For the last six years, Idervan DaCosta has endured shortness of breath and pain in his lungs that feels like they are on fire. This happens every couple of months and lasts a few weeks at a time. DaCosta attributes it to inhaling toxins while sleeping yards away from burn pits in Afghanistan. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied his application for disability benefits for the condition. Now, the Marine veteran and Brookfield resident has more hope.
It’s been nine years since Eunice Ramirez served in Iraq, but she still suffers from war wounds – post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, respiratory problems and frequent crying triggered by her memories. Suzanna Smaldone, who also returned home from Iraq in 2005, lives in constant pain and can’t bring herself to talk about her war injuries. Cheryl Eberg, home from Iraq for seven years, counsels other veterans, but their war stories can trigger her own mental health issues. Though it’s not unusual for veterans of both sexes to struggle for years with war injuries when they return home, officials say that women veterans have their own unique challenges, which can make their transition to civilian life particularly hard. “The trauma and complexity of these injuries and disabilities far outweigh anything we can comprehend in the civilian world,” said Linda Schwartz, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.
Connecticut hospitals will be required to ask all patients if they are veterans, under a new state law that takes effect Oct. 1. The law is part of a nationwide effort conceived by the State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz to make private health providers aware that they are treating veterans, since most veterans don’t go to federal Veterans Health Administration facilities. The goal is to improve veterans’ diagnoses and health care because military experiences are linked to certain illnesses, she said. Schwartz said veterans don’t always know about health risks connected to their military service and that health providers need to become educated about them.
Connecticut Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz was nominated this week by President Barack Obama to serve as assistant secretary for policy and planning in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Schwartz’s nomination needs U.S. Senate approval. Schwartz has served as state commissioner since 2003. Gov. Dannel Malloy, in a press release, said, “For more than ten years, Commissioner Schwartz has been a strong and important voice for veterans in Connecticut, and she is an excellent choice to serve veterans on a national level. Her appointment is also a great loss for Connecticut.’’
Malloy, who reappointed Schwartz in 2011, added, “The commissioner’s integrity and her work on behalf of Connecticut’s veterans and women veterans, and on the Governor’s Veterans Cabinet, has a critical impact on improving how the state delivers programs and services to our veterans and military service members.
Over the years, Andy Gow of Wallingford didn’t know what to make of word that more and more of his former Air Force buddies were being diagnosed with prostate cancer or diabetes. Then, in 2003, he got the news firsthand—he had both diseases – and began to connect the dots.