Showing posts with label wounded redeployed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wounded redeployed. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Narcotic pain relief use for troops raises fears

picture from MSN

Increase in painkillers for troops raises fears

By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Tuesday Oct 21, 2008 8:41:24 EDT

WASHINGTON — Narcotic pain-relief prescriptions for injured U.S. troops have jumped from 30,000 a month to 50,000 since the Iraq war began, raising concerns about the drugs’ potential abuse and addiction, a leading Army pain expert said.

The sharp rise in outpatient prescriptions suggests doctors rely too heavily on narcotics and don’t manage pain with a complex array of treatments, said Army Col. Chester “Trip” Buckenmaier III, director of the Acute Pain Service Management Initiative at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

By 2005, two years into the war, narcotic painkillers were the most abused drug in the military, according to a survey that year of 16,146 service members.

Among soldiers, 4 percent surveyed in 2005 admitted abusing prescription narcotics in the previous 30 days, with 10 percent doing so in the last 12 months. Researchers said the higher abuse figures might be due to respondents mistakenly referring to legal use of pain medication. A 2008 survey has not been released.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wounded body, mind and medicated

the battle within
Soldiering on in pain
Troops who return from war with battered bodies and minds are increasingly turning to prescription medication to ease their injuries.
By David Olinger and Erin Emery
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 08/25/2008 11:21:18 PM MDT

Strain of duty surfaces

Military officials say there is no way to track how much pain and behavioral medication is being consumed by soldiers at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, in part because soldiers and military doctors often bring medication from home when they're sent overseas.

Annual surveys by a military mental- health advisory team, however, have asked soldiers whether they have taken medicine for mental health, combat stress or sleep problems. The number who said yes jumped from 8 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2005, then dipped to 12 percent in 2006. Last year, one in eight soldiers surveyed in Iraq and one in seven in Afghanistan said they had taken sleeping pills or antidepressants.

If those surveys are accurate, nearly 20,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan took mental-health or sleep medication last year. According to Ritchie, about half of those soldiers took antidepressants.

By comparison, roughly one in 20 American men and one in 10 American women reported taking an antidepressant in the most recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For three straight years, the mental- health advisory team has reported that multiple deployments are affecting the Army's mental health. This year it reported that 27 percent of noncommissioned officers with three or more deployments had mental-health problems, compared with 12 percent on their first tour.

Alcohol use increased with second deployments, and soldiers deploying for the third or fourth time were "significantly more likely" to report they had stress or emotional problems that worried their supervisors and limited their ability to do their jobs.

The mental-health surveys do not ask how many soldiers go to war with physical pain or are regularly taking narcotics.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Redeployed wounded, the part of the surge no one talks about

CHUCK CLAMON With a mix of medication prescribed after suffering head and spine injuries in Iraq, the sergeant first class says, I feel helpless. I could care less about actually leaving the house now. (Post Andy Cross )

DENNY NELSON The 19-year Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient was sent to Kuwait while he was still using crutches. (Post Andy Cross )

AMY DUERKSEN The 19-year-old s family calls her suicide in Iraq friendly fire - because they failed to take care of a fellow soldier. Her diary talks of her rape at a training session before being deployed.

The battle within
Soldiers who struggle with pained bodies or troubled minds still get deployed, sometimes on crutches or antidepressants, by an Army pressed to fill the ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By Erin Emery and David Olinger
The Denver Post

In the weeks before Christmas last year, a brigade of battle-bruised soldiers left Colorado's Fort Carson for its third round of war in Iraq.

Sgt. Colin Barton was getting Botox shots in his forehead to kill the relentless pain from a brain injury. Army doctors said he should not wear a helmet — a safety requirement for the flight to Iraq. The Army sent him anyway.

Sgt. Joshua Rackley, recovering from his eighth knee surgery, was classified as permanently injured. The Army sent him anyway.

