Mental Health Care For Combat Veterans Failing

More than six years after the military began combat operations in the Middle East, the Army is still failing to provide its soldiers in the 10th Mountain division with adequate mental health service at Fort Drum, according to a report issues Wednesday. The report by the Veterans for America cited problems with understaffing, reliance on questionnnaires to identify soldiers in need of treatment and a previaling attitude at the company level that regards mental health issues in an atmosphere more attuned to secrecy, shame and doubt. Some soldiers “in fact wait up to two months before a single appointment can be scheduled. In short, access to care for our returning warriors at Fort Drum is woefully inadequate,” claims the study entitled, “Fort Drum: A Great Burden, Inadequate Assistance.”

Senator Hillary Clinton denounced the policy at Fort Drum and, undoubtedly, there will be other complaints. General Oates, who is in charge of the division, indicates there are problems and wants to look into the situation. Since 2001, the division has been in combat nearly 40 months, but the men and women are given inadequate “dwell time” back home as they continually go back to fighting.

Despite our knowledge concerning mental health issues for those engaged in extensive combat, the two most common ways in which soldiers get access to treatment is via self-reporting or self-referral. The warrior too often fears admitting fears and anxieties and thus problems lie dormant and fester until the individual becomes emotionally ill. Asking soldiers to fill out a questionnaire doesn’t take time, but it doesn’t identify problems. There is need for more extensive one-on-one consultation. This costs more in the short run, but saves people and society in the long run.