Why We Will Never Stop Soldier Suicide

Why We Will Never Stop Soldier Suicide

Suicide Will Always Be With Us

If you look at suicide statistics in America, you’ll see that the annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals. Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women. On average, there are 132 suicides per day. The daily average for Veteran suicide is 16 per day. That’s over 10% of all suicides in America. Not to understand the problem, but something’s going on with our troops who turn into Veterans.

Three reasons why we won’t stop Veteran suicide:

WE ARE WASTING TIME AND MONEY

First off: stop thinking that dogs, horses, rucks, comraderie will change the rate. They don’t. Veterans do get temporary help with them, but they do nothing to stop the root cause: PTSD

With four years under our belts, the rates are rising, not falling. Why? Vets are coming home with PTSD.

WE SUPPORT THE WRONG CAUSES

Second, stop supporting nonprofit charities that don’t have solid data to show that what they do stops Veteran suicide. Most don’t. America’s donations to Veterans organizations is second only to children’s nonprofits. Our heads need to get in front of our hearts.

CONGRESS AND THE VA ARE TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

Third, stop trying to pass bills that support feel good suicide prevention methods. All this does is promote nonprofits designed to get grant money. Our Congressman, John Rutherford, has reintroduced a bill that sums up all three issues: dogs as PTSD medicine which doesn’t work, nonprofits that don’t have data to show how they save lives and stop Veteran suicide. Dogs make cuddly headlines and they do stop that one suicide attempt. but more are coming.

Finally, until there is peace all over the world and there are no more wars, we will always have soldiers going into battle. They will bring home with them PTSD and they will continue to kill themselves unless we learn to how to defeat PTSD.

 

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

 

Rutherford Reintroduces PAWS Act

Rutherford Reintroduces PAWS Act

Congress Out of Ideas To Deal With PTSD and Veteran Suicide

On the heels of the 2020 Moran Act appropriating funds anew for PTSD veteran services organizations, Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL-04) announced the reintroduction of H.R. 1022, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2021, which will increase access to Service Dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Rutherford’s PAWS Act, previously killed because there is not evidence from the VA research that shows they stop PTSD, establishes a competitive grant program through the Department of Veterans Affairs for organizations to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD. Instead of dealing with the harsher reality of postvention and the causes of PTSD, Rutherford and Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Michael Waltz (R-FL-06), Al Lawson (D-FL-05), and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) continue to push forward feel-good legislation with strictly limited success and reach. Our Veterans and their families living and dying with PTSD deserve greater vision and action from Washington.

soldier rests

Service dogs skirt the real problems with PTSD - rising Veterans suicide rates.

Service Dogs Are Cute and Expensive

The average cost to breed, train, house, feed and transfer a PTSD service dog runs between $20,000 to $60,000. The veteran who will receive the dog also needs to be screened for a match and then trained once he is “given” his service dog. Once they become an owner, they have to budget for the annual costs that any dog owner must expect. 

Once A Soldier’s stand remains the same as it was in the past. Hearing veteran suicide stories from the survivors motivates us to say that anything stopping a Veteran from throwing his family into the downward spiral after a suicide is great. More of it at any cost. We can afford wars and companies profit from it, so we can afford whatever it takes for Veterans. However, reintroducing the PAWS Act falls into the category of lazy legislation. We wish it a speedy journey from bill into law, but don’t support it. Prevention is not working with the weapons  we have now. More of the same if not enough. 

Congressional Bills Don’t Speed Up Waiting Lists

And while we’d like to see a new postvention bill versus another one of hundreds introduced for prevention, Veterans have been waiting long enough. Veterans wait for years to get a service dog from those places that will benefit most from PAWS such as K9s for Warriors, Pawsitivity, Retrieving Freedom

Postvention needs to get the same attention and funding as prevention. That said, we also feel that with all the support and preventative services for veterans, there is a complete lack of reality when we talk about the 20 or so veteran suicides that happen every day.

The fact is that there aren’t enough service dogs available. Not only is the cost too high and their effectiveness of PTSD is poor at best. Dogs can stop a veteran suicide as they are sometimes the ony thing between the gun and the vet’s mouth. They are a band-aid approach that makes Congress feel good that they’re doing something for the same men and women they throw into hostile, PTSD-inducing environments.