Master Sgt. Denny Nelson and Sgt. Joseph Smith didn't have time to recover from predeployment surgeries. Nelson hobbled with crutches; Smith wore a post-surgical boot. Sgt. Tim Graham brought a sleep-apnea machine. Sgt. 1st Class Walter Overton had a shoulder injury and couldn't lift his gear. Spec. Joseph Leon was popping morphine pills to dull the nerve damage to his groin.

The Army sent them too.

Five years into the war in Iraq and six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Army is sending soldiers with physical and mental injuries back to war, at times overruling physicians' classifications of soldiers as "nondeployable."

Facing demands unprecedented in the history of the all-volunteer force, the Army has deployed soldiers with slings and crutches and some who need machines to help keep them alive through the night. Thousands are taking pain, sleep or antidepressant medication, with sometimes deadly consequences.

The pressure to send marginal soldiers grew with the "surge" of troops to Iraq in January 2007, an effort that Army leaders say has succeeded in stabilizing the nation's government and reducing sectarian violence.

Yet from the onset of the Iraq war, deployment pressures have been evident. An Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center analysis shows that 43,000 service members — two-thirds of them in the Army or Army Reserve — were classified as nondeployable for medical reasons three months before they deployed.

Through May, about 206,000 soldiers, plus about 63,000 in the Army National Guard and Reserve, had gone to Iraq or Afghanistan at least twice, Army data show.

TRAVIS VIRGADAMO The night he was given back his gun in Iraq, he killed himself, his grandmother said. The teen was on Prozac when he was deployed and had been previously been on suicide watch, she said.
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Five deployments, a bad omen

Report: 57% of troops sent on combat tours

By Tom Vanden Brook - USA Today
Posted : Monday Aug 11, 2008 9:12:30 EDT

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has pushed an increasing percentage of its troops to combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past two years, seeking to spread the burden on forces strained by multiple deployments, records show.

Through June, 57 percent of active-duty soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen have served in or near Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s up from 50 percent in August 2006.

The Army, which shoulders most of the combat, has shifted many soldiers to specialties needed for the fight. They include infantry, military police and intelligence. In 2006, 58 percent of active-duty soldiers had served combat tours. That compares with 68 percent in 2008. About 10 percent more are in initial training and soon will be eligible for a combat deployment, said Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman. Soldiers who haven’t served in Iraq or Afghanistan may have medical problems, or they have specialties such as foreign language skills useful in other parts of the world, she said.

The percentage of soldiers who have served multiple deployments has jumped, as well. Today, 31 percent of soldiers have been to war zones more than once. That compares with 20 percent in 2006. The number of soldiers with more than five tours has increased to 2,358 in 2008, compared with 961 in 2006.
Martin said commanders should carefully monitor soldiers and Marines who face the most stressful combat assignments, calling them “canaries in the coal mine.”
“Those who are most exposed and in the most challenging spots are at greater risk for post-traumatic stress,” he said.

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I post this last year on this blog. The report came out in December 2006
Repeat Iraq Tours Raise Risk of PTSD, Army Finds

By Ann Scott Tyson

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 20, 2006; Page A19

U.S. soldiers serving repeated Iraq deployments are 50 percent more likely than those with one tour to suffer from acute combat stress, raising their risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Army's first survey exploring how today's multiple war-zone rotations affect soldiers' mental health

So why is it no one took this seriously? Why didn't anyone do anything about the Army and National Guards and Reservists carrying the weight of the two occupations on their shoulders? The results are devastating. Increased suicides. Increased attempted suicides. Increased PTSD wounded and there is no end to the redeployments. Yet they wonder why there are so many.

The time between deployments is not good either.

Statement of Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., USA
Director, Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research
Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense

Soldiers encounter a variety of traumatic experiences and stresses as part of their professional duties. The majority cope extraordinarily well and transition home successfully. However, surveys in the post-deployment period have shown that rates of mental health problems, particularly PTSD, remain elevated and even increase during the first 12 months after return home, indicating that 12 months is insufficient time to reset the mental health of Soldiers after a year-plus combat tour. Many of the reactions that we label as “symptoms” of PTSD when Soldiers come home are, in fact, adaptive skills necessary in combat that Soldiers must turn on again when they return for their next deployment.,%20M.D.,%20USA

This testimony has different figures on the redeployment risk and also credits BatttleMind with some seeking help in 30 days. This is very troublesome. It is also troublesome that the report also said that there are less than half seeking treatment.

