IN THE TOPSY TURVY WORLD OF CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O, NOTHING IS EVER SIMPLE.
THIS WAS PROVEN FRIDAY WHEN WHITE HOUSE TOWEL BOY DAN PFEIFFER FLOATED THE LATEST CONSPIRACY THEORY ABOUT AMERICA'S PRINCESS. IN 1996, BARRY O SIGNED A PLEDGE PROMISING TO "FAVOR LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES, AND WOULD FIGHT EFFORTS TO PROHIBIT SUCH MARRIAGES."
APPARENTLY TOO MUCH CHLORINE IN THE EARS AND UP THE CRACK LED DANNY BOY TO INSIST THAT BARRY O NEVER SIGNED THAT PLEDGE. IT WAS SOMEONE ELSE -- DANNY BOY INSISTED LOOKING AS THOUGH HE HAD JUST TAKEN A WHIZZ IN THE POOL.
THOUGH SOME AGREE WITH DANNY BOY THAT BARRY O NEVER SIGNED IT, AN EXHAUSTIVE SEARCH OF THE HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER ARCHIVES HAS TURNED UP A FULL PAGE AD WHICH RALPH AND MADELYN DUNHAM TOOK OUT IN OCTOBER 12, 1996 TO PRAISE "OUR GRANDSON FOR HIS SUPPORT FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, THE FORTHCOMING PUPPY EPISODE TO BE BROADCAST IN APRIL OF NEXT YEAR. WAY TO ELLEN!!!!! ALSO OUR GRANDSON BARRY WAS NOT BORN IN KENYA. WE REPEAT NOT BORN IN KENYA. WE HAVE A FEELING THIS MAY BE A PROBLEM IN THE NEAR FUTURE. CALL IT A HUNCH. AND BARRY, WE CONGRATULATE YOU ON 2008 WHEN YOU BECOME A PRESIDENT. AND, AS 2012 DRAWS TO A CLOSE, REMEMBER ONE TERM IS REALLY NOT ALL THAT BAD. YOU STILL GET THE PENSION. AND THE HEALTH INSURANCE. AND THE SECRET SERVICE TO PROTECT YOU. IF YOU'D GOTTEN A SECOND TERM IT WOULDN'T HAVE CHANGED ANYTHING. AND TO AMERICA WE SAY, WE TRIED TO INSTILL SOME VALUES BUT, HEY, OUR DAUGHTER HOOKED UP WITH A LOSER, A LYING PIECE OF CRAP WHO SEDUCED HER AND GOT HER PREGNANT AND HE WAS ALREADY MARRIED. WE WORKED WITH WHAT WE COULD SO DON'T BLAME US."
DESPITE THE DOCUMENTED PROOF, SOME 'PLEDGERS' REFUSE TO BELIEVE BARRY O DIDN'T SIGN THE PLEDGE AND SOME INSIST HIS GRANDPARENTS WOULD HAVE TO BE PSYCHICS OR ELSE THE AD WAS FAKED AFTER THE FACT. MSNBC LAWRENCE O'DONNELL SWEARS HE WILL GET TO THE BOTTOM OF IT ALL OR THE BOTTOM OF SOMETHING.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Daniel Hanson: So I joined the Marine Corps in 2003. Shortly after I was deployed to Ramadi Iraq in 2004. And it was a deployment that started with one of our Marines shooting himself in the head -- just kind of brushed that under the table. And then 34 marines we lost -- throughout the deployment. We had about 400, 450 Marines injured. Came back and, uh, went on leave and that was -- that was that. Started drinking pretty heavy, dealing with nightmares, dealing with things I wasn't really prepared to deal with, I would say. And I think one of the biggest reasons that I dealt with it myself was just because -- I mean, I was in a battalion with a thousand Marines, I don't think people wanted to hear, you know, my whining and complaining. So -- Then shortly after we went on antoher deployment, non-combat which, uhm, uh, just kept on drinking, kept masking my issues with whatever -- whatever would take away any of the pain. Came back and then about six months later my unit was deployed again to Iraq. This time I was in the remain-behind-element so I was kind of able to see the other side of things -- when we would get the casualty reports, we would get the KIAs in and have to notifiy and take beyond that end of things as well. I decided that I was going to get out of the Marine Corps and uh -- But I was persuaded by a good friend, Sgt Major JJ Ellis, to stay in but, on that deployment, he ended up getting killed. I went to his funeral over in Arlington National Cemetery. Then after that, a friend, also in 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, Jonathan Schulze, hanged himself in the basement of his home and that kind of got me twirling out of control just before I was going to get out of the Marine Corps. And then finally on March -- I got discharged in February, 2007. And then on March 23, 2007, my brother -- who is also in the Marine Corps -- he hung himself in the basement of his home. And at that point, I think I decided I was going to do everything I could to avoid pain, that I was going to do everything to deal with it myself as I had been doing for the last three or four years. And I got into drugs, I got into alcohol. I got into whatever it was that would mask the pain that day. Eventually, I tried to kill myself. I ended up in the St. Cloud VA Medical Center for about 48 hours in lock-up. And then I was released and off to do whatever it is that I wanted to do -- which was go back to work because that seemed like the normal thing to do after -- after something like that. And eventually I found myself in and out of jail. I'm not -- And I was getting treated on an outpatient basis for awhile at the VA Medical Center. But when you were as messed up as I was, it takes a lot more than, you know, one or two sessions a week to get through my issues. And so I eventually found my way into the dual diagnosis program to get help. It was mostly to avoid a longer stint in jail for my DUIs. Eventually, I got out after about 30 days. I think