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Saturday, July 15, 2006

PTSD Combat News Roundup: July 10-14, 2006

Good morning!

Sorry it's been so quiet this past week over here. Have been very busy with the book. It's certainly not been a quiet week on the PTSD front, though. This is good. Silence is our enemy; so, as difficult as some of these stories may be, it's a good sign that more people are thinking about these important issues or perhaps hearing about them for the first time. News grafs from the latest articles inside -- some rather important that you won't won't want to miss. Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

PTSD Combat News Roundup: July 10-15, 2006

July 10, 2006 - 49ABC News (Topeka, KS):

Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder double since 2000
VA faced with footing the bill of treating PTSD in veterans
With video

Nearly 10,000 U.S. servicemen and women have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder this year. That's already three times the number of cases the Department of Veteran's Affairs expects for all of 2006. "The cost of all of this is enormous," said Nancy Andreasen, who sits on the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Committee. ...

Recently the VA commissioned an institute of medicine study to make sure its doctors are properly diagnosing the disorder. ... This week commission members met to learn more about PTSD and to discuss what to do with the thousands of cases diagnosed this year.

The committee will evaluate the PTSD screening process to ensure only veterans who deserve compensation receive it. "The costs are going up, and they are projected to be so high the VA is going to go bankrupt," Andreasen said.

Some critics say the study is insulting to veterans, but this year's high number of cases leaves little choice. "Some doctors say PTSD, and some say the vet has a different disability there ought to be a board of psychiatrists reviewing that," said Bart Stichman of the National Veterans Legal Service.

The VA budgeted for the compensation of only 3,000 PTSD cases this year. The number of PTSD cases has doubled since 2000. More >>

July 11, 2006 - Empire Information Services:

Ritter Donates PTSD Stress Relief Videos to DOD

n response to the dire need for a more effective and accessible approach to post-traumatic stress in our troops returning from Iraq, Theresa Ritter, Founder of the Advanced Mind & Body Institute, LLC, announced the donation of her two-volume videos developed relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress due to military service and combat. The videos are now available to the Department of Defense through the Kenneth L. Farmer, Jr., Major General, Medical Corps Commander of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Colonel Stephen Cozza, Chief of Psychiatry is in charge of implementing this PTSD program.

Provided in multiple formats, the videos may be used in laptop computers, video players and for large groups, in movie theaters. They incorporate the only two therapeutic modalities with proven consistent positive results in healing emotional trauma. Key to their effectiveness is Ritter's use of Advanced Eye Movement Therapy (AEMT), a more progressive format of Dr. Francine Shapiro's original Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), now internationally recognized as the leading treatment for post-traumatic stress. The simple operation of these video programs permits self administration and use in the field. More >>

July 12, 2006 - CBS Evening News:

Stressed-Out Soldiers
Men At One Base Say The Army Is Ignoring PTSD Cases
With video
Also: audio interview with military ethicist Nancy Sherman here.

According to a recent report from the Veterans Administration, more than 50,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to be suffering from mental health problems — nearly half of them from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It's well documented and, says the Pentagon, well treated both in the field and at home. But CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports that at least in one large military base in Colorado, soldiers are saying members of the Army Command are simply paying lip service, at best, to PTSD — hindering their treatment and upending their careers.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Fort Carson, Colo., is training to go back to Iraq after experiencing some of the fiercest combat last year. The unit lost soldiers at double the rate of other Army posts around the country, including Pfc. Sam Lee, who committed suicide at a Ramadi Army barracks.

"As he was going outside, that's pretty much when I came in the room and saw him fire on himself," says Pvt. Tyler Jennings. "The second round actually came by and just missed my head and hit my weapon," adds Pvt. Corey Davis. "So I had to use his weapon. And I mean I got it with his blood on it still."

Jennings and Davis say that surreal scene, among many others, led to nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety attacks — classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I had panic attacks every time," says Jennings. "And I had it all set up, I was going to hang myself."

In a recent report, more than one-third of Iraqi war veterans sought help for mental health problems, including PTSD, within a year of returning home. A report from a congressional watchdog group detailed failures by the Department of Defense to identify and deal with anxiety issues like PTSD.

In the face of what some are calling an epidemic of PTSD in the military, nearly a dozen soldiers at Fort Carson told CBS News that their cries for mental health either went unanswered or they found themselves subject to unrelenting abuse and ridicule. More >>

July 12, 2006 - Pulse of the Twin Cities:

A Soldier's Heart Then and Now

When Richard Saholt joined the Army in 1942, he did so in hopes of proving himself to his father and society. He did, by becoming a sniper, scout, point man and a member of the infamous 10th Mountain Division.
The division were ski paratroopers, and Saholt earned the Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star. The training alone was the most brutal and rigorous training known in the military.

Conducted at an elevation of 10,000 feet, many soldiers couldn’t meet the physical and mental challenges. Later his division fought a fierce battle against the Nazi’s Gothic Line in the Italian Alps during WWII, where 90 percent of the U.S.’s 14,000- member division were wounded or killed. “We destroyed nine of their cracked Alpine Divisions!” he wrote to me. “They were written up in World War II as the finest trained fighters in the world. They were Hitler’s most famous troops!” ...

