Meditation and Veterans

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By James Pond, US Marine Corps Veteran Executive Director, Veteran’s PATH The mission statement at Veteran’s PATH is that we “enable returning veterans to rediscover meaning, purpose, and joy in their lives through mindfulness, meditation, and a safe community. Through practical tools of meditation and mindfulness, physical and outdoor experiences, and a community of camaraderie, veterans rediscover peace, acceptance, transformation, and honor in a new journey forward.” The question that often arises for many is – what is mediation and mindfulness? John Kabat Zinn had an iconic answer stating, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” For me, a simpler explanation is that mindfulness is “knowing what is happening while it’s happening.” So many of us, particularly veterans, live our lives on ‘autopilot’ without the ability to be in the moment and

American Indian Veterans Supported by Veterans Center

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The Rocky Boy Veterans Center plays a vital role in the lives of American Indian Veterans on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation as the only Veteran service provider on the reservation. The Veteran population consists of a range of age groups of Veterans who have served during the Korean War to OEF/OIF Veterans as well during periods of Peacetime and Service Members who continue to serve the Nation today. The goals of the Rocky Boy Veterans Center are to ensure Rocky Boy Veterans and Service Members receive the care and benefits they have earned through their service to this country and the Chippewa-Cree people; and to advance and develop the Rocky Boy Veteran community, ultimately furthering the advancement of the ChippewaCree people. Rocky Boy, Montana is located in the heart of the Bears Paw Mountains. Because it is a highly

Blair’s Sanctuary Garden Helps Women Veterans Heal

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According to the Women Veterans Task Force of the Department of Veterans Affairs, women make up the fastest growing group of veterans - more than 10% of the total U.S. Veteran population in 2015. Women also now take part in active combat. As a result, they suffer injuries similar to those experienced by male soldiers. But these women veterans have very different needs with higher service-connected disabilities than males. They also have higher incidences Military Sexual Trauma (MST). One in five female vets who use the VA for health care is identified as suffering from MST as a result of rape, harassment, or assault. This can lead to additional problems, such as depression, substance abuse, and PTSD. Women vets suffering from MST are four times more likely to have PTSD and six times more likely to have multiple mental health

Operation Tohidu Reconnects Warriors To Move Forward With Positivity

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A key component of working with veterans and service members affected by service-related trauma is combating debilitating effects of physical and emotional isolation, self-judgment, survivor guilt, and “shutting down.” In an adventurous context within a secluded natural environment, Melwood Veterans Services’ (MVS) Operation Tohidu® (Tohidu) retreat program reconnects warriors with their inherent strength of character – and with one another, to reframe their past experience and move forward with positivity. Tohidu’s® motto is “Peace with the Past, through Power in the Present.” Experienced facilitators (combat veterans and trauma survivors), licensed social workers, and support staff use adventurous activities and group discussion to expose issues that often affect participants for decades. Working with peers, building camaraderie, and context through shared experience, Tohidu® participants confront recurring behaviors and self-destructive thought-processes, and learn holistic techniques to manage symptoms of service-related trauma and facilitate

Intentional Communities for Veterans and Their Families

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Intentional communities are planned residential communities designed from the ground up to address a specific social challenge and foster a high degree of cohesion among residents. Similar to co-housing models that are peer based or inter-generational, intentional communities are organized around health and wellness, an economic benefit, or a collective purpose. Bastion is America’s first intentional community created to address the physical, emotional, and social challenges faced by veteran families with life-long rehabilitative needs. The purpose of the community is: (a) to incorporate a development strategy that not only creates affordable housing and community-based supports for a defined number of households who need it the most, but also (b) to leverage a collective impact approach by providing resources to help more families in the metro New Orleans area. Many veteran families in our target population have a unique vulnerability to

Accelerated Wellness Program: There is not “One Size Fits All”

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Veterans Alternative understands that there is not a “one size fits all” when it comes to addressing mental health for our Combat Veterans. For this reason, our mission is to improve the quality of life of our Nations Warriors. One of our Accelerated Wellness Program participants, Stef, wished to share this about our program: “Since attending the Veterans Alternative program, I feel like I have regained control over my future. I can now look at situations in a positive light, even under the most stressful circumstances. I have finally been able to accept everything for what it is and live my life optimistically. Veterans Alternative taught me mindfulness activities that allow me to stay in the present and not let my reoccurring traumatic memories control me”. Veterans Alternative recognizes the need to meet our participants where they are and uses

Guest Blog: VA Disability & SSDI Benefits

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If you were injured while on active duty, you are likely already on VA disability benefits. What you may not know is that you could also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). VA disability and SSDI are both benefits offered by the government for people with disabilities, but there are a few differences[i] between the two that you should know before applying. Work Requirements for VA Disability and SSDI Approval As most vets already know, your injury must be sustained while on active duty to qualify for VA disability. This is not true for SSDI benefits—you could qualify for SSDI for an illness that happened at any time. You will however be required to have paid enough Social Security taxes[ii] throughout adulthood to qualify for SSDI. The amount of taxable income earned to qualify will vary depending on your

A Glimpse Inside the Profession of Equine Therapy: Horse and Human Roles

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What makes an Equine Assisted Horse Professional? What special knowledge or skill might they need to have in order to do this work?  An equine-assisted professional should have a grounding in basic horse care requirements: feeding and nutrition, grooming, de-worming, vaccination, farrier needs, and monitoring vitals and general health. He/She should know the signs of colic, lameness, and other issues. He/She should be competent in handling the horse and maintaining a sound facility and environment suitable for horses. I feel it’s pretty important for every equine-assisted professional to take a step back from anything and everything they’ve ever learned about horses, and re-evaluate its completeness. Ideally, each horse professional develops a never-ending “learner’s mind” toward horses, a mindset that always questions the traditional ways while exploring and examining new ones. What Does It take to Be an Equine-Assisted Professional? The

Tools to Maximize Independence for Disabled Veterans

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For disabled veterans, simple tasks can get in the way of everyday activities. Not being able to put on your shoes, type on a computer or get down your front steps can make the difference between leading a fulfilling, independent life and feeling distraught and helpless. Know that having an impairment doesn’t mean you have to struggle with your day-to-day life. Assistive device options The purpose of assistive aids is to help maintain or improve your functioning and independence. They can enrich your physical, mental or intellectual wellbeing. In short, these tools make it easier for you to do everyday activities, such as getting dressed, moving around or cooking. Independent living aids This is a sample of the devices that can help you stay independent in your home. Consider these choices: In the kitchen: Mechanical reaching tools: Ask someone to

Guest Blog: How to Talk With Your Veteran About Assisted Living

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Assisted living facilities are growing like wildflowers in many communities. What do they offer, and how can you talk with your veteran about considering one? Assisted Living Basics Assisted living facilities are housing for elderly or disabled people that provides some level of assistance, but not total care. This assistance may include meals, housekeeping and help with daily activities like bathing, as well as nursing care, such as disease or medication management. Assisted living also provides safety and security 24 hours a day, opportunities for socialization, local transportation to nearby stores and doctors’ offices, and entertainment.  Before you talk with your veteran about potentially moving to assisted living, do a little homework. This conversation is not easy. Knowing the details about assisted living facility options before you talk is helpful. Review the shared decision-making form provided by the U.S. Department