Hooray! The end of combat operations in Iraq! Uh…posted by Bill Arnett @ 1:28 PM Permalink …really, not like last time. People in government, from the President on down will give celebratory speeches, lavish praise on our military, tout the wisdom of the decisions made, claim credit for bringing democracy to the Middle East, and falsely, and I believe, maliciously, claim that America will provide for the needs of the troops returning home after two, three, four, or five tours in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan when they are already seeking changes in definitions of various maladies such as PTSD, ignoring the unbelievably high suicide and homeless rates of returning veterans, and the government will again claim that the war in Afghanistan must continue despite the government malfeasance there and the fact that we are mostly just using Afghanistan as a launching site for the Hellfire missile-armed drones that are the precursor to the future combat systems that will lead to the video game wars of the future where video game-trained troops will sit ensconced in a cool dark room killing people afar without the need for any troops to engage the enemy up close.
Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD and Military Suicides: U.S. Government's Message to America’s Vets: "Drop Dead"Of course the government has a vested interest in marginalizing the problems extant and those to come. I know, having lived through this personally.
From 1991 to 2003, hundreds of thousands of our bravest men and women sought help from the Veterans Administration, from the Defense Department, from the White House, all to no avail. The official word was that Gulf War Syndrome did not exist. So they suffered in silence. Tens of thousands died from these conditions. Many lost their homes because of the high costs to pay for medical care themselves. Independent investigations, including those conducted by many of the Gulf War veterans themselves, showed multiple causes behind Gulf War Syndrome…
The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are manifesting with an entirely new series of physical and mental illnesses and diseases. Some are being recognized, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many others are not. Hundreds of thousands of our veterans are living in destitution, are incarcerated, have attempted or committed suicide, and can no longer fit into a normal family life. And yet the government once again, as it did to previous Gulf War vets, turns its backs on them. This is an American tragedy…
American troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are sinking ever lower into the abyss of the lost and forgotten. Severe depression, confusion and an existential lack of purpose swarms across our armed forces and our government barely notices. We are witnessing annual illness increases in practically every category of physical, emotional and mental health: physical combat injuries, PTSD, brain trauma and depression, impaired immune systems, common and rare cancers, diabetes, reproductive disorders, a wide variety of inflammatory conditions among many other ailments. Over-extended and multiple deployments are shattering soldiers’ and veterans’ lives. The fabric of their social relationships is rapidly deteriorating. Divorce rates and broken homes are commonplace…
And upon their return to Kansas, away from America’s killing fields in the Middle East, there awaits an economy in collapse under the weight of astronomical federal debt and corporate greed, recessionary unemployment and rising homelessness, hungry children and rampant poverty, and now a new American culture every bit as disoriented and fearful about its future.
Welcome to America’s brave new world of global PTSD! [emphasis in original text. Bill]
Before the Vietnam War, the severe psychological conditions warriors’ and soldiers’ experienced on the battlefield went under a variety of names: war neurosis, combat fatigue, neurasthenia, shell shock and others. Today these psychological states have been tossed under the umbrella term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)…we are experiencing record numbers of servicemen and women returning emotionally and mentally impaired. During no other war, including Vietnam, are GIs as psychically damaged as those now serving and returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.…It appears odd that many vets being diagnosed for PTSD, depression and other mental impairments never experienced direct combat. Yet all deployed troops to Afghanistan and Iraq share one thing in common. They have all stood on Middle Eastern soil and breathed and lived in its highly toxic and chemically contaminated environment.
The Army’s top psychiatrist, Brig. General Loree Sutton told Congress that about 17 percent of our troops are on psychiatric medications. However, in later interviews she reduced her estimate substantially to 2-4 percent.… Other military officials tout other conflicting numbers giving a clear message that either the military is clueless about the seriousness of mental illness among our troops, or is having one hell of a time keeping their lies in order. As this investigation will outline, there is far greater reason to suspect intentional deception on the DoD’s behalf rather than assume the upper echelons of our military’s health institutions are simply fools unqualified in their roles to oversee the health and well being of our armed forces.
After my cancers were ruled by the VA as being Agent Orange-caused I still had to fight tooth and nail for every increase in my disability status. While all my various doctors agreed and advised the VA of my disabilities the VA would send what I call a "hit doctor" to give me a two minute examination and then rule that I was not as disabled as was being reported. Doctors that had been treating me for years and that were intimately aware of my difficulties were ignored because of these hit doctors and I am as certain as I can be that returning veterans with any malady other than obvious problems, such a missing limbs, will face these same hit doctors over and over for years before receiving appropriate disability ratings that will not only include free medical care and medicines (I shudder to think how much my medications alone would cost), but monetary reimbursement for the destruction of their ability to hold a job, their need to support and maintain a family, and the obvious need for a home.
This pattern of denying aid and the seriousness of the problems has already commenced, as shown by this statement from the above text: "The Army’s top psychiatrist, Brig. General Loree Sutton told Congress that about 17 percent of our troops are on psychiatric medications. However, in later interviews she reduced her estimate substantially to 2-4 percent…" You don't really believe that a brigadier general and top psychiatrist looked at her studies and stats and "discovered" an error or information that would cause her to so drastically reduce her estimation of the problem, do you? No, somebody, somewhere that outranked this general gave her orders to reduce her estimates or, I would bet money, choose to retire.
