Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You wake up somedays and your head hurts

(Image from IAVA.org)

As a follow up to my piece on Sunday about "Marlboro Man" Marine James Blake Miller and his troubles, today we have this from Reuters:
U.S. soldiers are significantly more likely to report mental health problems six months after returning home from combat than on initial assessments, Army researchers said on Tuesday.

Soldiers reported greater concern about interpersonal conflicts, post-traumatic stress, depression and alcohol problems in the second mental health screening, the researchers said.

They also found that one in five active-duty soldiers and almost half of reserve soldiers were receiving or in need of mental health services after combat.

But of course, we are helping returning soldiers re-integrate into society, right? Right? Eh, not so much:

Mental health problems and suicide rates have increased among U.S. troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a string of studies released this year.

Those studies, which include a Pentagon assessment, found the military has provided inadequate mental health resources to its service members.

The authors of the latest study said it points to the need for more resources for the Defense Department mental health system to help soldiers before they leave duty and transition to the Veterans Affairs Department's health system.

And the problems are made much worse with multiple deployments:
For example, the study found some mental health risk among 27.1 percent of active-duty soldiers after the second assessment compared with 17 percent after the first.

. . . Of the reserve force, 35.5 percent were at some mental health risk six months after returning home compared with 17.5 percent on the first assessment, for example.
But help is on the way, right? Aw crap:
It sounds like the headline-making scandal over Walter Reed Army Medical Center in early 2007, in the wake of which the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, downplayed the problems. But these kinds of nightmarish struggles faced by ailing war veterans existed as far back as 2003, and were brought to the attention of Congress before Kiley's tenure. The Army surgeon general presiding over the crisis back then was Lt. Gen. James Peake, who, like Kiley in 2007, sought to whitewash the situation. Peake retired in July 2004 -- but now he's back in the news.

President Bush, who vowed this year to fix the mess with veterans care, is pressing Congress to enact a slate of reforms to help returning soldiers, including slashing the military healthcare bureaucracy and providing better treatment for those with PTSD. And just last week, Bush announced his nominee for the new head of the Department of Veterans Affairs -- retired Lt. Gen. James Peake.

. . .Not all veterans blame Peake for failing to fix these problems back in 2003 and 2004. Rick Weidman, director of government relations at Vietnam Veterans of America, blames the Bush administration for trying to fight the war on the cheap -- including penny pinching on outpatient care and benefits. But he says generals like Peake need to make a stand and do the right thing. "Do you resign or do you salute and follow civilian authority?" Weidman asked. He wondered whether Peake, if confirmed for the job at the VA, will have the gumption to refuse to march in lockstep with the administration if he doesn't get the resources he needs to provide adequately for veterans.
Swell. Another toady doing His Master's Bidding.

Sorry, armed forces. I know you signed up knowing that you might have to go into combat. But you expected your contry to support you. To make things better, I have one suggestion:

Don't vote for a Republican.

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