How many reports do we need to read before the DOD takes any of the seriously? The Army and citizen soldiers have the longest deployments, not enough time between them and not enough understanding of what PTSD is so they can and do get help as soon as possible.

There are far too many coming home, waiting to "get over it" and when they understand they cannot get over it on their own, they are redeployed instead of treated. They go back into battle mode already wounded, cycle back into life back home only they are more wounded than they were the first time home. Now think of 5 deployments "five tours has increased to 2,358 in 2008" and all of this is a bad omen of what we will be facing when we are unable to keep up with any of these wounded now.

When it comes to doing outreach work, the DOD and the VA have gotten better at it but we need to ask what good the outreach work is doing when there are still not enough mental health professionals now. The outreach work I do on the education end will do no good at all unless there are people there who can diagnose and treat our veterans. We need as many as we can get taking care of them. Time to stop taking baby steps and start to treat PTSD as if it was the most dangerous enemy this nation could ever face because it is. When we lose more after combat than we do during it, there is no stronger enemy on earth than the enemy who penetrates do deeply it attacks the soldiers as well as their families. Do we listed to the omen finally after it has been screaming for years?

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 were on Prozac or Zoloft

Nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 took psychotropic drugs like Prozac and Zoloft.

The military’s invisible wounds
by David Isenberg August 4th, 2008

Yesterday I was a panelist on a television program talking about the rising number of suicides and suicide attempts in the American military.

Being a veteran myself, and having acted as a veteran’s advocate in my undergraduate days vets issues have always been of special interest to me. So let me summarize some of the facts that you may be unfamiliar with.

Currently, many veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from invisible wounds. As in previous wars, service members can leave a war zone, but the war often follows them in their minds.

Numbers are always iffy but according to a RAND study released in April, nearly one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression. It estimated that 830,000 veterans - 300,000 of whom served in Iraq or Afghanistan - suffer from depression or PTSD symptoms.

Why might troops be medicating themselves? Well, consider that repeated deployments to the war zones also contribute to the onset of mental-health problems. Nearly 30% of troops on their third deployment suffer from serious mental-health problems, a top Army psychiatrist told Congress in March. The doctor, said that recent research has shown the current 12 months between combat tours “is insufficient time” for soldiers “to reset” and recover from the stress of a combat tour before heading back to war.
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Monday, August 4, 2008

Soldier suffers survivors guilt from hearing loss because commander didn't care what doctor said

Staff Sgt. Kevin Dunne blames himself for the death of Sgt. Richard Vaughn because he could not hear where the gun shots were coming from. A doctor at Fort Hood said Dunne's hearing was so bad he should be discharged, but yet again, Fort Hood commanders thought they knew better than a doctor did. Now in the 3rd deployment, Dunne is left to deal with survivors guilt of the death he feels he should have been able to prevent. He shouldn't have been there at all. So now his hearing has suffered for his service and he is also left with the result of being sent back because some commander thought whatever the doctor said, just didn't matter enough. This story is not new because unit after unit has been sending the wounded back to Iraq and Afghanistan, no matter how serious the wound is or what the wound would do to the soldiers and citizen solders. Will anyone at Fort Hood be held accountable for this decision?

Study: 1 in 4 soldiers at war have hearing loss

By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Monday Aug 4, 2008 9:44:19 EDT

The bombs along the Baghdad road exploded one after the other, leaving one soldier unconscious and another screaming from his wounds. Staff Sgt. Kevin Dunne's squad was under attack. Rifle and machine gun fire pinned them down. Then, shots from a sniper.

Dunne yelled orders, but he and his squad were at a disadvantage.

Dunne said he couldn't hear well enough to tell where the sniper fire was coming from.

