Patrick Jolly

Patrick Jolly will write a column for the Napa Valley Register called Vet to Vets.

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, The VA currently treats roughly 40,000 veterans with this disease and they estimate there are an additional 40,000 veterans who have the disease but have not been diagnosed.

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurologic disorders. The main signs are tremor, stiffness of the body, slowness of movement, and difficulty with balance.

The VA Medical Center in San Francisco is one of six Centers for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in the U.S.

Parkinson’s is considered by the VA to be a presumptive disease for any veteran who was exposed to the herbicide referred to as Agent Orange. Any veteran who was in Vietnam or traveled the “inland waters” of Vietnam is presumed by the VA to have been exposed to this herbicide.

Additionally, vets who were stationed at the DMZ in Korea between April 1, 1968 and Aug. 31, 1971 are also presumed to have been exposed, as are those who worked on the perimeter of most air bases in Thailand between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.

Veterans in these categories with presumptive diseases can very likely be rated by the VA as having “service connected” disabilities, and receive compensation based on the severity of the condition. These veterans are also eligible for treatment by the Veterans Health Administration.

Surviving spouses of veterans in these categories may also be eligible for compensation for a service-connected death.

In addition to Parkinson’s disease, the VA includes a number of other conditions as being presumed to be service connected due to exposure to Agent Orange, including Diabetes Mellitus (type 2), prostate cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, ischemic heart disease, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, multiple myelomas and soft tissue sarcomas.

The Napa County Veterans Service Office can provide more information and help file a claim. Please call 707-253-4558 for more information.

There’s something else that’s been on my mind these last few weeks, and I need to share it.

Veterans in Napa County are reeling after the recent hostage crisis that ended with three amazing women killed and the shooter ending his own life.

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Executive Director Christine Loeber, therapist Dr. Jen Golick and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales were all exceptional people who had devoted their lives to helping veterans, most recently at the PTSD treatment program, The Pathway Home. The shooter, Albert Wong, had been a resident of the treatment program.

The grief shared by the community has been widespread; but for many, those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there has been a marked increase in symptoms.

We’re seeing a definite increase in the number of vets who are seeking additional treatment. More so, we are seeing many vets (who for the first time) are ready to talk about the horrors they faced during their military service, in and out of combat.

After the recent fires, we had many vets have come to see us because they were reliving a war environment. The noises, especially from helicopters, and the sirens and flashing lights and the people evacuating became a dreadful maelstrom.

Today, veterans throughout the region and their families, are becoming very aware of the effects of PTSD – nightmares, night sweats, thrashing about while sleeping, anger issues, inability to trust, increased startle response.

Many are now ready to do something about it.

I urge veterans, and spouses of veterans who are experiencing these issues, to give us a call. We are here to help find the resources to learn to cope with PTSD.

In fact, the Napa County Veterans Service Office helps veterans and their families to obtain all benefits to which they are entitled. We conduct an orientation to veterans benefits on the second Tuesday of each month, and a Vet Connect the second Thursday.

For more information, please call us at 707-253-4558.

One last item I want to mention – we now have a County Veterans Commission. The commission is charged with advising the Napa County Board of Supervisors about issues affecting those who served in the military (and their families) and to provide a forum for public input regarding related issues. The nine-member commission meets at 1 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each at 650 Imperial Way. The public is invited to attend. I am certain that they will do great things for the veterans of Napa County!

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