Articles tagged with: featured

Ending Veteran Suicide: Let’s Rethink This…

Ending Veteran Suicide: Let’s Rethink This…

The rates of veteran suicide are unacceptably high. Veterans deserve the best care. They sacrifice so much for all of us, and they deserve much better care than they’re getting for the consequences of their sacrifices. One organization that’s seeking to address this problem is Let’s Rethink This.

I work for a company called First Tracks. It’s a public benefit corporation. And our work is featured in this article by Jerry Ashton, the founder of Let’s Rethink This. First Tracks is about putting together mental health solutions for employers that work. We’re focused on making sure people who are in the most need get the right help. Often, that is veterans.

I’m thrilled that our work has been mentioned in this dispatch, and I hope you follow along, because this is a health problem we can’t afford to ignore.

Jerry Ashton is one of the people behind RIP Medical Debt. This organization is responsible for eliminating over $7 billion in medical debt. Now, his focus is on ending veterans’ medical debt and ending veteran suicide, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Jerry and everyone who is on this mission to help our veterans!

You can read the article here!

It’s a Wonderful Life and Veteran Suicide

It’s that terrible/joyful holiday period when we push aside our pains and disappointments to join with the joy of the season and imagine a coming year full of wonders and possibilities.

Of those pains here in America, none is greater than that of the specter of suicide, especially those among our military veterans – now averaging 44 per day. 44 per day!!!

Can we ever hope for a time when those numbers abate, and the tragedies recede? Yes, if we just take lessons from the much-beloved movie classic, It’s a Wonderful Life and bring them into practice in our own lives. Read more in Jerry’s new article!

—Owen Scott Muir, M.D.

I need you to do one thing—Spread the word!

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It’s a Wonderful Life and Veteran Suicide — We Need More Clarence’s

It’s a Wonderful Life and Veteran Suicide — We Need More Clarence’s

It’s that terrible/joyful holiday period when we push aside our pains and disappointments to join with the joy of the season and imagine a coming year full of wonders and possibilities.

Of those pains here in America, none is greater than that of the specter of suicide, especially those among our military veterans — now averaging 44 per day. 44 per day!!!

Can we ever hope for a time when those numbers abate, and the tragedies recede? Yes, if we just take lessons from the much-beloved movie classic, It’s a Wonderful Life and bring them into practice in our own lives. Let me draw from that story.

Continue reading at this link.

Reducing Veteran Suicides and Medical Debt – a Healthcare Maze

Reducing Veteran Suicides and Medical Debt – a Healthcare Maze

Healthcare expert and podcaster Michael McLafferty questions two veterans and their civilian supporter as to their ambitious campaign to both reduce the rate of veteran suicide and to abolish – literally – the unpaid and unpayable medical debt owed by vets through the VA system.

To put the suicide problem into perspective, out of our population of over 330 million, there are 1.4 million Americans in the military and19 million Americans are veterans. But, they contribute to 20 percent of all suicides. At the horrific rate of 44 per day. 44 PER DAY!

Concerning the second evil - veteran/military bad debt - an estimated $6 billion is held by the VA hospital system. Despite highly publicized recent VA and governmental declarations to forgive or ameliorate this burden, little has been accomplished. Hardly the best way to say “Thank you for your service.”

The solutions to these seemingly intractable problems, as claimed by Michael’s guests Marine veteran Rick Johnson of VOI Health, Navy veteran Jerry Ashton of Let’s Rethink This and civilian and ardent veteran advocate Cary Harrison an award-winning Public Radio host, are innovative and potentially game-changing in their impact.

Their chosen platform is the recently launched Veteran Mission Possible (VMP) which describes itself as a collaborative veteran advocacy campaign – “A Veteran and Civilian Effort to Right The Wrongs experienced by the nation’s finest.”

This is where they intend to get the attention of the movers and shakers in the VA and attract the funding and partners needed to crystalize and ignite their work. Take a listen and visit VMP to determine if their message resonates and deserves your support.