"I had no idea," he wrote in an e-mail to USA Today.

In the four months before the April 7 attack, the chief physician at Fort Hood, Texas, had warned that Dunne's hearing was so bad that he should be removed from combat duties. Others in the Army overruled him and sent Dunne back to Iraq for his third combat tour.
Now, a member of Dunne's squad — Sgt. Richard Vaughn, 22, of San Diego — lay dead from a sniper's bullet.

"He was lying in the middle of the street motionless," Dunne wrote. "I blame myself a lot for not being able to identify the threat simply because of the way I heard the shots."
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Against the Odds, Injured Soldier Returning to Duty

Joseph Shapiro/NPR
Army Spc. Freddy Meyers wants to return to active duty after sustaining a head injury from sniper fire in active combat.

Against the Odds, Injured Soldier Returning to Duty
by Joseph Shapiro
Listen Now [5 min 22 sec] add to playlist

All Things Considered, June 24, 2008 · Army Spc. Freddy Meyers wants to return to active duty. The 21-year-old has been living in the outpatient barracks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., since this May. And he's about to go to a meeting that will determine his future in the Army.
Generally, it isn't even remotely possible for someone who suffered a penetrating head injury to stay on active duty. Last year, while on patrol in Iraq, Freddy Meyers was shot in the head.
He pulls out the PDA he keeps in a pocket on the pant leg of his uniform. Meyers still has problems with his short-term memory. To compensate, he has had to learn to be very organized and write down the things he needs to remember — like questions for the doctor. He reads them from his Palm Pilot: "I'm going to ask him about my physical limitations, protective profile, my jump status, my deployability, what the effect of multiple concussions will be, Ranger school, duty restrictions, Zyrtec and my Red Cross volunteer letter."
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also on wounded going back

Q and A: Returning to Combat

In June 2003, Army Maj. David Rozelle was leading a convoy west of Baghdad when his vehicle hit a land mine. His right foot had to be amputated. Two years later, with a prosthetic foot, he returned to Iraq as a cavalry troop commander — the first amputee in this war to return to combat.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

PTSD and other wounded still going back to Iraq

Disabled Sent Back To War
Tom Philpott June 19, 2008
Disabled Soldier Returning To War, Facing 'Stop Loss'

One day last August, while manning the .50-caliber gun atop his a Humvee on a dirt road in northern Iraq, Army Spc. Daniel "Joey" Haun suddenly lost consciousness. His vehicle had struck by a buried bomb, an "improvised explosive device." Haun was ejected, his vehicle flipped over.

On impact with the ground, Haun's left hand was driven up toward his forearm, crushing his wrist. The surgeon who rebuilt the wrist, using a metal plate and screws, told Haun last year that his infantry days were over.

The blast also blew out Haun's right ear drum, which required surgery to partially restore his hearing. That surgeon warned him to avoid sustained exposure to any loud noises or risk having to wear a hearing aid.

As to head injuries, a neurologist diagnosed the 24-year-old with post concussive syndrome and mild traumatic brain injury, the likely cause of his daily headaches since the attack. Finally, a psychologist urged Haun to get counseling for his post-traumatic stress symptoms or they could devolve into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a more debilitating condition. So while recuperating in a wounded warrior unit at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Haun regularly saw a psychologist. He takes the drug Tramadol for his migraine headaches and Elavil, an anti-depressant, to ease his stress.

Adding to Haun's stress is this surprising news: he's returning to Iraq.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Erick Anderson does not have to go back to Iraq

Army rescinds order sending Twinsburg native back to Iraq
By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal staff writer

POSTED: 03:57 p.m. EDT, Jun 10, 2008

Erick Anderson learned today he will not be called up to return to Iraq.

''Obviously I'm relieved about not having to deploy,'' the Twinsburg native said this afternoon, shortly after U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette's office released an e-mail alert about the Army's decision.

''I think it was a common sense answer by the Army to a delicate problem,'' Anderson said.