I started drinking the next day. About a year later I found myself in jail for, I don't know, the sixth or seventh time and I decided for myself that I was done hurting myself, I was done hurting my family, I was done hurting my children. And I checked into a 13 to 15 month faith-based program that was what changed my life. About a week after jail, I stopped going to work, stopped going to school and I decided that I wasn't going to be very productive unless I got help. And that's what I did at Minneapolis Teen Challenge. It was more of a holistic approach. It was -- I went to the VA once a week to get help in the combat and the military specific issues and then I would stay there, you know, seven days a week. I wasn't able to get any funding through the VA because it was not -- it was not a VA funded program. Therefore, I got backed up on bills, I wasn't able to pay things and eventually filed bankruptcy. So in my dealing with the VA Medical Center, I always felt like I was in control, I was running my own rehabilitation althought I couldn't even, you know, put my shoes and socks on correctly most days. I felt like it was "Whatever I wanted to do Mr. Hanson, whatever I wanted to do that I thought was best for me. Well I thought what was best for me to go and get drunk and get high and forget about all my troubles and forget about all my nightmares.
Iraq War veteran Daniel Hanson was testifying Tuesday to the House Veterans Affairs Committee in their hearing on mental health. A few notes about the above. This is the hearing that I was hoping to get room for all week. (Not the hearing that has a transcript, I wasn't interested in that hearing.) A veteran who also attended the hearing asked me if I wasn't covering it because of Daniel Hanson's attitude towards treatment? The only reason I hadn't covered it was we didn't have room.
But his treatment probably is as important as anything else in the hearing in many ways, so let's discuss that. What works for me is not going to work for you unless we're very similar. People are very different. There is no cookie cutter treatment to help someone towards recovery. For Dan Hanson, a faith-based program worked. That's most likely because he's living a faith-based life. If someone is liviing that sort of life and he or she has a very strong faith, that faith needs to be part of the therapy. It needs to be brought into it. What the VA couldn't provide him with for whatever reasons, he kept searching until it came to him. And good for him for that.
The thing that bothers me the most about his testimony -- and I thought he was very brave to have shared all he did -- is that he's talking about feeling like all the choices were up to him. In the civilian world there might be a likelihood of treatments -- at the start -- being like that. But not all are. And I'm especially surprised that one would be geared towards veterans like that. To use Dan Hanson's life as an example, he was in a lot of pain and he was spiraling out of control. He correctly identifies himself as not having the skills at that point to go beyond what was probably labeled "stinking thinking" in his treatment (the "stinking thinking" that led him into the situation). Especially for veterans, that seems misguided. Just listening to his story, Dan Hanson was managing -- maybe not coping -- and had to grab additional resources (alcohol, drugs) to continue to manage each day. This was in the military. His use of alcohol most likely increased out of the military because there are certain structures within the daily life of the military that would make it much more difficult for him to show up for duty drunk off his as.
And the military structure is something that's instilled in training. The point being, if you're a veteran and you're seeking treatment for some behaviours that are harmful and out of control, you need structure. You need to see that you are part of your treatment and you need to see that you can work your treatment or program. But before you can go anywhere, a sesne of structure has to be imposed upon you by the program.
That's what Dan Hanson did not get from the VA and what he's talking about when he refers to feeling like the VA attitude was: Do what you want, you know best. If you talk to Elaine generically about this sort of topic (she keeps patient confidentiality and never discusses specifics), she would tell you that your life needs some structure and she'd work with you to construct that (with the earliest stages of your treatment being the most highly stuctured). So I'm confused as to how anyone at the VA thought that sort of 'treatment' would help. His life was chaos and felt chaos on the inside which is why he was using alcohol and other drugs to mask what was going on inside. It disturbs me that something so obvious as missed and if was missed with one person, then it's been missed with many. Dan Hanson was very brave to share his story. And his story isn't just a story of 'this didn't work for me but that did.' It's also a story of VA not grasping emotional distress.
