October 7, 2019

How to Advocate for Veterans’ Issues (and Everything Else!)

Kevin Hull speaking at patient empowerment projectKevin Hull likes to say that his nonprofit has a charter mission in advocacy. He runs the West Side Institute for Science and Education (WISE), based at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. And he’s all about advocacy – doing it, helping others do it, and teaching people how to do it well. He even believes that being a capable advocate helps one empower their spirit from within, especially when times are tough.

Hull is also a law professor. For the last 12 years, he has taught the art of legislative draftsmanship – that is, writing proposed new laws or, in some cases, agency regulations – at UIC John Marshall Law School. Continue reading “How to Advocate for Veterans’ Issues (and Everything Else!)”

August 30, 2019

Engaging the Tangled Nature of Veterans’ Benefits

Hands in military uniform taking notes. Photo by Nell King, U.S. Army.All 51 attorneys general had to petition before the president granted student loan relief for veterans with disabilities – and even then, the Department of Education, which administers the program, may not be totally on board with it.

Benefits for those who served have never taken a straightforward path. They have had to be fought for – and then, they had to be navigated. For returning service members with disabilities, the navigation becomes even more complicated. Continue reading “Engaging the Tangled Nature of Veterans’ Benefits”

August 1, 2019

Are Younger Vets Bowling Alone?

Younger man in uniform confronts two older vets at a gatheringLast month, our communities, large and small, held parades for the 4th of July. It was good to be in that old-fashioned summertime world, kids waving flags and dripping ice cream, and veterans who are now seniors marching proudly with their VFW post. Although, actually, there are fewer of those older vets now – and you don’t see so many younger ones marching.

We have about 20 million veterans in the United States. Since September 11, 2001, some four million service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and on other missions. About 300,000 vets from recent conflicts are among the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ 1.6 million members, but Vietnam-era veterans make up the largest percentage. Continue reading “Are Younger Vets Bowling Alone?”

June 20, 2019

How To Improve Healthcare for Women Vets? First, You Have to Ask

Women VA staff with posters about why they love their work. One says I'm a veteran helping other veterans.Most female veterans don’t get their health care at the VA. As many as 72%, in fact. Among the many reasons: the VA does not have all the services for women; it doesn’t treat their whole family; it can be uncomfortable to get care in a male-dominated environment; they are tired of VA staff assuming they’re a spouse rather than a service member; it isn’t always conveniently located. The list goes on.

But as the VA’s own data shows, female veterans are more likely to experience military sexual trauma, domestic violence, wage disparity or discrimination, PTSD, substance use disorders, and homelessness than their male counterparts. So having care that is informed by their military status can be crucial.

What can health care systems do to better serve women vets? They can start by identifying them. Continue reading “How To Improve Healthcare for Women Vets? First, You Have to Ask”

June 13, 2019

Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!

Five coworkers of different races, genders, and ages looking at screen togetherOur new online Continuing Education Center is open, and the first course is live. It’s our exciting new interactive Warrior Stories training.

Online training is not just another thing we’re doing – it’s fundamental. We have always tried to hold a number of trainings every year – to share what we know, and empower others. But we’re a small shop. Maybe so are you. And even in our largest military establishments, or in a major medical center, the number of people in a specific area, and the resources available vs. the work to be done, can be dauntingly not enough. Continue reading “Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!”

April 11, 2019

Art + Narrative Therapy for PTSD – There’s An App for That!

Panels created in the Warrior Stories appA person who has been sexually assaulted often finds the experience difficult to talk about, for many reasons. There are feelings of shame and self-blame associated with the assault. But studies suggest that not talking may be ok as long as the traumatic memories are addressed through nonverbal treatment.

Art therapy is a way to tap into such memories, as they may be better accessed by sensory means. It is often combined with narrative therapy, which allows someone to express their story and see the problems in it as separate from themselves, making them easier to work through.

The Defense Department-sponsored Warrior Stories app was designed for processing combat trauma. Continue reading “Art + Narrative Therapy for PTSD – There’s An App for That!”

March 14, 2019

Bringing MST home, to Congress

Sen. Martha McSally visiting women of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia in 2015Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona captured the attention of Congress, and of the nation, last week when she revealed in a hearing that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. It was a top story from NPR to Fox News.

“Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor,” she told the witnesses at a hearing of Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, of which she is a member, on March 6th. She did not report the incidents, she testified, because she was ashamed and confused, and in later attempts to talk to Air Force officials about them felt “like the system was raping me all over again.” Continue reading “Bringing MST home, to Congress”

February 12, 2019

A Vision: Proper Care for Women Vets

Young African-American woman talking on her cell phone - perhaps with her healthcare providerWhen a woman goes to the doctor, or to a clinic, intake typically fails to ask her if she is veteran or an active member of the Armed Forces. Screening for military status is a way to obtain a vast amount of information. Failing to screen leads to poor health outcomes, because providers miss the fact that service heightens the likelihood of certain kinds of injury, stress, trauma, and other health conditions.

We envision: healthcare systems that routinely identify female veterans at 100% of all screenings and use this information to guide appropriate treatment.

Women who serve have needs for gender-specific care that many healthcare facilities are not able to provide. The deficiency lies in both lack of scientific knowledge of battlefield injury and trauma-informed care, as well as an absence of awareness of military culture and how it relates to health and well-being. Continue reading “A Vision: Proper Care for Women Vets”

November 28, 2018

Challenge prejudice, change minds

Photo of an angry man“These women are hurting my soldiers’ careers. You’re wasting OUR time.” A major lambasted me during a training’s break. He continued: “My soldiers would never do that. Can we get back to our real work.” Although worded like a question, his last sentence spewed at me with such authoritative, deep guttural tones, that I clearly knew he meant it as a command.

Here I was, my very first training working with military victim advocates. Green as can be and the highest-ranking figure in the course commanding me to release the class. Of course, I couldn’t dismiss the class; and he technically didn’t have any authority over the matter. Continue reading “Challenge prejudice, change minds”

October 30, 2018

Would You Wait Three Decades?

Hands reaching out toward womanWhether you wait three hours or three decades, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Politics aside, the media and others should be incredibly ashamed of their behavior.

The reckless victim-blaming appalled me.

In no case have I ever seen one’s unwillingness to come forward affect one’s credibility. Continue reading “Would You Wait Three Decades?”

Keep up with the latest from Smart Policy Works
Explore 25 years of change that mattered
Take a look at what we're up to now