Anderson said the efforts of U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette and his attorney, Neal Puckett, along with news reports ''generated enough pressure that the Army saw they needed to make a quick determination.''

The Army in May had ordered Anderson to report to Fort Benning, Ga., by Aug. 3 — even though he was separated from the Army in 2006, six months after the Army dismissed murder and other charges against him.

He went on Individual Ready Reserve, often called ''inactive ready reserve.''

LaTourette on Monday stepped up the pressure, issuing a news release revealing that the Army wanted Anderson to return to Iraq.

LaTourette said Monday that he was calling on U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to ''intervene immediately'' on behalf of the 29-year-old first lieutenant.

Puckett had been planning to argue that Anderson suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. LaTourette released a letter Monday showing a military psychiatrist has concluded Anderson suffers from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences in the Army.

The psychiatrist said ''administration separation from the Individual Ready Reserves would serve the best interests of the U.S. Army and [Anderson].''

The Army falsely accused Anderson of murder ''not once, but twice,'' LaTourette said Monday.

''To have this sort of replay after he went through that experience, which has led to post-traumatic syndrome, among other things, is an outrage.''

Normally, personnel on Individual Ready Reserve would not be called up except in emergencies.

The charges against him involved the deaths of two people in the Sadr City area of Baghdad in August 2004. In each case, two men under his command were convicted of murder. Anderson maintained his innocence throughout.

Anderson now works as a project engineer for a company in Iowa.

Erick Anderson learned today he will not be called up to return to Iraq.

''Obviously I'm relieved about not having to deploy,'' the Twinsburg native said this afternoon, shortly after U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette's office released an e-mail alert about the Army's decision.

''I think it was a common sense answer by the Army to a delicate problem,'' Anderson said.

Anderson said the efforts of U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette and his attorney, Neal Puckett, along with news reports ''generated enough pressure that the Army saw they needed to make a quick determination.''

The Army in May had ordered Anderson to report to Fort Benning, Ga., by Aug. 3 — even though he was separated from the Army in 2006, six months after the Army dismissed murder and other charges against him.
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GAO finds Army medical evaluations lacking

GAO finds Army medical evaluations lacking

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 10, 2008 17:10:17 EDT

The Army does not keep good enough records to properly determine which soldiers with medical issues are eligible to deploy, according to a new Government Accountability Office study released Tuesday.

And GAO estimated that 3 percent of soldiers deploying from Forts Benning and Stewart in Georgia and Fort Drum, N.Y., who are required by their medical issues to go before the medical evaluation board did not do so before they deployed.

In other words, soldiers who might have been discharged from the military for medical conditions that make them unable to do their jobs were instead deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The GAO chose those bases because they had large numbers of deployed soldiers during the year previous to the study.

“In some cases, soldiers were not evaluated because commanders lacked timely access to profiles,” the report stated. “In other cases, commanders did not take timely actions.”
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Thursday, May 8, 2008

DoD: 43,000 unfit troops sent to war

DoD: 43,000 unfit troops sent to war

By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Thursday May 8, 2008 8:41:24 EDT

WASHINGTON — More than 43,000 U.S. troops listed as medically unfit for combat in the weeks before their scheduled deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 were sent anyway, Pentagon records show.

This reliance on troops found medically “nondeployable” is another sign of stress placed on a military that has sent 1.6 million service members to the war zones, soldier advocacy groups said.

“It is a consequence of the consistent churning of our troops,” said Bobby Muller, president of Veterans For America. “They are repeatedly exposed to high-intensity combat with insufficient time at home to rest and heal before re-deploying.”

The numbers of nondeployable soldiers are based on health assessment forms filled out by medical personnel at each military installation before a service member’s deployment. According to those statistics, the number of troops that doctors found nondeployable but who were still sent to Iraq or Afghanistan fluctuated from 10,854 in 2003, down to 5,397 in 2005, and back up to 9,140 in 2007.

The Pentagon records do not list what — or how serious — the health issues are, nor whether they were corrected before deployment, said Michael Kilpatrick, a deputy director for the Pentagon’s Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs.

