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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fort Carson Visited by Congressional Staffers Today, Tomorrow

Last week, NPR reported on on the fall-out of a 6 month Fort Carson, Colo., investigation: the Army plans to court-martial one of the troops who spoke out on soldier intimidation and harrassment directed at those complaining of symptoms associated with PTSD. Sheesh.

Today comes more fall-out as congressional staffers are scheduled to arrive on base to do a bit of investigating of their own:

Three U.S. senators who raised questions last month over Fort Carson's treatment of soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, will send staff members to the post Thursday and Friday to review its program for diagnosing and treating PTSD among Iraq combat veterans.

Staffers from the offices of Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL), Barbara Boxer, (D-CA), and Kit Bond, (R-MO) will arrive Thursday morning for the fact-finding tour. Four of Colorado's congressional delegation will also send staffers on the tour. They include representatives from Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar and Reps. Mark Udall and Doug Lamborn.

Obama, Boxer and Bond voiced concern over the Fort Carson program following a National Public Radio program Dec. 4, that interviewed several Fort Carson soldiers who said they were not provided with proper medical treatment for PTSD after returning from Iraq with symptoms of mental and emotional disorders.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Additional details from the Rocky Mountain News:

Fort Carson's top medical officials have insisted that their staff is not mistreating soldiers. "We are seeing the soldiers, treating them well and providing the care they need," said Col. John Cho, a surgeon and commanding officer of Fort Carson's Evans Army Medical Center.

The visit will include briefings and interviews with Fort Carson medical officials and rank-and-file soldiers. ... Several Fort Carson soldiers complained that they were harassed by junior officers and noncommissioned officers after seeking doctor's appointments for mental and emotional problems after coming home from Iraq. Some said they were denied permission to obtain appointments to see Army doctors for PTSD symptoms. Others said they were threatened with disciplinary action, and some said they were given discharges for personality disorders or patterns of misconduct.

Certain discharges can leave soldiers ineligible for veterans medical care and other benefits. Fort Carson had diagnosed 577 cases of PTSD in 2006 through early December and expected the number to surpass 600 for the year. That compares with only 32 cases in 2002, before the Iraq war began.

Cause for concern:

A recent General Accountability Office report criticized the Army and other branches of the military for inconsistent diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. The Department of Defense "cannot provide reasonable assurance that service members who need referrals for further mental health or combat operational stress reaction evaluations receive them," the report stated.

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