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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Returning Troops 'Stung' by Stateside Healthcare Treatment

By Diane M. Grassi in The Conservative Voice:

There is no longer a shortage of laws and regulations in place as existed during Viet Nam or during the Gulf War with respect to mandated healthcare screenings for returning soldiers. But a lack of political will by the Department of Veterans Affairs in concert with the DOD added to a lack of oversight by a lethargic U.S. Congress, has made life extremely difficult for soldiers with acute mental health problems or those hoping to avoid them by seeking help.

Multiple administrative dilemmas at play at once have impacted the quality of life for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and upon their return. Immediately, due to a shortage of manpower, troops are now being re-deployed to battle as many as five times with less and less time to decompress between tours of duty. Were there not a need for so many bodies in the field, troops displaying emotional problems would be a liability and sent home for treatment.

Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, an expert in psychiatry for the Army’s Surgeon General has insisted that the DOD still prioritizes the mental health of service members. But she admitted that, “Some practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) back into combat had been driven in part by troop shortage.” Absent of outwardly exhibiting symptoms of mental disorders such as PTSD, many troops fail to report their problems due to fear of retribution or are not aware there is a problem until they start acting out in other ways such as through drug or alcohol abuse.

Public Law 105-85, Section 762-767 enacted as part of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act was presented in 1997 in order to force the DOD to comply with both pre-deployment health assessment and post-deployment health assessment for returning soldiers as the result of healthcare problems them after the Gulf War. ... The 1998 law requires evidence that face-to-face interviews are done upon demobilization, but the DOD has refused to turn over such documentation to the Congress, for the past four years, in order to verify that it has been adequately done. Therefore, all of the regulations in the world are of little use unless there is implementation of said regulations. More>>

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