Veterans column: suicide remains a continuing problem for veterans

Veterans column: suicide remains a continuing problem for veterans

Veterans column: suicide remains a continuing problem for veterans

By Jerry Field

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There have been discussions and few actions taken on the increasing problems of post-Vietnam Veterans, specifically addressing the high degree of suicide and other related illnesses, mental, physical and social. The solutions are not easy and a proper procedure has not been discovered. A few possible solutions are available often with positive results, on an individual basis.  The results are promising, but as in most new procedures addressing physical and mental health it’s a slow process.

There was a practical solution after the Korean Conflict was drawing to a stalemate. Military being discharged or released to civilian life were given a decompression program. Most GI”s called this “Hurry up and Wait”.  The program consisted of being transferred to a National Guard or an Army Post, most likely away from a city.  Here the assignment was daily exercise, meetings, discussions and talking about what to expect when he get home.

After several days of this routine that most members of the squad were relaxed in a routine they had been accustomed for the last three to six years, The orders were issued for a  five day pass to return  home with a critical assignment. Three questions. One: What has changed since the last time you were home? Two: Will you get your old job back if you wanted it or what new profession or job are you now interested in ? The third question was not easy: What would you like to do with the rest of your life?



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Photo courtesy of the Lyons Democratic Organization

Veterans Day Salute

Answering the questions was not as easy as it seemed. In the days before this assignment the squad was briefed on what was available under several Veteran programs, private agencies and to expect your executive officer or recruiter ask if you want to sign up again. There was a list of forms that we could fill out if we planned on using they GI Bill, file with the VA hospitals or health clinics and a ton of other materials. They were well prepared for their homecoming. Decompression process had started. The slow edging from standard military routine to a relaxed schedule did not take long to adjust to, but at times was difficult to understand the change to civilian life would be available soon. Some adjusted well and quickly, others needed more time. The Vietnam military in contrast, got off the bus and went directly home.

At Jesse Brown VA and Medical Center(JBVA) it was refreshing to meet an eight year Marine veteran, Alberto Lopez who also started his professional life with a desire to be a history teacher. We had something in common.. Marine Lopez took a quick change to working with two Veterans organizations. Lopez volunteered at JBVA and later while working with John Mundy, a psychologist, who understood Alberto’s efforts with Veterans, was to build some relationship of a multitude of common situations and address common problems. These opened the discussion with an effort and to seek attainable solutions and a comfortable plan to pursue the solution.

Alberto is at JBVVA every Tuesday heading up coffee hour which often is extended.  All are welcomed, no appointment is needed.  His coffee meeting is conducted at various locations you can call 773-789-9896 for the time and location.  “Just being around others who share the same situations is the start of the program. I have at my disposal a vast number of cooperating organizations, both public and private.  And my company is available to special assignments. Albert Lopez can be reached at alberto@phenixlegacy.orgor 773-798-9696.


TheIllinoisServiceMemberEmployment&ReemploymentRightsActorISERRA(330ILCS61etseq.)wasalegislativeinitiativeofIllinoisAttorneyGeneralLisaMadigandesignedtomodernizeIllinoislawto reflect the realities of today’s operational reserve force. ISERRA garnered bi-partisan sponsorshipand support passing the General Assembly unanimously before being signed into law by the Governor this pastsummer.

Theoverchinggoalof IS E R R A istoprotectandencouragemilitaryservicewhilefacilitatingemployer compliance through assistance primarily in the form of education and training. ISERRA works to minimize disadvantages to military service in civilian careers through reemployment and benefit protections while diminishing the disruption to employers and co-workers. To accomplishthis goal, ISERRAincorporates,reconciles andreplaces,inwholeorpart,sevenstatelawswhichregulateservice memberemployment.Thisconsolidationwillgreatlysimplifycomplianceforemployers.ISERRAalso clarifies areas of ambiguity within current law including the issue of paid military leave for full-time publicemployeeswhoaremembers ofareservecomponent.

ISERRAexpandscoveragetotwonarrowgroupsofpersons.First,!SERRAprovidesbasicreemployment protections to servicein a federally recognized auxiliary of the United States Armed Forces when performingofficialdutiesinsupportofmilitaryorcivilianauthoritiesasaresultofanemergencysuchas anaturaldisaster.Second,I SERRA providesbasicreemploymentprotectionsforaperiodforwhichan employeeisabsentfromemploymentforthepurposeofmedicaltreatmentbytheUSDepartmentof Defense (not the VA) for a condition,illness, or injury sustained in the line of duty. Finally, ISERRA expands benefits to include minimum performance review protections designed to prevent poor performanceratingsduringperiodsofmilitaryleave.

For more information on ISERRA, contact the Illinois Attorney General’s office at 1-800-382-3000.



Heads Up!  Agent Orange Is No Joke!

Prostate cancer is one of the 14 diseases now presumed to be caused by agent orange. Additional diseases are being processed for inclusion in this list.  There are numerous links on the web to discuss this if you Google “service-connected disability compensation for exposure to agent orange”.

I know many Vietnam Veterans, like myself, who were in safe, behind the line jobs never considered their risk for agent orange.  But it was airborne and therefore distributed over a large undefined area.  There is even action making its way through Congress to include the “blue water” Navy (ships serving off the coast of Vietnam) where agent orange is believed to have contaminated the water supplies.

Since many of the presumptive diseases result in death, it is also important that spouses and other relatives of Vietnam Vets are aware that, if the presumptive disease is noted as a partial cause of death, the surviving spouse becomes eligible for Dependents Indemnity Compensation (currently approximately $1,280 per month).

If you are a Vietnam Vet, or you know one, regardless of where they were stationed, please be sure they are aware of the scope and coverage of the agent orange compensation.

Prostate Cancer – 

One of the Agent Orange Presumptive

One of the agent orange presumptive diseases that will affect many men (and their spouses and families) as they get older is prostate cancer. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with it, step one (other than learning about the challenges you will be facing) is to file for disability compensation. The sooner you file, the sooner the compensation will begin.

As part of the new education you will begin, there is a national support organization called  UsToo  that can provide a great deal of information about Prostate Cancer and the options you’ll need to consider. Options include Active Surveillance (“wait and watch”, surgery (either traditional or robotic), and radiation (in different forms).

There are two chapters that are reasonably accessible to Lake County:

Us TOO Bill Buckman Chapter  Glenbrook Hospital, Glenview  Meetings 2nd Tuesday each Month – 7:00-9:00 pm  Contact : Peter Wiggins-Email : Phone : 847-535-9729




Jerry Field

Dr. Jerry Field, a Korean War Veteran and native Chicagoan has a long history of service to Veterans, most recently as advocate for Veteran and Military benefits and services. He currently serves on several Veterans committees in Chicago and the State of Illinois. He is a Commander of the Jewish War Veteran (JWV) Post 710 and serves on the JWV Illinois strategic planning committee is also a member of the American Legion.

South Korean Consul General Jong kook Lee recently presented Dr. Field with the Ambassador of PeaceGold Medal.

His nonmilitary career is varied as he was a film publicist, newspaper reporter and taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology for nearly 20 years. He was an instructor for the ROTC and currently manages the JROTC program for Leadership for JWV. As Executive Director of the Chicago Veterans Coordinating Committee, his efforts are directed toward supporting Veterans and Military members to avail themselves of the benefits provided by the Veterans Administration and other service organizations.

Dr. Field holds a doctorate in education from Loyola University Chicago, a Masters in Economics and Marketing from Roosevelt University and a Leadership certification from the U S Army.

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