Further Scandal Over Military's Treatment of the Mentally Ill
> 3/5/2007 3:48:50 PM

The recent controversy over substandard treatment and living conditions at the country's foremost veterans hospital has refocused a national debate on the physical and mental health needs of soldiers returning from active service overseas. An increasing number of reports detailing treatment that borders on medical neglect has forced the resignation of the Army Secretary and resulted in a flood of late apologies from military administrators to Congress and the American people. The issue might be more acceptable had the glaring deficiencies of psychiatric treatment at the same facility not been covered extensively more than two years ago.

Among these scandals and the resulting scrutiny of our military's medical services come further reports on the physical and psychological difficulties that await far too many of our returning soldiers. Foremost among these is the pressing issue of the serious mental illness and threats of homelessness facing an increasing number of our returning soldiers. An estimate from the Army itself states that nearly one in three veterans suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, but the true number may very well be higher. In official statements, the Department of Veterans Affairs claims to have provided housing to 300 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two years, but, again, independent veterans groups believe the actual number to be much greater when factored to include soldiers who stay at unrelated shelters or sleep on the streets. Some remain hesitant to join the chorus calling our current problem an epidemic. They maintain that the war in Vietnam produced a considerably larger number of injured, disabled and homeless veterans, that our current services are far superior to those we've offered in the past, and that our all-volunteer army is better prepared in every way to face battle and its aftermath. In any case, the Washington, DC non-profit National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that a lack of livable wages, affordable housing and healthcare services leads to at least 400,000 U.S. veterans experiencing homelessness at some point throughout each year. One in three citizens living on the streets, they say, once wore a uniform to serve this country, and more than 15% of those individuals served in conflicts after Vietnam. They clearly need treatment, but judging by recent indictments of the psychiatric services offered by our military, they may not receive adequate care from the forces that once employed them even if they aggressively seek it out (most of them don't).

Our servicemen and women deserve the very best treatment the United States has to offer, and the fact that we have clearly not been providing that to them should be remedied as soon as possible. Political posturing and assignment of responsibility is not as important as rectifying a very big problem. What does it say about us as a nation if we cannot provide top-quality health care to those mean and women who desperately need help on returning from their brave and absolutely essential service to our country? Rhetorically supporting the troops is clearly not enough, and we cannot stand for further humilitations on the scale of Walter Reed. According to a colonel who returned from Iraq in 2005:

"The Army does not want to get into the mental-health game in a real way to really help people. They want to Band-Aid it. They want you out of there as fast as possible, and they don't want to pay for it."

Statements like this from our soldiers are reason enough to demand immediate action. How quickly and effectively reform will take place is another story.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy