TRAVERSE CITY — Area veterans often come home traumatized by their war experiences, but can wait months to get critical help from the Veteran’s Administration.
So said Christine Stalsonburg of Traverse City, who formed an exploratory group that intends to create a tranquil healing center for area veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“Most everyone who is suffering through PTSD has some sort of outlet or release, whether fishing or hunting or art or music or horse therapy, and we hope to include all those different types of therapy programs at the facility on a daily basis,” she said.
Veterans already may obtain free counseling for a wide range of issues at the Traverse City Veteran Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic.
But Stalsonburg wants to provide free, professional help while they get their paperwork processed.
Carrie Seward, a V.A. public affairs spokeswoman, acknowledged there are delays when veterans request benefits for medical problems related to military service. They must file a claim, complete a medical assessment and await an eligibility award.
"If a veteran has an urgent need, care is delivered," she said. "However, if the veteran is found to be ineligible for care, they may be billed."
Stalsonburg hopes to work with the local V.A. clinic, as well as Reigning Liberty Ranch, which offers vets equestrian and farming therapy. Her group has applied for nonprofit status and plans to start fundraising on Monday. They envision a large home nestled in a tranquil setting of woods and water.
The group plans to name the center in honor PFC Ryan Patrick Kennedy, a Chicago man who shot himself in an apartment just outside Fort Carson in Colorado Springs on Aug. 2, 2012 after serving in Afghanistan.
Stalsonburg said Kennedy’s mom, a retired Chicago police officer, is a friend. Stalsonburg also has two sons who live in Pennsylvania and who suffer from PTSD in varying degrees.