Monday, March 12, 2007

Crazed Combat Veterans

Much has been made in the press recently of the returning veteran’s and their mental health. Some light has been shed in the reporting about the state of the Veteran’s administration capacity and Military Health Care. As a supportive Nation sending our young Men and Women into a crucible of war, we must be concerned that no returning veteran’s fall through the net in getting quality mental health screening, diagnosis and care.

We have failed to fully appreciate the need for mental health care in the past. We have seen the stereotyped Vietnam Vets that were vilified in Hollywood movies and TV as a social deviants or misfits… You can’t believe everything you see in movies but I suggest we have Antidotal evidence or perhaps an unintended documentation of our national failed efforts to treat Vietnam Veterans mental illnesses. Some could draw the additional conclusion that mental Illness or at least the notion of mental illness was derived partially from an unpopular war against guerilla forces.

We continue to fail to adequately address mental illness today - military commanders, rather than medical professional, hold the decisions whether soldiers suspected of suffering from a mental disorder in the war zone should be discharged. There is a Warrior ethos culture that suppresses any indication that individuals can be dulled by repeat tours or bombardment by an ever increasing level of dissent and aversion to our commitment to the effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers cannot expect care and understanding if the profess a mental health problem… Evidence suggests that officials are kicking soldiers with PTSD out of the Army in a manner that masks the problem. Some military leaders are giving some soldiers with mental issues a hard time, because “they don't belong in the Army” resulting in misconduct charges and discharges rather than more appropriate intervention and treatment of illness.

Quoted from Col. Virgil J. Patterson, chief of the Soldier and Family Support Branch at the Army Medical Department Center and School, Fort Sam Houston

"The heart and soul of our combat and operational stress-control program is to intervene in problems before they reach the point that someone would screen positive for them," Patterson said. "So if we have success in our proactive outreach, we're able to see soldiers early on when they're starting to have personal problems or family problems and work with that soldier in how they handle it so that it doesn't end up making them a problem that needs mental health services."

So the goal is avoiding the need for mental health services? What about the failures – soldiers that are mentally scarred? What does DoD do about them? In the Army alone – permanent disability retirements have dropped by two-thirds since 2001. Rates for disability for mental health declines – We are keeping soldiers more often as fit for duty -do you believe it is a result of significant treatment programs within the military or is it a “return to duty” quota? How are we about to see OIF/OEF veteran’s depicted in the future? I for one hope that the scripts will not be repeats of many used to portray former soldiers of the past.


Some Soldier's Mom said...

I agree wholeheartedly! In addition to the problems you have indicated, I question soldiers being permitted the "option" of seeking treatment for PTSD even after they have been diagnosed (I'm not suggesting that you can force medications on soldiers, but at least mandatory counseling sessions). I also believe that there is a serious need for addition education of the NCO class as, in my personal experience, they are generally the barrrier to enlisted seeking and receiving treatment for mental health issues. Their conduct towards those that have soght treatment and attempt to stay in the Army is the single most significant deterrent to treatment.

Thank you for writing on this issue.

Stan68ar said...

Thanks for the comments - see via your profile that your son was with 3rd Inf Div in OIF3 - I worked a lot with them - a high quality organization... sorry to see that your son was wounded...I hope the current furor over medical care in general for vets is not lost to events an improves for all soldiers.