Navy Seabee Tim Peña is Veteran Mission Possible’s Journalist of the Month

Navy Seabee Tim Peña is Veteran Mission Possible’s Journalist of the Month

“Navy veteran Tim Peña sat on the laminate wood flooring in his studio apartment for three days. There was no TV or radio, just his thoughts. He thought about how to clean up all the blood if he survived, or how his family would have to walk through it to collect his things if he succeeded. He thought about the veteran in his cellblock who had committed suicide a few days earlier by slipping the blade out of his razor…” from reporter Molly Bohannon: Is Arizona’s model for veteran suicide prevention the answer?

Most journalists report on the lives of others; Tim Peña lives a life that others report on.

He didn’t intend it to be that way. But by being someone else’s “story” he processed this experience to become the person on the other side of the notepad and microphone. This provides an unmatched authenticity to his reporting on veteran suicide, homelessness, and incarceration. 

He came close to experiencing the first, managed to survive the second, and speaks from a long history of being in and out of homelessness.

From written-up, to written-about, to written-by

The first firm writing step came about for Tim back in 2004 while living in Croatia where he published the first English-language business and tourism guide with distribution in Croatia and London in the Croatian Bureau of Tourism. Before then, he also designed and sold advertising for Arizona Directions - a new-student guide at the University of Arizona (1986-87), Key Magazine in Chicago, and for the Chicago Blues and Jazz Festival program guides (1993-95).

Upon his return from Croatia in 2006, Tim was arrested at JFK Airport for an outstanding warrant issued by Arizona for back-to-back DUI’s from 2002. After spending six weeks in Ryker’s Island and the Brooklyn Federal Correctional Center, he was ‘conaired’ to Arizona where he was sentenced to 4 ½ years in Arizona prison and released in 2009. In 2014, Tim was again arrested for DUI and a first-offense marijuana possession, and in 2016, found himself homeless and at MANA House, a veteran’s transitional program where he also served as the front desk clerk.

His time at MANA House (Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force) serving as a front desk clerk along with his background in publishing provided the time and space to write a comprehensive Veterans Incarceration/Suicide Index whitepaper that draws parallels between vet suicide and incarceration among veterans with service-connected disabilities such as PTSD, TBI and drug and alcohol addiction.

In 2018, Tim was sentenced to two years in Arizona prison for the marijuana possession and another four years on probation for the DUI. He created the Veterans Justice Project based on his incarceration experiences and those of veterans who were being denied access to Veterans Affairs with a program to ‘Bridge the Gap’ between the veteran and the VA. He credits MANA House for providing him, as a staff member, “access to individuals on the resident side (to interview) as well as all the research and resources I could hope for. I started the VISI in May/June 2016 and finished it up in early 2017.”

As he describes it, “MANA House supplied me the tools necessary to research and write the Veterans Incarceration/Suicide Index (VISI) which compares veteran population, incarceration, and suicide to an average ‘index’ for each state. My findings showed that states with more robust Veterans Treatment Courts had significant reductions in all three.”

Fast forward to 2022 and all too many disagreements and disputes with veteran services and Arizona authorities, he moved to New York City.

A new home as a writer – Military Veterans in Journalism

A series of articles that Tim has been writing for Our Newspaper called “Be The Story” caught the attention of Russell Midori, career journalist/videographer and co-founder of Military Veterans in Journalism. Following a personal introduction in NYC, Tim was invited to attend an MVJ meet in Washington DC. How did that come about so quickly?

“A journalist’s primary responsibility is to tell the truth,” Russell says. “My litmus test for a potential journalist is how willing he is to reveal truths about himself because those are the hardest truths to share. Tim is not afraid to share his experiences with physical and mental health, or even highly stigmatized topics like homelessness or incarceration. Authenticity is a journalist’s most powerful currency, so when I saw that in him, I knew he had great potential in this field.”

And the reason for inviting Tim to an MVJ conference in DC?

Russell continues, “Journalism is a tough field because you have to be polite enough to get an interview and rude enough to demand the truth. Most journalists have too much of one, and not enough of the other, but Tim embodies both these characteristics effortlessly,” and offers one more reason.

“Tim probably didn’t regard himself as a journalist for most of his life, but I think he’s just the kind of person needed to do this type of work. I really felt my early career MVJs needed to meet someone like him so they could observe that sweet spot between courtesy and entitlement, and maybe find that balance for themselves,” Russell ends. 

