Sunday, August 14, 2005

Veterans Returning From Iraq With Problems Too Serious For Local Help

As the Veterans administration moves to “eliminate” up to 72,000 veterans with service connected combat related Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), keeping in mind the majority of these veterans are disabled Vietnam veterans, we read another story/report of the high numbers coming back from Iraq with PTSD. "Eliminate" is my choice of words as in the end that is what they are after in cost cutting.

Instead of congress properly funding the V.A. the V.A. and congress does the usual—pit veteran against veteran for diminishing funds; as well as pitting the V.A. against active duty military for those funds. After all the V.A. budget is under control of David Chu at the DoD/Penatgon, who not long ago stated that, “…continued payments to veterans is a threat to our national security as it is taking needed funds away from the military…” Use ‘em up and throw them away is the mantra of
Bush/Cheney & Co., Inc. and the party loyalists and stooges put in charge of the various federal agencies by Bush.

Remember Henry Kissinger when he was the so-called “National Security Advisor” telling us, “…people in the military are dumb animals to be used for our purposes…” Seems not much has changed has it? How many other communities are facing what the one in Iowa is now facing?--Increased numbers coming back from Iraq with severe PTSD and no way to take care of them.

How many of them will face the next 25 to 30+ years fighting their own government as have tens upon tens of thousands of Vietnam and Gulf War I veterans, for what they deserve—a V.A. that actually has the veterans in mind, heart and actual practice? Obviously that is a rhetorical question.--Jack

Veterans returning from Iraq with problems too serious for local help


Desmoines Register
Aug 13, 2005

Many central Iowa soldiers have returned from combat in Iraq with health problems that Polk County veterans’ officials say they are not equipped to address."Almost every single Iraq vet who walks into our office has some kind of serious problem, many with mental health problems. So we just have to refer them on," said David DeBolt, director of the Polk County Commission on Veteran Affairs . "We're here to help with basic needs - some rent money, help with the bills, prescriptions, transportation around town."

Of the 208 Iraq war veterans the county commission has seen over the past two years, 59 received help from the county. Many of the rest were sent to federal Veterans Affairs hospitals in Des Moines and Knoxville, or to the Vet Center, an outpatient counseling facility in Des Moines.

Dozens more will be referred this year. As a result, county commissioners spent only about $800,000 of the nearly $1.1 million devoted to veterans in the budget year that ended June 30.

The two Veterans Affairs hospitals have treated 333 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since September 2003. The Vet Center saw dozens more. Less than 10 percent sought treatment for severe mental health problems, but doctors and veterans advocates say that figure could triple in years ahead.

"I think we'll see a lot more" with mental problems, said Dr. Steven Hagemoser, a clinical psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Des Moines. "It takes time for them to trickle in. The VA is not the first place they come to. Often, they come to us only after everything else hasn't worked and they're really struggling."

In addition to hundreds of full-time soldiers, about 2,700 Iowans are on active duty with the Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Iowa Air National Guard and Iowa Army National Guard. Many of them are in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.Veterans Affairs doctors said U.S. soldiers are well-trained and remarkably resilient. The majority will return from war and adjust without major problems, they said.

But Hagemoser noted that over time, a third of Vietnam War veterans grappled with serious mental health problems. Iraq veterans are similar to those from the Vietnam era in that they see face-to-face combat and, on a daily basis, aren't sure when or by whom they might be attacked. Such conditions foster high levels of stress, which can fester into more serious health problems.

A March report in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that those numbers already are on the rise nationally. About 20 percent of eligible Iraq and Afghanistan veterans sought treatment at Veterans Affairs hospitals between October 2003 and February. A fourth were diagnosed with mental disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was most common, diagnosed in 10 percent of patients. It can be triggered by the carnage of combat, can change the brain's chemistry, and can cause panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression.

Retired Spc. Robert "B.J." Jackson of the Iowa Army National Guard, whose legs were amputated below the knees after his Humvee was attacked in Baghdad two years ago, now works as an advocate for disabled veterans. He's traveled the country to meet with Iraq veterans and says post-traumatic stress is a common problem.

"Just the things they've seen in combat, that's a big thing," Jackson said. "For others, they get caught up in a firefight, it's ugly, and they make it out. Then they struggle with survivor's guilt - you know, 'Why did I make it out and my buddy didn't?' "

All of which, DeBolt said, explains why the Polk County veterans commission kept its budget request for this year flat. Although it will assist about 1,600 veterans this year, an increased number will be from the Iraq war and in need of help that is beyond the commission's mission.

"We'd like to spend every dime we get helping veterans," DeBolt said. "But the fact is, they're coming in with serious problems - post-traumatic stress, you name it.

"And they are problems that are getting bigger and bigger."

For addition information on this and other problems facing this nations' veterans see:

Vets For Justice:

VVA's Guide on PTSD:


Blogger NJVetCaucus said...

When are we going to start a limb count, an eye count, a count on those who suffer PTSD and other psychological deficets?

Sun Aug 14, 05:21:00 PM  

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