A Pentagon staffer examined 10,000 individual health records last year to determine causes for the nondeployable ratings, Kilpatrick said. Some reasons included a need for eyeglasses, dental work or allergy medicine and a small number of mental health cases, he said.

This is the first war in which this health screening process has been used, the Pentagon said.

Most of the nondeployable service members are in the Army, which is doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between 5 percent and 7 percent of all active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers slated for combat were found medically unfit due to health problems each year since 2003, according to statistics provided to USA Today.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Despite PTSD, Fallen Soldier Was Determined to Return to Iraq

Despite PTSD, Fallen Soldier Was Determined to Return to Iraq

Michael de Yoanna

Rocky Mountain News

Apr 22, 2008

April 21, 2008 - Staff Sgt. Chad A. Barrett was determined to muddle through a third tour of duty in Iraq.

Though his medical records show he suffered from acute post- traumatic stress disorder, had difficulty sleeping and was struggling with a traumatic brain injury, he assured his commanders and doctors that he could again serve his nation.

Yet, only weeks after arriving in Mosul in northern Iraq, Barrett, 35, a member of Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division, was struggling.

"I am not getting any better, and really bad thoughts are running around my head," Barrett wrote in an e-mail to his father after five fellow soldiers were killed on Jan. 28 in an ambush by insurgents.

"Part of me wishes that one of those guys was me," he wrote. "I am goin(g) to try to talk to someone about sending me back home, cause I feel like I am just going to cause harm out here."

But Barrett would never make it home. Just five weeks into his tour, on Feb. 2, he went to his room and swallowed a lethal combination of antidepressants and sleeping pills that were prescribed for him.
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As usual this morning brings more tears to my eyes. After over 1,600 post on this blog alone, I find myself with less and less to say. I keep wondering if it's doing any good. While I've already posted about this death before, so it comes as no surprise, my heart grieves because I am aware of too many more. While some will see numbers, I see names and lives and stories and families left behind. I see suffering where there should have already been healing. I see hopelessness where there should have been action taken so long ago. I see Vietnam being repeated over and over again and I see very little changed. There will be some posts encouraging but too many more are discouraging. When will this needless suffering end for them? When will they all get the care and treatment they deserve without having to fight for it? Today is one of those days when I just want to give up and find peace that I've done all I could over all these years, but I know until the day I die, I will have to keep doing this because there are even more families out there just like mine.

I know that if we give up on hoping changes will be made to help them all, it won't happen.

Today, I need some down time to deal with a sinus infection and work on a new video. I also need the time to spend in prayer for all those suffering when they could be healing. I'll be posting later but for now I'm signing off.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sending the wounded back again and again

Editorials - APRIL 16th, 2008
Stopping the loss
Local disabled veteran called back for another tour

I want you for the US Army...again. The Armed Forces are always looking for a few good men and women. When those people become hard to find, recent news makes it seem that our protectors are turning to those who have already answered the call of duty.

James Raymond, due to graduate from UB in December, joined the Army in 2001. He served for three years in Afghanistan, and instead of being honored for his service, he's being sent back.

When he was serving near the Pakistan-Afghani border, Raymond was wounded by rocket fire. Some three years later, his leg is still recuperating and his hearing is still impaired.

In essence, Raymond is being forced to fight again as the Army has threatened to replace his honorable discharge with a dishonorable one.

go here for more

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond says "mistakes" sent wounded back to Iraq

Follow Up: Army General Says 'Mistakes' Made Sending Injured Carson Troops Back to Battle

Tom Roeder

The Gazette

Mar 22, 2008

March 20, 2008 - The commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, said Thursday "mistakes" were made in sending injured Fort Carson soldiers to Iraq. Note: The Denver Post originally broke this story, and VCS was interviewed about this scandal.

Hammond, who now oversees all troops in Baghdad, gave an upbeat report on war progress in a satellite news conference Thursday, but admitted problems with ordering soldiers to war who had been deemed medically unfit to fight, including some who were unable to get medical care they needed in the Middle East.

