soft. On my last camping trip, I packed pillows, blankets, a stove, a hammock, books and approximately a month worth of junk food. I brought along a car adaptor so I could blow up our three air mattresses with ease. On the way out the door, my friend asked if she could run back in to grab her straightener. Her. STRAIGHTENER.

Camping in the field is another game entirely. It’s not even a game, really. It’s challenging, team-building, possibly life-threatening work, but you’ll return knowing you fought nature and won. SO much cooler than glamping. Think you’re tough enough? Here’s how to try it for yourself. (Sort of.)


Say goodbye to your lounge chair. 

As the owner of a 7-passenger SUV, I can proudly say that I have used 100% of my available cargo space on a single, five day camping trip. All of it. Camping with friends and family is about fun and convenience, not necessity.

Camping in the field, however, is more like extreme backpacking. Kiss your air mattress, propane heater, bluetooth speakers, and endless snacks goodbye. Creature comforts are out, necessities are in. Imagine you’re about to be stranded in the wilderness, alone, and you can only bring what you can carry. Marshmallows, White Claw, and movie projectors probably don’t make the cut.

Forget relaxing and get to work. 

This probably goes without saying, but day drinking, movie nights, and leisurely hikes aren’t exactly the point of being in the field. You’re expected to follow a strict schedule; you have a job to do, after all! Your exact duties will likely vary, but sightseeing isn’t on the agenda.

Pick people for practicality, not play. 

Look, it’s not personal. Your buddy who starts day drinking right after rolling out of a hammock at noon just won’t be able to keep up. Nor will Pinterest camp mom, who shopped for an entire cooler’s worth of perishable ingredients to try out the nine different gourmet campfire meals she added to her camping board. By the time she’s made a three-course campfire foil brunch and mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ, the rest of the troops will have left her behind.

Day drinking dude and Pinterest mom are ultra-fun to camp with, but camping in the field isn’t about fun. You’ll be camping with those who are the most useful to your mission, so you better learn to like them. Even if you’re not best buddies, you’ll learn to appreciate their unique skills.

Expect the unexpected.

If a sudden rainstorm hits during a family camping trip, you can stuff all your junk in the car and book it to the closest Motel 6. Or maybe a nice hotel with a hot tub and room service. You’ve got options. When you’re a soldier, your only option is to find the driest patch of land, build a shelter with what you have, and wait it out. If there’s a dust storm, your options aren’t much better. You just have to deal with it, basically, and hope you don’t come across a demonic-looking camel spider. Shudder.

Prep your survival skills. They’re not just for show. 

Who here has watched Bear Grylls eating bugs and drinking reindeer blood from the couch? Just me? As it turns out, Bear Grylls actually served in the British Army reserves from 1994–1997. He was trained in desert and winter warfare, unarmed combat, climbing, parachuting, explosives, and (duh!) survival. His training actually gave him much of the knowledge he needed for his more well-known career as a survivalist and TV persona. While you probably won’t have to resort to drinking animal blood at your cozy family campground with running water, bathrooms, and fire pits, crazy survival skills like that are actually useful in the field. While one hopes you never need them, it’s best to have them in case you do! And if you don’t, you can retire and go into reality TV.

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