Much to his amazement (or amusement), Tim now finds himself cast as a role model. Which is what he is, and why we are honoring him this month.

(Military Veterans in Journalism is working with Let’s Rethink This to develop an onsite and online “media pool” of experienced professionals whose interviews and stories will support thenewly-launched Veteran Mission Possible campaign attacking the two evils of veteran suicide and veteran medical debt.)

Coming Together — So That Our Veterans Don’t Fall Apart — the Veteran Mission Possible Campaign Veterans Day Update

Coming Together — So That Our Veterans Don’t Fall Apart — the Veteran Mission Possible Campaign Veterans Day Update

Most of us have seen the distressing headlines about our veterans: their rate of suicide, homelessness, drug abuse, incarceration rate, debt and more. Some have also read about the VA attempts via Mission Daybreak to specifically reduce vet suicide — even throwing $20 million dollars in prizes into the mix for organizations that they feel have innovative ways in which to specifically reduce vet suicides.

Several of VMP’s members competed — one successfully: Marine Veteran Rick Johnson CEO of Voi Health and Voi Technology.

But the overall experience was disappointing.

Innovation seemed to be less important than a solution’s ability to fit within the existing VA bureaucratic process. Contestants were put in silo’s, with no real attempt to create a community or develop cross-pollination. Previous contracts won through the VA moved a contestant’s proposal to the top of the judging stack. To make things worse, only 40 participants out of 1,371 entries “qualified” to share in the pot. Only 40???

Thus, the emergence of VMP and its energetic cadre of risk-takers and out-of-the-box thinkers and their supporters who were among the 1,340 who didn’t win a spot. We decided to create a community out of this disparate group. And, to locate and invite others also with good solutions but who were not aware of Mission Daybreak to join with us in a campaign that runs from 11/1/22 through 1/31/23. Veteran Mission Possible.

We intend to equal or better in featuring our members’ impactful solutions. But, how?

The importance of media

Equal to the need to ferret out and refine the thought leaders and their solutions is to see that their inventions and approaches are brought to public attention and especially to the ultimate recipients — the veteran in need and their advocates.

If they don’t know about you, they can’t do anything about you. To ensure that needed awareness, VMP is constructing a web of media specialists and journalists within and outside our community to tend to this. Nothing beats a press kit containing recent newsworthy items.

In the works:

Military Veterans in Journalism (MVJ) is working with VMP to develop an onsite and online “media pool” of experienced professionals whose efforts will be harnessed to write those stories and do those interviews. Today, Veteran’s Day 2022, I will be attending their discussion on military, veterans news coverage at the National Press Club — featuring an appearance by former Navy veteran Bob Woodward.

Cary Harrison, VMP Director of Broadcasting and Streaming Media, is using his sway as a highly regarded radio personality to develop in tandem with famed KPFK 90.7fm in Los Angeles a weekly one-hour program devoted to veterans issues and their spokespeople for distribution through Cary’s affiliate stations across the U.S. “The emphasis will be on solutions, not just the problems,” as Cary describes it.

Cary and KPFK on Veteran’s Day last year featured a one-hour fundraiser for the RIP Medical Debt charity to bring attention to veteran medical debt. Enough funds were raised to abolish almost $500,000 in such debt. Imagine this promoted nationally — with veteran debt as the sole focus!

Host of “Ask a Doctor” on VoiceAmerica Radio Virgie Bright Ellington, author of Crush Medical Debt and an VMP benefactor interviews me about our mutually (un)favorite subjects of medical debt and veteran suicide just in time for Veteran’s Day. Visit this site and skip over the first part to start this latest segment at 32:27. You will not be put to sleep.

In fact, the overall approach of VMP and its allies and supporters is to Wake America Up!

In the most gentle but urgent ways possible to the wrongs that need to be righted and the actions that need to be taken. More details for those who might want to be part of this campaign can be found here: https://veteranmissionpossible.com/.

Don’t dawdle, a veteran needs your help. More than one veteran, to be exact. Thousands of them.


Let's Rethink This is licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) 4.0 License

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