Vets lack PTSD help

The UH Veteran’s Services Organization is preparing to recruit returning veterans to UH.
The VSO requested a bonus from the Student Fees Advisory Committee Tuesday to assist with marketing materials.

The campus can expect more veterans in the fall, after a new bill takes effect on Aug. 1. The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 will make higher education and living costs affordable for veterans.

‘According to Texas Veterans Commission and the federal statistics, about 25 percent more veterans will be entering college,’ VSO program manager Allen Grundy said.

The VSO requested an extra $4,500 for marketing materials to assist its estimated $95,000 budget.

Absent from the budget proposal was a position request for a psychological counselor trained in military trauma.

Grundy told The Daily Cougar on Thursday that he planned to add the position request as an addendum to the VSO budget proposal.

Grundy said he ultimately decided counseling services for the UH veteran community was not VSO’s top priority.

The decision came a week after U.S. Army officials announced in a press conference that reported suicides of military personnel outnumbered combat deaths in January.

‘I didn’t even ask for (a counselor) at SFAC. I wish I did,’ Grundy said Tuesday. ‘You can’t hit (SFAC) with everything at one time, but the marketing needs to be done right away.’

The VSO’s next opportunity to request funding for a position from SFAC is spring 2009, a semester after the expected large influx of returning veterans.

‘My contention was to see how many new (veterans will attend UH) and then ask for (a counselor). I think that’s usually the way the school looks at things. They need viable proof,’ Grundy said.

However, Grundy also said three staff members reported to the VSO that violent threats were made to them by a UH student veteran.

VSO’s official policy is to refer student veterans seeking help to the Justin Dart Jr. Center for Students with Disabilities, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center or UH Counseling and Psychological Services, but Grundy said usually referrals aren’t made without request.

‘We really don’t do much referral,’ he said. ‘Because a lot of veterans don’t think that they have a problem.’

Veterans account for 5 percent of patients treated at CAPS, according to a fall 2008 survey of patient’s intake paperwork.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) accounts for erratic, depressed and suicidal behavior among some veterans. Sufferers experience reoccurring, intrusive and distressing recollections of traumatic events, CAPS interim director Dr. Norma Ngo said.

‘(Soldiers are) not supposed to acknowledge feelings, yet they keep coming up,’ Ngo said. ‘They feel like they’re not supposed to feel depressed or anxious, although it’s very normal and that’s what we’re trying to educate the population on – that it’s normal for you to feel that way and you need to get help. Otherwise, it’s going to get worse.’

CAPS and VSO have collaborated on Veterans, Troops and Family Support Group, but Ngo said UH needs a full-time counselor trained in military trauma.

Ngo said she plans to request a new hire during CAPS’s meeting with SFAC.

‘We do not have a PTSD specialist. We all are generalists, so we know how to work with someone who has trauma, but we don’t say that we’re experts in (PTSD),’Ngo said.

SFAC will review the CAPS budget proposal at 10:15 a.m. Friday at the University Center, Bluebonnet Room.

If SFAC approves a new hire, CAPS could employ a counselor to address student veterans’ mental-health needs as early as August.

‘It’s probably not a good (economic) time to ask for a position, but we also can’t ignore the fact that these students are returning,’ Ngo said. ‘We want to be prepared for them. And there is a lot of work to do ahead of time. Letting them know we’re here – that takes place much earlier to when they’re actually here.’

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