Rutherford PAWS Act Helps K9s For Warriors Charity

Rutherford PAWS Act Helps K9s For Warriors Charity

Congressman Hopes To Deal With PTSD, Veteran Suicide and K9s For Warriors

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, like those supplied by K9s For Warriors, 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.

K9s For Warriors Service Dogs Are Useful, Cute & Expensive

Ponte Vedra’s K9s for Warriors charity is committed to meeting the demand of veterans for service dogs. They rescue dogs to rescue veterans and they are expanding and need your help to complete the Mega Kennel and reduce the wait time for a service dog. Donate.

Why do they need a mega kennel? 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. Click here if you’d like to get on a list for a dog.

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.

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.

Why We Help After a Veteran Suicide

Why We Help After a Veteran Suicide

My Motivation & Love for the OAS Mission

I don’t know anyone who committed suicide. I am not a Veteran. My dad, Jake, did four years as a Navy lifeguard, but that was before any of us were born. None of my immediate family served after him. My neighbor’s kid joined the Navy recently, but that’s about it. Not the typical backstory for this kind of service. I have ulterior motives, yes, and in truth, we hope to show why we need to go slow into sending our troops overseas. But why do we have a love for Veteran familes after a suicide?

Lost to PTSD and suicide, Chad Defrates seen here fishing with his neice Michelle.

When the Co-Worker Met the VA Suicide Report

To answer that, meet Mallory.  A graphic artist and wife of a Navy helicopter pilot. Mal and I were working together in Jacksonville when the VA published their 2016 report on Veteran suicide. I was shocked when I heard it. And then angry after I put the two together. What if Mallory’s husband acquired PTSD and decided to kill himself? Who’s there to help her? 

In society, nonprofits fill in the cracks that people fall into. Not enough food, housing, awareness. My Google searches, phone calls and emails all said the same thing: there is no one there on the scene after a Veteran suicide. That’s not unusual. Suicides happen all the time, but to me, this ending for Mallory was unacceptable and would be met with a fierce partner to get them through it.

TAPS is a nonprofit with a postvention mission, like Once A Soldier. We deal with the hours and days immediately after a Vetearn suicide. TAPS offers annual events and grieving support. Many families find comfort via their long-term mental health support programs. They can network and find like families. That makes us happy. Together, and with the VA support somewhere in the middle, families get some help standing back up.

We know we can do better. Not just as a nonprofit filling this niche, but as a country. Despite Washington’s best efforts, the problems only getting worse. Help only kicked off in 2018 when the report’s legislation got appropriations. I honestly don’t think we should be surprised that more Vets are killing themsevles. Coming home from Afghanistan is hard. Coming home with or developing PTSD is a ruthless foe. Hard to beat. 

But there’s hope. More and more legislation and research findings are pointing towards psycholdelic and natural drugs as PTSD killers. We’ve been advocating for a national plan of using ketamine IV drips for suicidal veterans. 

The rewards that come with meeting the families and their friends expand every day. We reach 100 new people every day looking for veteran suicide statistics, research and data resources. We’re hearing more stories about being referred by word of mouth. That’s mindblowing.  OAS will continue to fight and we will continue to love our job.

 

 

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.

Statistics on Veteran Suicide and Mental Health

Statistics on Veteran Suicide and Mental Health

Statistics on Veteran Mental Health and Suicide

Approximately 22 U.S. military veterans per day commit suicide.

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among post-9/11 veterans.

Veterans have a 50% higher risk for suicide than their peers who have not served.

More than 108,000 veterans have died by suicide since 2001.

33% of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of mental health or cognitive problems.

Less than 50% of veterans in need receive any mental health treatment.

Female soldiers are at a 250% higher risk for suicide than civilian women.

35% of veterans say they have trouble paying their bills in the first few years after leaving the military.

More than 80% of civilian organizations have no veteran-specific recruiting programs.

MORE FALL-OUT FROM THE CRISIS

Among veterans who served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the suicide rate for those who were undeployed is 48% higher than for veterans who experienced deployment.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for post-9/11 veterans, accounting for 22.3% of all deaths.

In 2015 (most recent year data is available), more than 70% of veteran suicides occurred outside Veterans Health Administration care.

Veterans account for more than 9% of all adults experiencing homelessness in the U.S., translating to more than 39,000 homeless veterans on any given day.

Among veterans experiencing homelessness, 59% are age 51 or older.

