Tag Archives: PSTD

Aftermath Of Iraq For Veterans

A coalition of health care workers and activists is forming a lobby to examine the impact of being part of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq upon veterans. At present, there are no clear statistics concerning whether these wars have been responsible for a rise in crime among those who served. However, there is no doubt Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in greater use of drugs and alcohol and some forms of violent behaviors. Although, not all veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is no question a significant percent are afflicted.

A question being examined is whether courts of law should take into consideration the impact of being part of a war when individuals are being charged with crimes. There currently are federally funded programs in Colorado and other states where “veterans courts” will hear cases for veterans charged with crimes.

Of course, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and George Bush will live happily ever after despite their crimes.

Is PSTD A War Wound?

The Pentagon has decided not to award the Purple Heart to soldiers who were mentally wounded in fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Purple Heart is awarded to “those individuals wounded to a degree that requires treatment by a medical officer, in action with the enemy or as a result of enemy action where the intended effect of a specific enemy action is to kill or injure the service member.” The Army believes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder did not arise due to enemy action. Is it an illness or is it a wound from enemy action? John Fortunato of the Ft. Bliss Treatment Center has been arguing it is a wound noting, “these guys have paid at least as high a price, some of them, as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with a shrapnel wound.”

Those returning from war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan have been wounded in such ways as many will never be the same human as they were prior to being sent overseas. Why isn’t a wounded mind as much a wound as a wounded part of the body?

Will PSTD Veterans Receive Decent Treatment?

President Bush never loses an opportunity to proclaim his concern for those who fight or to deride his opponents as not supporting the troops. In reality, his administration has under funded programs for veterans and fought against Democratic proposals on pay raises. Defense Secretary Robert Gates finally issued an policy statement requiring the military to follow guidelines in a new law which says soldiers forced to retire due to PSTD ailments will be rated at least at the level of 50%. However, the Pentagon is ignoring a provision of the law which requires a board to review past evaluations in order to determine if anyone was given the wrong rating. Service members are not allowed to receive back pay for an incorrect rating.

It has been common in the Bush era to give PSTD discharges a 10% rating. Fortunately, the new law passed by the Democratic Congress establishes deadlines as to when a request for evaluation is to be handled.

Secretary Of Defense Admits Families Face Stress

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted families of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are encountering serious stress. He also recognized stress on military men and women impacted families back home and had many personal ramifications within family members. “We obviously want to stop all kinds of violence among our soldiers and their families.” There is increasing fear stress has led to serious crimes and even death. An important factor is the extent of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and ways in which the military can assist members of the service to come forth and admit they are experiencing stress.

Perhaps, the greatest stress facing those in combat is being sent back and forth from combat to home and back to combat. This creates uncertainty and confusion within a family and adds the element of uncertainty to the lives of people.

Pentagon Seeks PSTD Screening For All Returnees

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is calling for all returning combat troops, from privates to generals, to undergo screen ing for post-traumatic stress with a mental health professional, a move intended at stemming an epidemic of psychological issues among veterans. There is growing concern many soldiers are hesitant to seek psychological assistance. Mullen believes “I’m at a point where I believe we have to give(mental health) screening to everybody to help remove the stigma of raising your hand.” There is no doubt many veterans fear being identified with PTSD as though it somehow reflects on their ability as a soldier

Experts are aware many veterans know how to avoid being classified with PTSD because of their fears. The only solution is having individuals be with a psychologist for more than a five minute interview.

Congress Expands Veteran PTSD Benefits

Congress has decided to expand the meaning of what entails being in “combat” as well as what constitutes being engaged in a combat operation. This means a cook who witnessed the aftermath of a roadside bombing or a medic who was trapped inside a hosptial during a rocket attac, can also qualify for benefits of medical attention. Congressman Hall noted:
“There are cases of people coming home from Iraq with all the classic symptoms(of PTSD) and being denied care.” Rep. Ciro Rodriguez pointed out the first US soldier captured in the Iraq conflict was a mechanic.

Congressman Doug Lamborn, the only Republican member of the subcommitee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, contested a provision of the proposed Democratic bill which requires the VA to immediately award disability benefits to a seriously wounded service member with obvious injuries such as loss of limb. The VA would begin immediate payment while the veteran waits the official 183 days for the determination of disablity.

The Congress of the United States of American authorized the Iraq war and now must bear the consequences of that decision. War is not pretty. Congressman Lamborn worries about “overcompensating and undercompensating people all over the place,” which is the type of comment one can expect from someone who did not serve in the front lines of Iraq.

Mental Care Hit Or Miss Claim US Soldiers

Service members told Congress that mental health care for post-traumatic stress disorder is good– if they can get it. In one case, a suicidal soldier asked for help and got it, in another, a soldier deployed to Iraq asked for help, and when it was denied, he killed himself. Military medical personnel told Congress there are many issues hampering the development of an effective PTS progrm including recruiting and retaining mental health providers, educating officers about symptoms and causes of suicide, and finding proper tretment for PTSD. Ward Casscells, assistant defense secretary for health affair, insisted there still remained many problems, “treatment is a struggle. We don’t know vey wll what treatments work.”

The father of Pfc. Jason Scheuerman, had to file Freedom of Information requests to finally obtained information about the death of his son. A chaplalin said in a sworn statement that he believed Jason “obsessed with suicide” but the brigade psychologist thought the troubled young man was engaged in some form of manipulation to get out of combat. Jason committed suicide. Major Bruce Gannaway lost his foot in Iraq and was evaluted at Walter Reed Army Hospital for mental health issues while under heavy medication.

The Congressmen heard numerous stories and incidents of members of the military who fought in combat only to be denied proper mental health assistance. the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are among the strangest in American history. The invasion of Iraq was based on a Bush lie and subsequent efforts have been characterized by incompetence and inability to find the right political and military policies. These are not wars in which soldiers have a clear rationale why they are fighting. There is insufficient military personnel available to handle the fighting so the same men and women must return for one deployment after another. Is it any wonder many feel emotional stress?