He used Minneapolis Teen Challenge. Many of today's veterans are very young but they may not realize that 'teen' addiction treatment centers can often treat them as well because they are actually teen and young adult. Most go up to at least the age of 24 when accepting clients. Of live-in treatment programs, those tend to provide more structure than those geared solely for adults. So that is something that is a resource to any veteran who's 24 or under and relates to Dan Hanson's journey.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Jeff Miller and the Ranking Member is Bob Filner. Bob Filner noted that the Committee he had repeatedly lodged complaints about the backlog and he did do that. And it's also true that he and others offered the VA their ear, asked the VA repeatedly, "What do you need?" Time and again, the Committee was told they needed nothing from Congress. I can remember many Subcommittee hearings where Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin would be the Chair and she would specifically ask about the backlog. And she would be told that they didn't need additional employees and that, in fact, additional employees would slow them down because they'd have to pull people away from working claims to train the new employees. So the backlog isn't a minor issue, it's not one that Congress has ignored, it's one that the VA has repeatedly stated was fixed or about to be fixed, etc. And it's not been fixed.
This came up during the hearing on Tuesday when the VA's Dr. Karen Seal spoke of the hiring freeze at her VA when Ranking Member Bob Filner brought up the issue of veterans unemployment and wondered why the VA wasn't hiring veterans for duties such as outreach and interaction.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I don't mean to interrupt you. Mr. Chairman, I've heard this in several places. There's a hiring freeze. I mean, we have the biggest problem we've ever had. We've given the VA more money than they've ever had. And we keep hearing about hiring freeze. What is going on here? I mean, we're under-resourced you [Dr. Seal] say. I mean, we have increased the VA budget every year for as long as we've been here and it's 60, 70% higher than it was just five years ago. What is going on?
Phil Roe is a House Veterans Affairs Committee Member and he's also a medical doctor. He wanted to explore the faith-based aspect And this probably was the unique part of the hearing because that topic hasn't been discussed at prior hearings I've attended. So let's emphasize Roe and Hanson's exchange.
US House Rep Phil Roe: I want to hear a little bit more about your faith-based, how the program you felt was successful for you. I think that's really important because obviously everybody's different but this clearly worked with you and I think you'd made your mind up too that you were going to change your life. I think it had a lot to do with you also.
Daniel Hanson: Yes, sir. I mean I was at the point where it was either -- I mean, I was on my knees in my jail cell praying. I said, "God, either use me or kill me." And I eventually went to Teen Challenge and the reason I feel that was so effective was it was more of a holistic -- I mean, I was such an immoral -- I used to say "social parasite" -- where, you know, I was a liar, I was an alcoholic, I was a dead beat dad essentially. And when I went into Minnesota Teen Challenge, I was able to deal with ,the moral and not just the things that happened in combat but going all the way back to childhood and some of those issues and get to the heart. And for 13 to 15 months, you know, you're going to get through a lot of the issues. I still have issues, but they are considerably less. I mean, it was physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing. It was, you know, mental healing. And it was, like I said, more of a holistic approach of getting help for not just what happened when I was in the Marine Corps but before and after, and the damage I had done, the survivor's guilt. And knowing that what happened happened but I have a future and I have the chance to make the best out of it. And that's what I intend on doing now.
US House Rep Phil Roe: And you've obviously done a great job with that and a real asset not only as a soldier and a Marine but as just a citizen of the country and as a father . And again to the Chairman and Mr. Filner's question, how do you think the VA could use some of the experiences you've had to make it better for other Marines or soldiers or Airmen who have experienced the same thing?
Daniel Hanson: Well I definitely feel that at times, if I would have got the kick in the butt I needed to get into rehab -- where if the VA would have said, "Lookit, either you go to rehab, you get better or, you know, you're not welcome here. Basically, if you don't want to use what we have set up for us then maybe you should use somewhere else. Because if there's people that really want to get help, this place needs to be open for those individuals." And for years, I had great opportunities to get help but I didn't because I didn't want to. And I think that if the VA, you know, instead of a friendship role, took that parent role when I know there's plenty of times my dad made choices where I hated him for it at the beginning but I saw the absolute necessity of it years down the road. I appreciated him much more for it obviously instead of him not parenting me. And it's a wierd analogy to use -- the VA as a parent -- but I just think if the VA would be possibly more assertive in their treatment and saying, "Lookit, you're obviously messed up, you've been through this, you've been through this, you have this police record. It's time to either get help or, you know, find somewhere else to try to get help."
US House Rep Michael Michaud and Daniel Hanson spoke about the need to have knowledge of a variety of programs before you discharge from the military and become a veteran. He spoke about how when he was active duty, it would have been helpful to know about different ways to get help and "to know it wasn't 'weird' or 'weak'" to get help. Michaud noted that on trips to Iraq, he asks what's needed to help with issues like TBI and PTSD and traumas and the brass tells him they have all they need. But a lower ranking official pulled him aside and suggested he speak to the clergy about the issue. He noted he now does that on every visit to Iraq, "And they [the clergy] were telling me that more and more of the soldiers were going to them because they were afraid to seek help from a doctor because they were afraid of what other soldiers would say."
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