Between 2009 and 2016, there was a 54% increase in the number of veterans age 62 or older experiencing homelessness.

Individuals of color comprise 18% of the general veteran population, but account for 43% of all veterans experiencing homelessness.

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.

Three Stories For Three Years Working At Once A Soldier

Three Stories For Three Years Working At Once A Soldier

Their Stories Deserve Greater Awareness

With Congress, the VA, and major veteran service organizations all working to stop soldier suicide, our voice from the other side of preventions (postvention) is not as easily heard. Time will change that, but for now, we seem to be all that veteran families have in their time of need. As such, we hear the unfiltered messages of need and pain wrapped in the stories about what happened and why. The more people that hear these these stories, the faster the next family will get help.

I’ll start with the most recent family. From the midwest, Missouri. Mark killed himself in his car. He had just paid it off. His sister Teresa called the next day. Mark’s body was in the medical examiner’s office in St. Louis. Teresa said, “I don’t know what to do next.” Her voice sounded much older than her picture on Venmo looked. Teresa was able to pullcall despite that fact that she was in the middle of a crying jag.

She was still crying and short of breath. Mark was 58 years old. Ex-Marine. PTSD and alcoholism played a part in his life for I don’t know how many years. When those two problems are there, they are there for everyone around him. He was living with his parents. Teresa described them as having lost their mental awareness. They were; however, able to call the police and get the postvention ball rolling. 

Mickey

Once A Soldier is the Nation’s Leading Time of Need Postvention Service Provider

Izzy ZaZa was living with her long-serving husband Robert in Arizona. He served in Afghanistan. He befriended a teenager who his unit hired as their interpreter in one village. His unit left and returned to find that teenaged boy hanging from a pole. Years later, Robert went into a bathroom at home to kill himself. Izzy followed him in and tried to stop him. She got shot through her left hand and fell back. Robert shot himself in the chest.

Finally, there’s Mickey Keeney. I have lots of pictures of him given to me by his sister. Two stick out in my mind. One is him pinning his son as he enters the Army. The other one, above, was taken two days before Mickey killed himself. He was completley alone in his PTSD pain and it shows. He killed himself on that same couch that he’s sitting on in the picture. His eyes as swollen as his face had become. Soon his pain would be over, and his families would move to a new level. 

With the promise of help from Representative Rutherford, we hope to bring these stories to life in the halls of Congress in 2021. Until then, we will continue to answer the calls and listen to their stories.

 

More Suicides During The Holidays Is a Myth

More Suicides During The Holidays Is a Myth

In Fact, Suicide Rates Go Down in December

Twenty-two active duty or Veterans take their lives every day. Civilians kill themselves 36,000 times a year. Because of lazy writing and sensationalizing the mentally ill, the myth is out there. Don’t believe it. If you have thought of killing yourself this holiday season because it is the holiday season, DON’T.

It seems logical that for a depressed person, the holidays might be especially tough—extra stress, loneliness and sad reminders of lost loved ones—so perhaps the popular belief that suicides spike around Christmastime is no surprise. Yet the data tell a different story. 

Stop Suicide Ideation During the Holidays 

The idea that suicides occur more frequently during the holiday season is a long perpetuated myth. The Annenberg Public Policy Center has been tracking media reports on suicide since 2000. A recent analysis found that 50% of articles written during the 2009–2010 holiday season perpetuated the myth.

CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that the suicide rate is, in fact, the lowest in December. The rate peaks in the spring and the fall. This pattern has not changed in recent years. The holiday suicide myth supports misinformation about suicide that might ultimately hamper prevention efforts.

Suicide remains a major public health problem, one that occurs throughout the year. It is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans. Each year, more than 36,000 people take their own lives. In addition, more than 374,000 are treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries.

New Year’s Day Is a Different Story

So why the spike on New Year’s? Researchers suggest “the broken promise effect” may explain it—along with the increases after Easter and weekends. “Many of us are familiar with the feeling after holidays: ‘Was that it? I expected more fun, more relaxation, and tomorrow I have to go back to everyday life!’” according to clinical psychologist Martin Plöderl. “For depressed people, the broken promise of Christmas and the blank year lying ahead may increase hopelessness and thus suicide risk.” The greater alcohol consumption that takes place on New Year’s Eve and Day may also play a role in lowering inhibitions, and “some people may postpone their planned suicide so that their families and friends can enjoy Christmas,” he explains.

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.