As recent as 2019, with the backing of Laura Trump, the PAWS Act got fresh life breathed into it, but it faced stiff resistance from V.A. officials who said the bill could “result in unintended and negative consequences” for veterans entrusting their well-being to “this unsubstantiated treatment regime.” From that time, the VA only paid for 19 service dogs. The VA falls short on many agenda items, but even they can’t miss the truth on this sad fact: service dogs pay off best for the nonprofits that train them.

https://onceasoldier.org/tag/therapy-dogs/

Sources:

https://rutherford.house.gov/media/press-releases/rutherford-pappas-waltz-lawson-stivers-reintroduce-paws-act

https://www.bankrate.com/loans/personal-loans/how-to-afford-a-service-dog/

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

The Curious Case of Service Canines for Wounded Warriors

The Curious Case of Service Canines for Wounded Warriors

OAS Agrees with the VA: Service Dogs Are Heartwarming But Clinical Proof Not As Cuddly

Just as the volume is getting turned up on the Vets mental health issues, a piece PTSD service dog legislation is landing on deaf ears at the VA. And for good reason. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act, first introduced in 2016 by a nonprofit whose mission was canine service or PTSD therapy dogs, would establish a grant program pairing veterans with psychiatric service dogs. Service dogs are rigorously trained to help their owners cope with stress, anxiety or fear. Read more about PAWS here.

The PAWS Act never went to a vote. It faced stiff resistance from VA officials who said the bill could “result in unintended and negative consequences” for veterans entrusting their well-being to “this unsubstantiated treatment regime. To date, the VA has officially funded 19 canine service dogs.

Unfortunately for our Veterans and their families who endure these service-related issues, that VA’s stance is correct. While more long-term research is being conducted at this time – both reports are expected within 18 months – the verdict appears to be in already. Canine therapy helps in the moment and may even prevent veteran suicide, but the lasting effect fall off quickly. PTSD keeps striking and the dogs keep working, but it doesn’t treat PTSD or the depression. Dogs only interrupt the condition.

The central question the VA is asking of service canines is this: Do service dogs and emotional-support dogs measurably reduce the symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life. “I would say there are a lot of heartwarming stories that service dogs help, but scientific basis for that claim is lacking,” Dr. Michael Fallon, the V.A.’s chief veterinarian, said during an interview with National Public Radio in 2017. “The V.A. is based on evidence-based medicine. We want people to use therapy that has proven value.”

The Clinical Difference Between the Magic of Dogs and the Effectiveness of Science

As reported in this blog post, the effectiveness of any depression medication is measured by the V.A.’s standardized PTSD symptom checklist known as the DSM-5 (PCL-5) scale. A 2018 Purdue University study of 73 veterans reported that the Vets tested out with an average of a 12-point drop in their PTSD score. Kerri Rodriguez, one of the co-authors on the study, said, “While not a cure for PTSD, we found service dogs are an effective complementary treatment that have significant effects on multiple areas of life.”

The average PTSD score after 2 hours of a Ketamine IV microdosing treatment is a drop of 33. After the 2-weeks, it only needs regular “top offs” to stay there.

A 2016 review of available literature about the treatment found that most studies “endorsed canine assistance for PTSD in veterans as a promising modality” but called for more research. Meanwhile, ketamine-based treatments show fast-acting and lasting results. See the full resources of the testing here.

Meanwhile, the PAWS Act has been reintroduced by Florida Republican John Rutherford in 2019. Rutherford, in whose district resides K9s for Warriors, the nation’s leading service dog provider. The headwinds from the VA are again proving too much for PAWS to gain traction, so the future of this grant-establishing legislation remains uncertain. If passed, it provides the canine service-based nonprofits, with K9s for Warrior probably first in line, $25,000 to train the dog and the Vet to work and live together.

“I’ve had multiple veterans come up to me and tell me that they would have probably committed suicide but for being paired with a service dog,” said Ron DeSantis, formerly a congressional representative from Florida and now the state’s governor.

Lower Costs and Lower PTSD Scores Are Out There

Using the same test, veterans diagnosed with drug-resistant depression and PTSD have been tested using the out of patent drug ketamine. Since 1998, ketamine has been off-patent and available for commercial exploitation for better or for worse. Besides being what puts you out for surgery in every hospital in America and beyond, ketamine in micro-dose has the clinical scores to make it a real contender for the PTSD-killer drug we need. The problem is that because it is out of patent, there’s no money to be made by big pharma to take the risk to develop something that will automatically become available as a low-cost generic.

Clinical trials and their findings, many of which can be found here, report a far greater reduction in suicidal thoughts within hours of the first treatment. And treatments last two weeks with occasional “top offs” to keep the depression at bay. As for the costs, that same $25,000 per service dog and veteran team could treat 3-4 veterans with what the science shows is our best “cure” to date.

As more and more money finds its way into the treatment of PTSD, the rise of promising treatments will rise, too. Once a Soldier would urge that while dogs and vets seems to go together very well, in the long run, it’s a second best therapy at best.

ABOUT ONCE A SOLDIER

Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.