The article continues:
Independent research places the military’s mental health figures much higher. The June 2010 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry published a study of 18,300 Army soldiers screened at 3 and 12 month intervals following deployment in Iraq. The study found that using “the least stringent definition” for PTSD, rates now range between 20 and 30 percent, and depression rates are at 11.5 and 16 percent. Together this accounts for almost a third of our troops now suffering serious functional mental impairment.…And all this, so far, just discusses veterans that are seriously ill, physically and mentally, and I know for certain from my own travails with the VA that, with my body damn near destroyed and the fact I am condemned to suffer monstrous chronic neurological pain (24/7/365), the mental breakdown I suffered after TEN YEARS of fighting the system was, it seems, inevitable, and I feel so very sorry for the returning veterans who will have to battle a VA system already gearing up to find ways to deny benefits to those in need and who rightfully deserve those benefits.
All attempts to conduct accurate analysis is compounded because “the Veterans Health Administration systematically delays and denies sick veterans medical care and masks it with bogus documentation,” according to an investigation conducted by Nora Eisenberg at City University of New York. In a leaked internal memo from the Deputy Undersecretary for Health Operations and Management, William Schoenhard, the VA is gaming the system thus “diminishing patient [veteran] access to treatment.”
The other problems to obfuscate if possible:
The nation’s dire recession and lack of jobs is one significant contributor to rising homeless among veterans. As of March 2010, veterans from the OEF and OIF campaigns officially faced a 14.7 unemployment rate, 5 points above the Department of Labor’s estimated national average. However, actual unemployment statistics repeatedly show almost a doubling of national unemployment after hidden populations of those no longer receiving benefits, unqualified to receive benefits, or people holding down minimum wage part-time jobs are accounted for; therefore we can realistically predict over a quarter of vets are now unemployed.…It's fortunately becoming harder and harder for the government to deny and hide these problems, but that doesn't mean that it will stop looking for ways to deny benefits to a many as possible, using every possible means of delay, denial, refusing to acknowledge the problems, failing to provide the funds to pay for treatment or to pay a troop so disabled they can't work enough money to support themselves and their families.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night; however, more independent analysis shows the figure can be as high as 300,000, and upwards to 840,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year. But the actual number is certainly higher.…
Veterans Affairs claims 97 percent of homeless vets are men, however, a separate report from the National Coalition for the Homeless finds female vets with PTSD and traumatic brain injury more likely to become homeless. Women are enrolling in VA programs in record numbers.…
Active duty GI and veteran suicides have skyrocketed so dramatically that even major news sources are compelled to report it. June 2010 witnessed the highest rate of active duty suicides on record, one per day.…
Veteran suicide rates are much higher and have reached 18 per day. This accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s annual 30,000 suicides. One out of seven suicide attempts will be successful. But suicide prevention hotlines provide a more chilling scenario: 10,000 calls per month and 400 per month requiring immediate rescue efforts.
Since only 5 of 18 veterans are under direct VA care, it is very likely more veterans are taking their lives than is being reported.…
I know. Been there, done that. And there often is a problem with soldiers being too recalcitrant to admit they have a problem as they fear it is a sign of weakness.
I felt the lumps growing in my lymph nodes, unknowingly allowed doctors to use the wrong method of testing for lymphomas (fine needle aspiration) that allowed me to deny I had a problem. But when the tumor under the left side of my jaw overnight sprouted three new lumps running down the side of my neck I realized that I not only had cancer, but it was beginning to metastasize and spread at an alarming rate. I couldn't deny it any longer.
But I had delayed it so long that my first oncologist told me in March that with "heroic measures" (his term) it might be possible for me to live 'til the end of the year.
My Warrior Woman immediately jumped up, took my face in her hands, nose-to-nose with fire in her eyes, and steel in her spine told me,"You can't die yet, motherfucker, 'cause I'm not done with you!" She successfully reignited my own usually extremely strong survival instinct and besides, you don't dare disappoint a Warrior Woman like her!
I immediately fired that doctor and, by good fortune, my next oncologist also happened to be the chief oncologist at the local VA Clinic and it was he that insisted I apply to the VA for what he determined were clearly cancers determined to be caused by Agent Orange exposure. (There is a list of about twelve to fourteen cancers known to be caused by Agent Orange. To my knowledge there has not been a comparable study conducted to HELP veterans, not to shortchange them and seek ways to avoid responsibility.)
My Warrior Woman and that doctor saved my life. I can only fervently hope that our returning veterans will be lucky to be surrounded by loved ones and doctors that care, but I weep for the thousands that will not have that support and help and to whom our government will actively seek to avoid its responsibility to provide treatments and money.
I'm sorry for the sheer length of this post, but this is a subject that is near and dear to me and that now dominates every aspect of my life. Nothing is, can be, nor ever will be the same for me and others like me again.
DO THE RIGHT THING, AMERICA'S CITIZENS, AND WRITE, CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS AND INSIST THAT OUR VETERANS RECEIVE THE CARE THEY DESERVE WITHOUT HAVING TO SUFFER THE DERISION OF POLITICIANS AS EXPOSED BY THEIR ACTIONS AND THEIR FLOWERY, UNTRUE LIES.