Santa Barbara, CA - One woman, troubled by the abandonment of America's military and veterans is proposing a solution. Will she be heard? Dr. Larned is a neuropsychologist with over twenty years of experience working with serious head injuries in children and adults. Her career path was, in part, dictated by a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) when she was seven years old.
The massive injury destroyed onethird of her brain leaving her unable to hear, walk or talk. Recovery was slow and agonizing and continued after she received her Ph. D. in psychology. Since then, she has made it her life mission to find successful treatments for head injuries and assisting others with serious neurological disorders. She understands the problem, perhaps better than those in charge of the present system.
Aware of the plight of returning troops and veterans with severe head injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dr. Larned refocused her work to design a program, called the Reclaim Program for the Treatment and Prevention of Head Injuries. She is proposing its adoption by trauma and rehabilitation centers and the VA.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said in a speech that "health care costs are eating the Defense Department alive." For returning active duty troops and veterans the problem goes way beyond considerations of the cost to the VA system. These veterans are returning but the war is coming with them in ways none of us imagined possible. An alarming percentage of America's military are returning home with from Iraq and Afghanistan with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to a system of health which is sadly lacking.
Andrew White, Eric Layne, Nicholas Endicott and Derek Johnson, four West Virginia veterans, died in their sleep in early 2008 and their deaths were reported as suicide. Baughman's research suggests this was not the case. All were taking Seroquel (an antipsychotic) Paxil (an antidepressant) and Klonopin (a benzodiazepine). All were diagnosed with PTSD. All seemed "normal" when they went to bed. Over medication, and medication, which may not be called for, could be killing vets even after they return from war.
By testing all technologies and advances in the fields of neurofeedback and energy medicine, Dr. Larned has been able to combine the most advanced and powerful systems in the world for head injuries and she is determined to see that American veterans have the benefits of these technologies which are now in use in countries around the world.
Mental health care accounted for almost 40 per cent of all days spent in hospitals by servicemen and women (one in seven troops are women) last year, the report said. Of those hospitalizations, 5 per cent lasted longer than 33 days. For most other conditions, fewer than 5 per cent of hospitalizations exceeded 12 days, the report said.
Larned went on to the horrific number of returning troops and veterans who become statistics. At home, and on active duty, tragically - a record 6,000 last year commit suicide, a number which shocks all of us. National figures show, "veterans constitute about 20 per cent of the 30,000 to 32,000 US deaths each year from suicide" and "of an average of 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, about five received care through the VA healthcare system. More than 60 percent of those five had diagnosed mental health conditions." The DoD/VA has announced an outreach program and is now promoting a tollfree suicide hotline.
Along with suicide as a serious problem, returning active duty military are experiencing increasing levels of mental health problems, alcoholism and substance abuse. In an interview last week, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent said "alcohol abuse is an indication of the stress, particularly since active military are being redeployed at increasing rates. Alcohol can tie into a lot of things, and we're just keeping a close eye on it," Kent said.
The rate of Marines, for instance, who screen positive for drug or alcohol problems, increased 12 percent from 2005 to 2008, according to available Marine Corps statistics.
"The symptoms of head injuries, PTSD, mental health problems and substance abuse can be treated very successfully with neurofeedback," Larned continued. "We cannot fail the troops and veterans who have put their lives on the line to serve us and our country. It would be unthinkable, especially since, by so doing, we can save the Department of Veterans Affairs billions of dollars."
In September 2005, Dr. Louis Csoka, a retired Colonel and former head of the Center for Enhanced Performance at the Military Academy, announced that the Pentagon had approved and funded expansion of these same centers to three Army bases for 2006. This expansion, using Neurofeedback Peak Performance, was to be used to optimize performance for officers prior to deployment to the Persian Gulf. The program was expanded to ten more bases in 2007.(1)
Dr. Larned has kept up with the tremendous growth in this technology around the world, where it is increasing displacing traditional approaches, and the Reclaim Program for the Treatment and Prevention of Head Injuries will use only the most advanced systems. Personnel from VA facilities and bases in the US will receive training specific for the treatment of TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for returning troops and active duty servicemen and women. Bases, medical facilities and personnel in Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq will also receive similar training beginning just months after the Reclaim Program is approved.
Asked by a listener how much could be saved by the VA, Larned replied, "The VA has estimated that the total cost of long term care and treatment for veterans, over a 30-year period, will be between one and two trillion dollars. The savings for the VA are incalculable, but certainly will be in the tens of billions. This dramatic cost savings is due largely to the decreased need for expensive convalescent facilities, and a means to reduce the drain on limited VA resources for ongoing treatment for hundreds of thousands of veterans from the Persian Gulf wars and earlier. Because of the Reclaim Program, veterans will be able to receive successful treatment over a short period of time and remain with their families where they belong." And the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Dr. Larned's sentiments.