"I take full responsibility for their deployment," Hammond said. "The decision to deploy those soldiers was made in the best interest of mission, soldier, family, team."

Commanders had said the soldiers would fill desk jobs and gave assurances that troops could get the same rehabilitation in Iraq and Kuwait that would be available at Fort Carson. Seventy-nine soldiers from a pool of 130 who had been judged temporarily unfit for war duty were re-evaluated and pressed into rear-echelon jobs, from counting soldiers entering chow halls in Iraq to straightening out paperwork at bases in Kuwait.

Some of the soldiers, though, didn't get the help they needed in Iraq and Kuwait to recover from their injuries, Hammond said.

"I made those mistakes in deploying those soldiers," Hammond said. "I sent those soldiers home as soon as we realized we couldn't care for them in Kuwait."
In January, commanders at lower levels took responsibility, but Thursday's admission was Hammond's first on the subject.

Hammond didn't dwell on the issue, moving to his division's successes in Baghdad. While the city has been more violent in recent days, including the bombing deaths of two Fort Carson soldiers, Hammond said soldiers are making a dent in insurgent groups.

"We're making a difference," Hammond said.
go here for the rest

What would Hammond have done if the Denver Post didn't get ahold of this story? Would he have corrected himself all on his own? I doubt it. I also doubt the choice of sending them back wounded was in the best interest of any of the above. How could it be in the best interest of any of them but the brass to be able to send as many as requested?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Center for American Progress paying attention to PTSD

Your daily news source delivered with style by Mic Check Radio, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The Military’s Solution To The Troop Suicide Epidemic
February 13, 2008
Fact: As many as 121 American soldiers may have committed suicide during 2007. That compares with 52 Army suicides in 2001 and 79 in 2003, the first year of the Iraq war. The Army suicide rate in 2006 was 17.5-per-100,000, the highest since rate estimates began in 1980. The civilian rate is 11-per-100,000. [USA Today]
Another fact: More than half of all veterans who took their own lives after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan were members of the National Guard or Reserves, according to new government data that prompted activists on Tuesday to call for a closer examination of the problem. [AP]

The staggering suicide rate has often been linked to the lack of mental health professionals—and the generally weak psychological care—present in the armed forces.

But now, it seems as though the military has found an, um, interesting solution to help curb the problem: an interactive video that will have soldiers play the role of a 19-year-old GI in Iraq ready to kill himself. [Mic Check]

The video is just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only much, much darker. The GI is shown fantasizing about suicide, says the game’s screenwriter Chris Stezin, in a barracks scene where the character points an M-4 rifle at himself. Later, if the player avoids seeking help, the character grows more despondent and is shown entering his barracks. A gunshot is then heard, and the screen fades to black.

“We’re all butting our heads against the wall, trying to figure out what else we can do” to address the problem, says Army Lt. Col. Orman “Wayne” Boyd, a chaplain who develops anti-suicide programs for the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. This, apparently, is their solution.

May we offer a suggestion?

While an interactive video is an innovative approach, the military may need to pursue other options in the mental health department. For starters—how about not sending troops back into battle that have already proven to be suicidal?
Earlier this week, it was reported that a bipolar, alcoholic soldier who was hospitalized after a suicide attempt was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East. [Editor and Publisher]
We’re just sayin’...

My comment
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As bad as this is, it’s actually worse. Yesterday a report came out stating the VA backlog of claims has jumped to 816,211. These are not numbers, but veterans with families, who have been wounded. Between the time a claim is filed, usually for veterans who are unable to work, and the time it’s approved, they are not counted and they are not paid.

Every expert stated the sooner treatment begins, the better the healing. The problem with this kind of backlog, most of them are seeking help for mental health issues. The list of problems the combat veterans face right now is endless. This is one of the reasons they become homeless. National Guardsmen and Reservist are reporting 50% of them have already been diagnosed with PTSD.

