An LTE from a friend in yesterday's Southtown Economist:
In this veteran's opinion this is about time: U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd is asking newly appointed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to ensure that soldiers debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses are not sent back into combat.
Think about this: VA doctors have diagnosed military personnel unfit to serve. And the VA has granted some of these men and women 70 percent disabilities for PTSD and other mental problems. But yet these men and women are being called back up to go to Iraq. I do not care if it is a Republican or a Democrat who brings an end to this practice just as long as it stops.
To me it seems unacceptable and perhaps very reckless to ask these heroes to go back into combat when they have been deemed mentally unfit by medical professionals. Plus it put our troops at risk.
I couldn't agree more with Dale's sentiments.
Keeping returning veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD from having to return to the combat zone should be one of our New Year's Resolutions.
Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more on Dodd's actions...
Lisa Chedekel in the Hartford Courant:
U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd is asking newly appointed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to ensure that soldiers debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses are not sent back into combat.
"If experienced VA doctors diagnose military personnel with incapacitating disabilities, such as severe PTSD, it would seem counter to our national security interests for the military services to somehow disregard these evaluations for less thorough assessments performed by military officials," Dodd wrote in a letter Tuesday to Gates. "It seems unacceptable and perhaps even reckless to ask our servicemen and women to entrust their lives to soldiers deemed mentally unfit by medical professionals."
Much like NPR's Fort Carson investigation moved Sens. Boxer, Bond, and Obama to push for hearings on reported intimidation of troops who dared come forward with mental health issues, this movement by Sen. Dodd can also be directly linked to tenacious reporting, this time by the Hartford Courant. (The Courant has done a remarkable job of reporting on combat PTSD in 2006.)
One of the soldiers, Damian Fernandez, 24, of Waterbury, was diagnosed with severe PTSD and rated 70 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs after returning from Iraq in 2005. When he received a letter from the Army last month ordering him to report for duty Jan. 14, he became suicidal and was admitted to a lockdown unit at the Northampton VA Medical Center in Massachusetts, where he remains. The Army is now reviewing his medical records.
Dodd asked Gates to exempt Fernandez from being recalled.
Fernandez's mother, Mary Jane Fernandez, had appealed to a number of state elected officials in recent weeks to intervene on her son's behalf. She has said she is stunned that the Army would want to redeploy her son, who suffers from paranoia and depression and has threatened to hurt himself and others.
While military families are stressed and struggling to keep their loved ones with combat PTSD alive and well, whose problem should it be when the military attempts to redploy such a soldier who has received a PTSD diagnosis from the VA?
[A]n Army spokesman told The Courant that mental and physical disabilities, including PTSD, are not an "automatic exemption" from serving. The spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, said the Army does not have a system for checking veterans' disabilities before sending out the call-up orders, and the onus is on the soldiers to provide documentation that their medical conditions preclude deployment.
How's that for supporting the troops?
- More than 50% of Army's 948 Suicide Attempts in 2006 Sought Help First
- Important GAO Request Made By Senators Seeking Answers on PTSD-Deployed Troops
- Resolution: No More Troops Sent Back w/PTSD
- PTSD Timeline: The Latest Incidents
- Back in the News: Troops Returned to Combat Zone with PTSD
- Drug War: More Details on Medicated Troops in Combat
- NPR's On Point: Troops in Combat Zone on Anti-Depressants
- Troops Medicated, Returned to Combat
- Sens. to DOD: Stop Sending Troops with PTSD Back to Combat
- Kansas City Star: DOD Needs to Do Better on PTSD
- Hartford Courant: DOD Ignoring Troop Mental Health