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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In San Diego? Plan to Attend Public Wounded Warriors Commission Hearing on Thursday

From the North County Times:

President George W. Bush's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors will hold its second public meeting outside Washington D.C. [Thursday] at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina, at 333 West Harbor Drive in San Diego.

The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. meeting will focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, a malady that afflicts a growing number of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Members of the public will be allowed to comment on some of the many issues to be discussed, including the identification of post-traumatic stress disorder, support benefits and case management.

Video report here. h/t Barbara

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for updated info on meeting...

[UPDATE May 25 2007] From AP:

The Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, which President Bush appointed this year following revelations of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, focused for the first time on PTSD. The bipartisan commission has been holding hearings on veterans care and will issue a set of recommendations this summer.

"The military system does not have enough resources, funding or personnel to adequately support the psychiatric health of service members and their families in peace and during conflict," Dr. Richard McCormick, a professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, told the commission. "This creates a perfect storm of barriers to receiving care."

McCormick, who recently helped compile a report for the secretary of defense on the nation's mental health care for veterans, said there is insufficient training of family members and medical personnel about psychological issues, and patients' care is often disrupted when they transition from active duty to retirement. "Military treatment facilities currently lack the resources to provide a full continuum of psychological health care for active duty service members and their families," he said.

Speaking of the stigma of reaching out for care:

"There are natural stress reactions, it doesn't mean you are weak, it means you are human," McCormick said.

Miguel Delgado, a former Navy corpsman who returned from Iraq in 2004, said the constant stresses of seeing injured Marines led him to develop PTSD. As a medic who was himself trained to recognize signs of combat stress in his troops, Delgado still hesitated before he contacted doctors about his symptoms. "There is such a strong bond within our military units that to admit to combat stress or PTSD would label you as being weak or a non-team player," said Delgado. "PTSD has consumed my life. I no longer have the quality of life I once enjoyed."

According to Army psychiatrist Col. Elspeth Ritchie, 17 percent of soldiers who have seen combat in Iraq experience PTSD, a problem made worse by multiple or prolonged deployments. She said the rate could eventually increase further, as symptoms often take many years to manifest. PTSD effects about 4 percent of the general population.

Ritchie said that according to a recent study, the suicide rate of active duty soldiers increased to 17.3 per thousand last year, compared to the typical rate of about 11 per thousand. She recommended training more front-line counselors, including military chaplains, as one way to better recognize and treat PTSD.

This is perhaps the most shocking revelation of the day:

Dr. Nancy Andreasen, a professor in the Psychiatry Department at Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, told the commission that the Department of Veterans Affairs currently looks for symptoms of PTSD using a psychological test that was developed to look for schizophrenia. "It is of little use, but widely used in the VA," Andreasen said.

Would any readers who are employed at the VA wish to toss in some comment on this -- anonymously, of course, if you wish? Would appreciate hearing views on the psychological test used at the VA, since it's the first time I've heard it described that way.

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