Military experts know redeployments increase the risk of PTSD by 50% for each time they are sent back, yet they wonder why the PTSD numbers are so high. When we are able to reach them and get them to seek help, they are not only trapped in the backlog of claims with the VA, the DOD provides medication and then sends them back to Iraq and Afghanistan, or gives them a dishonorable discharge under “personality disorder” along with misdiagnosing them.

This will take everyone in this country to get it right for them. Glad you posted about this. I’ve been doing this advocacy work for 25 years and have never seen it this bad. The frightening thing is, this is just the beginning and we’re already failing them.

— Kathie Costos - Feb 14, 08:47 AM

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fort Carson Soldier Pulled Out Of Hospital To Redeploy

Fort Carson Forcibly Removed Soldier from Mental Hospital and Deployed Him to Iraq War

Erin Emery

Denver Post

Feb 10, 2008

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, was outraged. "If he's an inpatient in a hospital, they should have never taken him out. The chain of command needs to be held accountable for this. Washington needs to get involved at the Pentagon to make sure this doesn't happen again. "First, we had the planeload of wounded, injured and ill being forced back to the war zone. And now we have soldiers forcibly removed from mental hospitals. The level of outrage is off the Richter scale."

Ill GI says he was deployed from hospital

Februray 10, 2008 - A Fort Carson soldier who says he was in treatment at Cedar Springs Hospital for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The 28-year-old specialist spent 31 days in Kuwait and was returned to Fort Carson on Dec. 31 after health care professionals in Kuwait concurred that his symptoms met criteria for bipolar disorder and "some paranoia and possible homicidal tendencies," according to e-mails obtained by The Denver Post.

The soldier, who asked not to be identified because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and because he will seek employment when he leaves the Army, said he checked himself into Cedar Springs on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 after he attempted suicide while under the influence of alcohol. He said his treatment was supposed to end Dec. 10 but his commanding officers showed up at the hospital Nov. 29 and ordered him to leave.

"I was pulled out to deploy," said the soldier, who has three years in the Army and has served a tour in Iraq.

Soldiers from Fort Carson and across the country have complained they were sent to combat zones despite medical conditions that should have prevented their deployment.

Late last year, Fort Carson said it sent 79 soldiers who were considered medical "no-gos" overseas. Officials said the soldiers were placed in light-duty jobs and are receiving treatment there. So far, at least six soldiers have been returned.
go here for the rest

When Maj. Gen. Mark Graham took over command of Fort Carson, I had high hopes the problems at Carson would addressed and corrected. With this, those hopes are gone. I wanted to see what Graham had to say about all of this since he stated he would correct the problems at Carson. I found this.

From CBS

AP) Seventy-nine injured soldiers were pressed into war duty last month as the U.S. Army struggled to fill its ranks, but most were assigned to light-duty jobs within limits set by doctors, two Army leaders said. The Denver Post, quoting internal Army e-mails and a Fort Carson soldier, reported that troops had been deployed to Kuwait en route to Iraq while they were still receiving medical treatment for various conditions.

Fort Carson's top general Maj. Gen. Mark Graham said most of the 79 soldiers remain in Iraq, while about a dozen are in Kuwait, the newspaper reported in Friday editions. A few returned to the United States because of inadequate rehabilitation available in theater, Graham said. Graham said he has asked Fort Carson's inspector general to investigate whether proper procedures were followed in sending the soldiers into war zones. Congressional investigators also are reviewing allegations that medically unfit soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to shore up lagging troop numbers.

A fraction of hope returned with this but it is shaky at best. Wouldn't Graham have given orders when he took over Carson to make sure this kind of thing would never even be considered? Wouldn't Graham have enforced the attitude the wounded are wounded and should be treated accordingly? How could he leave open to interpretation pulling a soldier out of the hospital to redeploy them when they were already wounded? Graham, Fort Carson and the DOD have a lot to answer for. This is disgusting and disgraceful.

The other issue is are they now diagnosing soldiers with bipolar disorder instead of PTSD?