Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

IDVA to host “Helping Our Hometown Heroes” veterans benefits fair August 19th in Woodstock

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CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) is hosting a free Helping Our Hometown Heroes benefits fair for veterans on Friday, August 19th in Woodstock at the Woodstock Opera House (121 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock, 60098). The fair will bring federal, state and local agencies and organizations together in one location.

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Upcoming Veterans' Events

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A listing of upcoming, one-time events of interest to veterans.

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Washington, Idaho are air rifle champions

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On Aug. 6, The American Legion's Junior Air Rifle National Championship got under way with a shoot-off between two precision category competitors, the first time in the competitions 21 years. Afterward, the sporter category top eight competitors stood alongside each other with air rifles in hand for their first 10 shots.

It was a tight 10-shot sporter match between Mitchell Van Patten from Meridian, Idaho, and Renz Ibarra from Zion, Ill. But in the end, Van Patten claimed the sporter championship title by a mere two points, firing a 2295.9 out of a possible 2509.

"During the competition I try to tell myself to relax, and my favorite position is the one that I shoot," Van Patten said. "My future plans are to make it to the Olympic Development Team and then on to the Olympics. And after all of that, I want to win the Olympics."

Mitchell's coach is his father, Brent, who says even if Mitchell wasn't his son, he would still love to be his coach because of his dedication.

"Being his father and coach is sometimes very prideful and joyful and other times it can be frustrating. It's an interesting balance," Brent said. "But he is a teachable, coachable person who has lofty goals and he works hard to meet them. Besides natural talent and hard work, he is focused and has a lot of self discipline. And one thing I'm really impressed with is he comes back from adversity."

The top eight precision competitors followed in the footsteps of the sporter competitors, standing side-by-side and firing 10 shots. With a five-point lead, Daniel Lowe from Olympia, Wash., claimed the precision champion title with a 2454.7 out of a possible 2509.

"My confidence comes from a close friend who gives me a motivational speech," Lowe said. "He tells me what I can do because sometimes I doubt myself and begin to think I will do badly. So my friend always looks me straight in the eyes and tells me to do my best and be all I can be."

Top five finishers: Precision - out of a possible 2509 points.
1. Daniel Lowe - 2454.7. From Olympia, Wash., and sponsored by Edward B. Rhoades Post 2.
2. Caleb Nelsen - 2449.5. From Ashland, Ohio, and sponsored by Frank A. Bender Post 473.
3. Kirsten Moyer - 2447.4. From Albuquerque, N.M., and sponsored by Post 49.
4. Kelsey Moral - 2441.9. From Sharpsburg, Ga., and sponsored by Post 57.
5. Rachel Martin - 2436.5. From Peralta, N.M., and sponsored by Post 85.

Top five finishers: Sporter - out of a possible 2509 points.
1. Mitchell Van Patten - 2295.9. From Meridian, Idaho, and sponsored by Lloyd Hutcheson Post 113.
2. Renz Ibarra - 2293.9. From Zion, Ill, and sponsored by Post 865.
3. Maneva Gill - 2281.2. From Pacifica, Calif., and sponsored by Post 238.
4. Alexandrea Provine - 2272.0. From Tucson, Ariz., and sponsored by Morgan McDermott Post 7.
5. Michael Stroud - 2269.7. From Des Moines, Iowa, and sponsored by Post 42.

Click here to see the championship results amongst the 16 finalist.

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Foster calls for hearing on PTS medication

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American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster says he is "greatly concerned" about the widespread use of an apparently ineffective medication by Department of Veterans Affairs' doctors treating patients with post-traumatic stress (PTS).

"It is alarming that fully 20 percent of the nearly 87,000 veterans VA physicians treated for PTS last year were given a medication that has proven to be pretty much useless," said Foster.

According to a study conducted by VA itself and published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication commonly prescribed to veterans with post traumatic stress when antidepressants have failed to help, does not alleviate the symptoms of PTS.

"Not only that," said Foster, "but Risperdal is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of PTS." Only two medications, Zoloft and Paxil, both antidepressants, are government-approved to treat PTS, and neither drug, say researchers, is very effective at treating patients with a chronic form of the disorder.

"I am greatly concerned that veterans suffering the ‘invisible wounds of war' are receiving equally invisible care," said Foster.

The American Legion has been concerned about the misapplication of PTS medications for some time. Last year, the Legion appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the efficacy of existing treatments for PTS and TBI (traumatic brain injury) and explore alternatives to improve the science. The committee comprises officers of the Legion, as well as lay, professional and government consultants. It convened its third meeting during the week of August 1. The JAMA article appeared on Aug. 3.

Among the speakers at the Legion's latest ad hoc committee meeting was Dr. Charles Hoge, who is considered to be one of the country's leading experts on PTS and TBI. From 2002 through 2009, Hoge - a retired U.S. Army colonel - directed Walter Reed Army Medical Center's research on the psychological and neurological consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In light of the JAMA article, Hoge said he wondered if patients will continue to trust military and veteran medicine's handling of PTS cases. He asked, "Is there a resistance and reluctance among servicemembers and veterans to receive and continue their mental health care?"

Another committee consultant and longtime associate of the Legion is Dr. Jeanne Mager Stellman, Special Lecturer and Professor Emerita of Clinical Health Policy and Management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "This is the second major study showing that the drug therapies given to tens of thousands of our nation's veterans for PTS simply don't work and are associated with a range of side effects (such as weight gain)," Stellman said. "It is time to clean this mess up (and) devote attention to the problem - not wait years for studies to be done, results to be published and still not have changes made."

Foster said he is urging Congress to conduct hearings on the ongoing difficulties being experienced by both the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA in the treatment of PTS, as well as TBI. He is also prompting both DoD and VA to speed up their research on the screening of PTS and TBI cases and the treatment of them. "Accelerated research, however, must be balanced with great care and absolute accuracy," said Foster.

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16 shooters advance to final round

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On Friday, 15 competitors in both the sporter and precision category spent long hours inside the USA Shooting Range at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for The American Legion's 21st annual Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship. The only sound that could be heard was the firing of .177 caliber air rifles.

Throughout the day, the 30 competitors took aim in three positions: prone, kneeling and standing. Scores were immediately calculated after each position and by late afternoon the top eight contestants in each category were announced. However, there was a tie for eighth position in the precision category between Jason Sharbel and Nathan Brandenbur. So to finalize the eighth competitor, the two young men will conduct a shoot-off before the championship round begins Saturday morning.

The following 16 individuals will compete in the championship round:

Sporter category
1. Renz Ibarra - Zion, Ill.
2. Mitchell Van Patten - Meridian, Idaho
3. Maneva Gill - Pacifica, Calif.
4. Alexandrea Provine - Tucson, Ariz.
5. Michael Stroud - Des Moines, Iowa
6. Jessica Haskins - Fort Worth, Texas
7. Timothy Teller - Chandler, Ariz.
8. Kimberly Heitmeyer - King George, Va.

Precision category
1. Daniel Lowe - Olympia, Wash.
2. Kirsten Moyer - Albuquerque, N.M.
3. Kelsey Moral - Sharpsburg, Ga.
4. Caleb Nelsen - Ashland, Ohio
5. Adam Grumbling - Sharpsburg,Ga.
6. Rachel Martin - Peralta, N.M.
7. Denise Martin - Colville, Wash.
8. Jason Sharbel-Montgomery, Ala. and Nathan Brandenbur-Annville, Penn.

Keep updated on the 2011 National Championship results by clicking here.

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