How is Saholt’s story connected to the millions of other war veterans who have served in World War II and since then?

What veterans have in common are a few things. First, many veterans joined the military to prove themselves to either their families or society; to leave an abusive situation in their home lives; or because of recruiters’ promises—later known to have been broken. Second, plenty of veterans have members in their families who are or were war veterans, and how they came home—or didn’t come home—affected not only the immediate family, but the rest of society. More >>

July 12, 2006 - Colorado Springs Indy News:

Major law-enforcement and psychological agencies in Colorado Springs are not tracking incidents involving returning soldiers and their families in a way that would spotlight pathways for help.

Pikes Peak Mental Health, a community nonprofit that treats families from Fort Carson and other military installations, has seen the need for soldier care surge since the war began, says spokeswoman Cynthia Zupanec. But she cannot say whether post-traumatic stress disorder is predominant among the issues at hand.

While the El Paso County jail gathers data on the arrests of military personnel, it does not record the specific unit the soldier is with — a measure that would help indicate whether there is ebb and flow into the jail for crimes generally associated with the mental health of soldiers returning from war.

Georg-Andreas "Andrew" Pogany, a former Fort Carson soldier who leads Operation Just One, a group that helps Iraq war veterans obtain confidential, free counseling, says local agencies should be gathering data to see if PTSD is causing a rise in social ills. "We know it is out there," he says. "But how will they know how and where to target resources — how to help these soldiers — if they aren't taking the time to track what happens when soldiers return? How will they prevent problems before they escalate?" More >>

July 13, 2006 - Hartford Courant:

A Look At Military Mental Health Policy
Task Force Set To Examine Screening, Treatment
Including large portion of article for educational purposes only.

Members of a military task force examining mental health services for troops will gather for the first time this weekend to assess whether the Armed Forces are doing enough for troubled soldiers.

The Defense Task Force on Mental Health was established by Congress last year, amid criticism of the military's mental health screening and treatment. The 14-member group, split evenly between military and non-military experts, is required to submit a report and recommendations to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by May 2007.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sponsor of the bill that established the task force, met Wednesday with Army Surgeon General Kevin C. Kiley - co-chairman of the task force - and said she urged him to pay close attention to three areas:

  • establishing uniform standards governing when troops with post-traumatic stress disorder or other serious mental illnesses can be deployed;
  • deciding which psychiatric medications are compatible with combat deployments; and
  • drafting rules addressing the authority of commanders to overrule a mental health professional's conclusion that a service member is not mentally fit for combat
Boxer said it was important for the military to develop across-the-board deployment policies for troops suffering from PTSD and other mental problems. "There certainly isn't a standard here," she said. The committee is also expected to look at ways to reduce the military stigma associated with mental health treatment - among both commanders and ground troops.

Many of the issues to be examined by the task force were the subject of a four-part series in The Courant in May that reported the military was increasingly sending mentally troubled troops into combat, keeping them there and assigning them to additional combat tours. ...

Boxer said she was moved to propose the mental health task force after hearing a year ago from a military physician who complained he had been pressured to avoid diagnosing soldiers as having PTSD, and was told instead to choose a more transient diagnosis, such as combat stress, that would not interfere with sending a soldier back to combat.

Boxer said she is still hearing from "whistleblower physicians," including a recent call from a doctor who discovered a soldier with bipolar disorder had been accepted for deployment, contrary to the Army's own regulations.

July 13, 2006 - Huffington Post:

Traumatic Stress

Department of Veterans Affairs Hospitals and Clinics have treated more than 168,000 returning veterans and over one third face serious mental distress. Unfortunately, active duty soldiers fear the stigma attached to a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis which can be used to end one's career, so many cases go unreported. No one is inspecting their mental health before they return to combat, and now we are seeing the results.

If we hope to stop these horrifying incidents from occurring we must address the larger issues such as; inspecting the American men and women serving their country as thoroughly as our military equipment, repeated deployments of individuals, and the growing health care needs of the veterans. Accountability must not be limited to the individual soldiers being accused of these crimes and legislation must be passed to protect our soldiers from returning to a war zone with mental health issues. There must be a thorough review of the policies of repeat deployments and the lack of prompt and comprehensive screenings for our returning soldiers

Currently legislation is in the works that will require the military to gain the approval of a credentialed mental health professional before a service member diagnosed as having a duty-limiting mental condition could be redeployed back to a war zone. More is needed! Soldiers must be allowed confidential face to face mental health exams when they return from deployment and our leaders must address the core issues behind the causes of the reported atrocities. By doing this and more we will truly be supporting the troops and ensuring they receive the needed care they have earned.

One of the tragic consequences of stretching our military too thin is that men and women who are suffering from mental health disorders are not only being asked to serve, but often asked to serve multiple deployments. Our nation must stop ignoring the very real question of military readiness as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw on. More >>

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