In Thursday's Desert Dispatch News, it was reported that approximately 30% of the 2,000 or so troops who have returned to Fort Irwin from Iraq over the past six months are suffering from some form of PTSD. Many of these troops have to return from Iraq, where they have seen and participated in acts that they probably never could have imagined.
The flashbacks, nightmares, sleepless nights, anger, anxiety and other things that take over their lives, as well as the lives of their families require therapy, other treatment, as well as long term monitoring and support. The veterans who are suffering from these symptoms are not counted in the "casualty statistics". These people, who have put their families and lives on the line to fight for what quickly was discovered to be lies and greed, will never be the same.
And time and time again, the car magnet, flag waving, finger pointing, "troop supportingTM" Murkins, talking meatsticks and hypocritical chickenhawk republicans in Congress and this administration do whatever they can to give new credence to the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do world that we unfortunately live in.
PTSD for the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is not something that should surprise anyone one bit. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people are and have been sent off to "war" logically means that many will return (as is always the case) physically injured, emotionally scarred, or even worse, dead. According to Lt. Col. Valvincent Reyes, the senior social work officer at Fort Irwin's mental health department:
Reyes said the symptoms for soldiers vary but usually include nightmares, problems sleeping, anger, anxiety, detachment from the outside world and intrusive thoughts or flashbacks.
"Five different belief systems are impacted in war," he said, citing the ideas of safety, control, a belief in power, self-esteem and trust. "That's changed once they run into IEDs and mortars."
Most soldiers, he said, can never prepare for the amount of physical bodily damage done by an improvised explosive device, or IED. The images of destruction stay with the soldiers long after they leave the war zone. Fort Irwin soldiers are no exception.
The Veterans Disability Benefits Commission is also focusing on PTSD as well in recent meetings:
Dramatic increases in the number of PTSD cases reported among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have been a major concern for Congress and the Bush administration, with disagreements surfacing about whether enough steps are being taken to locate and provide treatment for PTSD sufferers. Post-deployment health access has been a major concern for National Guard and reserve members who often live too far from military or veterans' hospitals to easily receive what help is available.
Yet, time and time again, the ones who yell the loudest about how much they support the troops are the ones that are in reality, giving them the finger. Let's look back at how much these returning troops have been screwed by the republican congress and the chickenhawks in the administration.
In 2003, health care benefits for returning veterans were cut from lifetime benefits to two years of health care benefits. Not only that but co-payments increased, as did waiting time to receive services. Of course, for anyone that saw Paul Reickhoff and the IAVA workshop at YKos or have read any of ilona's great work on Iraqi veterans and PTSD knows how much support and therapy is needed for a soldier who has returned from Iraq or Afghanistan to a vastly different world than the one that they left. Or how desperate, depressed and alone one can feel upon returning.
Here is another release on the 2003 cuts to veterans programs to the tune of around $25 billion. But of course, the uber wealthy, big oil and many corporate cronies received the benefit of these cuts for veterans.
Let's also not forget the other cuts to VA funding over the past year or so.
The Budget Resolution passed by both houses of Congress will result in staff reductions in every VA Medical Center at a most inauspicious time--as veterans return from the war in Iraq and as increasing numbers of veterans need care from the system, said Thomas H. Corey, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).-
The impact will be significant among those returning troops who suffer from mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), those who have sustained loss of limbs, and other serious injuries.
In addition to devastating decreases in the availability of care for veterans that will result from such budget cuts, the VA seems determined to contest even long-standing disability compensation for PTSD from veterans currently receiving VA benefits and health care. A recent VA Inspector General's (IG) report concluded that following a brief review of certain grants of service-connected benefits for PTSD, the "subjectivity" involved in such determinations has resulted in over-granting of benefits.
As a result, the VA will be reviewing PTSD grants between 1999 and 2004, with an eye toward revoking benefits if the claim was adjusted incorrectly. "VVA believes that the "subjectivity" offered to the IG report is a euphemism for poor training and quality control of VA adjudication staff.
"We must make it crystal clear to Congress that the budget appropriation for fiscal year 2006 year is at least $3.5 billion less than what is needed to fund the VA medical programs adequately," Corey said. "This is a critical time. Without these resources, veterans will have longer waits to see specialists, much-needed maintenance will be deferred, and medical equipment will not be purchased.
And these cuts were so egregious that 54 House members wrote a letter last year urging for a reconsideration of the cuts.
These veterans can not be forgotten or swept under the rug. They served their country at the orders of those who lied to them. By those who had no plan for them. Or enough armor, equipment or other necessary supplies. They are coming back to the country they served and are being treated in an appalling manner.
Those who are responsible for sending these troops overseas hold the most responsibility to ensure that they are adequately taken care of upon their return. Not their cronies who already have millions or billions. Not big industry who already have more tax breaks than they need.
The veterans. Those who have served and are paying the price upon return. These people are experiencing horrors that most of us can not even fathom. And they deserve way more than they are getting by the republican congress and neocon war criminals in the administration.