[NOTE: Sorry about the disappearing post today. When I corrected something this morning, I must have hit some wrong key because this post automatically marked itself "private," and vanished. Thanks to commenters Woody and rlc who let me know, as I've been away from my laptop all day. In any case, I called Mr. Kid (that would be my 21-year-old son) and he restored it in my absence. Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.]
Over the last few days, I’ve talked to a number of people who are expert in veterans affairs, PTSD and homelessness, and they tell me they are growing increasingly worried because the percentage of soldiers returning home from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is far higher than seen in past wars, and the nature of the PTSD appears to be more severe. To make matters worse, according to veterans support and advocacy groups, due to the government’s outmoded, unresponsive, and overloaded system for dealing with PTSD cases, only a fraction of the PTSD vets are getting the help they need.
After reading report after report of how we are already failing our veterans in the area of PTSD treatment, one wonders what’s going to happen when the real bulk of the soldiers come home from Iraq and Afghanistan?
“At least 30 percent of Iraq or Afghanistan [veterans] are diagnosed with PTSD, up from 16 percent to 18 percent in 2004,” said Charlie Kennedy, PTSD program director and lead psychologist at the Stratton VA Medical Center. The most conservative estimates project that, when the rest of the troops come home, roughly 250,000 Iraq war veterans will come back to their communities dealing with major depression and/or debilitating anxiety brought on by the trauma and carnage of war.
“One of the things we’re noticing, says Tony Reinis, the executive director for New Directions, a West Los Angeles shelter and rehab program focused on veterans., ”is that the kind of PTSD they display is different from what we’ve seen in the past. In Vietnam, the personal threat was intermittent, not constant. But in Iraq, because of the IEDs, these kids are on constant alert, 24 hours a day. No matter what their jobs in the military, they are all combat soldiers because of the nature of this conflict. And that 24/7 sense of threat produces a different kind of trauma”
Stacey Bannermann writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, goes till further. “Another reason for the escalating mental health challenges,” she writes. “ is that while soldiers typically spent one tour of duty in Vietnam, troops are serving two, three and occasionally four rotations in Iraq. An additional challenge is the moral ambiguity of fighting a war without front lines, where the combatants are, or are dressed as, civilians. Many veterans are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile experiences such as shooting at civilians because they had failed to stop at a checkpoint.”
Experts such as Reinis say that another issue is the fact that much of the Iraq war is being fought by “citizen soldiers”—National Guard and Army Reserves, rather than professional military-.”It’s part of the reason that the PTSD rate is expected to be far, far higher.”
Untreated, of course,PTSD can lead to severe depression, drug abuse and alienation from family as the combat vet attempts to cope and in too many cases, homelessness. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are about 200,000 homeless veterans on any given night. In the last two years the VA has classified 1,049 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as being at risk of homelessness. Of those, about 300 ended up losing their homes. But that’s merely a trickle compared to the flood that may be coming, say experts.
“Catching them and getting them the proper treatment before all that happens, is the key,” says Rod Stark of the Veterans Village of San Diego.
So are America’s Iraqi vets getting proper treatment? Families of veterans and activists again say no.
“We have heard so much about what this military has learned in Vietnam [about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder], and how they’re doing it differently now,” says said Nancy Lessin of Military Families Speak Out. “We don’t see that at all,”
Yet it isn’t the reports and the activists that give the most troubling picture of the storm to come. Spending time on Veterans PTSD online forums is a sobering experience. You find entry after entry with titles like “Help me!” or “MAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAY” or “At end of my rope.” Here’s one fairly typical post:
I have been out of the Army now for about a year, I did it all in the Army, from S.F. to Combat Diver. been on many, so called Top-Seceret missions, We was also the first ones in Iraq. Saying all of that I am trained not to have emotions. I have been diagnosed with with everything they could find from PTSD to Major Deppresion, and OCD. I have also become slight dislexic. I am scared of heights now, funny cause I am HALO qualified. There are not many people that I get along with, I have found a strong hatered in pretty much everybody and thing, I don’t sleep because of nightmares, so I stay up till I pass out and wake up all night with cold sweats. My Pshyc, just recommended me at a 100% disability, witch I probably won’t get. I don’t think it matters to anyone but us, I watched my good friend die and another get his knee blown off, he now has a whopping 20% rating. Does it take us hurting someone before, the VA does anything. I would give my life for any American out there, without question. I am married and have a daughter that is about to turn 2. I know my wife worries about me, and I love her the best way I know how, and am scared I might lose her. That would end me. I have a job as a manager at a resturant, don’t know how long it will last before they fire me, I seem to find myself in fights all the time. I don’t regret any part of my career. I read all these posts with people wanting us to do surveys and relive the past were trying to forget, no offense, but I don’t think that is wise unless you are on so good meds that make you commatose. I have wasted enough of your time. From robd77
Support the troops? Apparently not.