"A man good enough to shed his blood for his country,
is good enough to receive a square deal afterwards . . ."
-- Theodore Roosevelt
Some Americans feel that carrying stories about PTSD in veterans
is somewhat anti-American, especially if there are 98,000 new PTSD veterans, because of the War on Terror. (It's like
our media driving home our daily death count in Iraq.)
But it's the farthest thing from the
truth. Not recognizing these 98,000 disabled veterans is the real anti-American act. They served their country
with honor and pride. Now, it's time to make sure they get the help they need.
PTSD has always been part of war, just like
any other war injury.
I have PTSD. And I'd
still proudly serve for America again! In spite of America's problems, we still are the greatest nation
in the world.
Our freedoms are worth fighting for...
And thank God, we have great men and women in our military to do it.
WE ARE ALL IN
Suicides among Active Duty Personnel at an All Time High
Near the end of
a long deployment the thoughts of coming home fill your mind and your heart yearns for the familiarity of loved ones. Once
getting home it all seems great until you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and realizing you had the most
horrific nightmare of your life. A nightmare so vivid you thought you were back on a patrol in a foreign country. The smells,
the sights and the tastes are all there just like the day it happened. The days keep passing by and you start to isolate yourself,
withdrawing from those around you. Every time you go out in public you are on guard watching everything around you. The slightest
sounds startles you and you have that feeling you are coming under fire. Your old friends call and ask if you want to go fishing
but you tell them that you are just not feeling it. This soldier has no clue what is going on to him but can tell something
is not right. What he is suffering from is a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a recognized disorder by the American Psychological
Association using the DSM IV. http://www.psych.org/.
Without the adequate
screening needed and the education about PTSD before a discharge a soldier has no clue what they are suffering from. Many
times they go on for long periods of time questioning their sanity. For the family they usually do not recognize the alarms
going off when their loved one starts acting different and do not have sufficient knowledge of the disorder. They just believe
that it is a normal reaction to serving in war. Eventually many veterans turn to drugs and/or alcohol to solve their problems
and unfortunately this is a recipe for disaster as many end up committing suicide.
There are many misleading
beliefs about PTSD and there is a major stigma that surrounds the condition. Some believe that it is imaginary and is a way
for a veteran to get free money from the government. It is a real illness and a debilitating illness if not treated soon enough
or properly. The number of individuals that are coming back from the current war that have been diagnosed with PTSD is one
out of three. Add this in with multiple deployments and you are creating an unstable environment susceptible to mental illness.
With a large influx of individuals this is putting the Department Veteran Affairs (VA) in a bind which was already plagued
with many problems before the current war.
One of the major
problems with the VA is that they are under spending their budget. In 2005 they spent only $100 million out of $200 million
of their budget and in 2006; they estimate that out of $200 million budgeted only $158 million was spent. Yet, the VA is understaffed
which largely contributes to this figure. The other areas that are deficient are the required research and knowledge of PTSD
to properly treat it. Testifying on September 28, 2006 before the house veterans’ health subcommittee Army Col. Charles
Hoge who is one of the leading researchers on PTSD has stated that much more research is needed because there are major gaps
in the studies completed. The areas that need the most attention are in standard psychotherapy and medications, long term
treatment and recovery issues and the impact on deployment. So, while the VA is scratching their head at what to do many innocent
lives are ended in the meanwhile.
Our country is in a habit
of jumping into wars before really assessing the aftermath. They are not looking at the fact that the system is already over
burdened and near the breaking point and if we can not accommodate our service members after the war, we should not go at
all. In Congress Representative Michael Michaud (D) highlighted this by saying, “the VA is far short of fulfilling it
commitments, and clearly our oversight will have to be more rigorous.” Representative Henry Brown (R) agrees with this
saying, “When our young men and women serve their nation, they give their all, Congress expects those entrusted to care
for them to do the same.”
duty members are committing suicide at staggering rates regardless of a Congressional order which mandates the military to
evaluate the mental health of our deployed troops. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), the numbers show that 1 out
of 300 active duty service members actually see a mental clinician before shipping out. Once in country, troops with unstable
mental issues are kept on the front lines but are doped up on anti-depressants and other drugs but are given little if any
counseling. This has helped fuel the suicide rates among the troops serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq . To further inflame
this issue, out of 11 service members who committed suicide in Iraq between 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite the fact
that they were showing obvious signs of mental agony. In at least seven of these cases, the service member’s chain of
command was aware of the problem which is according to investigative records and interviews with family.
There is an estimated
378,000 troops who have served more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan . These recurring tours are severely increasing the
number of individuals who have PTSD and other mental disorders. “The Department of Defense is in the business of keeping
people Deployable,” said Cathleen Wiblemo, deputy director for health care for the American Legion. “What the
consequences are, we haven’t begun to see.”
After discharge former
service members with PTSD, who have not been informed of the symptoms, begins to think they are mentally unstable and the
world would be a better place if they didn’t exist. Due to this there have been too many suicides by suffering veterans.
There has to be an educational campaign started for not only the veterans but the public to relieve the stigma of PTSD and
suicide. The ability to openly discuss these issues will improve the community support accessible to veterans who ponder suicide
and in the end increase the chances of those at risk will be given the care they require. Ileana Arias Ph.D., Director of
the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “We want to change the norms about suicide so that individuals
do not feel any hesitation to access whatever services and resources are available in the event that they start to experience
There are some
bills in both the House and Senate that will help curb this tragic trend among veterans and we ask for your full support.
One piece of legislation that needs to be passed is the “Comprehensive Assistance for Veterans Exposed to Traumatic
Stressors Act of 2006” (S. 3984/HR 1588). This bill provides wide-ranging benefits for veterans of multiple eras to
ensure that no veteran is left behind. To name a few of the benefits, one area it focuses on is extending the eligibility
for readjustment counseling services for Vietnam-era veterans. Requires that the DOD will assist the VA with PTSD and other
mental health-related data collection; substance use disorder questions in pre- and post-deployment screens and related treatment
protocols; and routine preventative maintenance intervention for returning members of the Armed Forces. Directs the Secretary
of Veterans Affairs to develop model programs to address mental health disorders prevalent among veterans of Operations Enduring
Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Requires counseling for immediate family members of disabled veterans and Armed Forces personnel
killed in action. To educate the public and make them more aware of the illness this bill will create a National Steering
Committee on PTSD Education. This legislation will ensure to address deficiencies in compensation and pension examinations
with regard to PTSD. It will also require development of criteria for determining which medical conditions are likely associated
with PTSD and when secondary service-connection should be granted for those conditions. Last it will also provide for an outreach
program to enhance PTSD awareness.
The other proposed bill is the, “Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide
Prevention Act” (S. 3808/H.R 5771) which directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a comprehensive
program for reducing the incidence of suicide among veterans. If you are not aware Joshua Omvig came home from an 11 month
tour of duty in Iraq in November of 2004. According to Josh’s family, the debriefing consisted of only 15 minutes
of, “welcome home, and got any problems? No? Great well let us know if anything changes… see ya!” As usual
his family knew something was odd but did not know the extent of difficulty he was having. Unfortunately on December 22, 2005
he took his own life. Please check out the website his family has to remember him at http://www.joshua-omvig.memory-of.com.Remember
him in the next week and all those that have taken their life because of reckless policies and oversights. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s109-3808.
"A man good enough to shed his blood for his country, is good enough
to receive a square deal afterwards . . ."
-- Theodore Roosevelt
There are more veterans
wounded with PTSD than any other type of combat wound... According to Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) estimates,
there are over 98,000 new PTSD Vets.
U.S. soldiers' suicide rate in Iraq
doubles in 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Suicides among U.S. soldiers in Iraq doubled last year over the previous year to return to a level seen in 2003, U.S. Army medical experts said on Tuesday.
Twenty-two U.S. soldiers in Iraq took their own lives in 2005, a rate of
19.9 per 100,000 soldiers. In 2004, the rate was 10.5 per 100,000 and in 2003, the year of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq,
the figure was 18.8 per 100,000.
The figures cover U.S. Army soldiers only. They do not include members of
other U.S. military services in Iraq such as the Marine Corps.
Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, cautioned against overinterpreting
the figures, saying suicide rates tended to fluctuate from year to year.
"We think that the numbers are so rare to begin with that it's very hard
to make any kind of interpretation," he said at a news conference to present a study on the mental health of U.S. soldiers
"We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some
massive or even significant increase in suicides," he said.
While every suicide was one too many, Kiley said, the suicide rate among
soldiers was lower than the average among civilians of the same age and gender.
The survey, a snapshot of the morale and mental health of U.S. soldiers
in Iraq in late 2005, found 13.6 percent of the soldiers reported symptoms of acute stress and 16.5 percent reported a combination
of depression, anxiety and acute stress.
Those rates were lower than in 2003 but higher than in 2004, the experts