Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Treatment of Returned Wounded Service Members and Veterans is a Travesty

As Veterans’ Day approaches, The Healing Project wishes to call attention to the appalling level of treatment that our returning wounded service members and veterans are receiving at the hands of a government that is obligated to take care of them.

As of October 26, 2007
Official DoD Count of Troops Killed in Iraq: 3,830
Troops Killed in Afghanistan: 445
Wounded in Action: 30,035

The US Military is composed of on all volunteer force that is stationed on remote federal reservations across the country. Less than 1 ½% of the US population is affected by military deployments. These patriots are subjected to poor pay, long deployments and a general lack of support. It is time we stand up for the people willing to serve this country.

The sacrifices made by these men and women are best articulated by Ben Stein.

First, The Healing Project wishes to extend its support and recognize the extraordinary effort made by forward field medical teams deployed by the US Army, US Navy and especially the US Air Force. The doctors, nurses and medics as well as the medical evacuation teams have pushed the survival rate of injured service members to a level unprecedented in military medical history. It represents the culmination of nearly 70 years research and clinical development that demonstrates when resources and will are combined with leadership and initiative the United States can deliver a level of medical treatment unparalleled anywhere in the world. A recent The Navy Times article illustrates the type of heroic efforts made by military medical personell make on behalf of the wounded.

Nonetheless, both the DoD and Veterans Administration have failed those who have returned. Both the executive branch and the legislative branches of the US government have failed to provide the material assistance, human resources and most importantly the dynamic leadership to ensure the proper treatment of the returning wounded. No less than 9 commissions were empanelled by various organs of the US government and yet nothing has been done to address the needs of those that have been wounded. A story in the Charlotte Observer highlights only some of the problems.

Let’s be clear, the reported casualty figures reflect the number of traditional physical injuries. It is not an accurate reflection of the true number of casualties suffered by our service members. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, family violence and various severe mental disorders are triggered by the conditions experienced with repeated extended combat tours thousands of miles from their families. Inexplicably, both the VA and DoD failed to prepare for the enormous number of service members requiring treatment. The experience of returning veterans of the Vietnam War coupled with reports as early as 2005 would have led any epidemiologist to predict a large increase in demand for medical services. The claim that the neither the DoD nor the VA can provide treatment due to a lack of trained personnel is nonsense. This country has more than enough trained personnel in the civilian medical sector to be pressed into service to treat these men and women immediately.

Even more incredible has been the lack of treatment afforded to service members that have suffered combat traumatic brain injury (C-TBI). C-TBI injury has been called the signature injury of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Advances in body armor coupled with tactics and weapons employed by our adversaries led to an extraordinary number of injuries that have not been experienced in earlier conflicts. While technologies have existed since before the conflicts to screen and track these injuries, the DoD actively avoided its use. Research dollars have been allocated to projects that will neither benefit the treatment of veterans nor lead to a greater understanding of the injury.

The willful and wanton neglect of our wounded service members by the DoD borders on criminal. The attempt to paint this C-TBI as some sort of mirage is insulting both to those suffering the injury and also those who have spent years trying to characterize it and define its treatment. Pentagon research strongly argues that many service members impacted by combat traumatic brain injury in the next 20 years will develop Parkinson’s-like syndromes and dementia. Of course, much like many of the medical discharges that have been made since the beginning of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, compensation will be denied based upon a pre-existing condition.

The DoD seems to be attempting to delay the understanding and cataloging of this injury as it did with Gulf War Syndrome to avoid the costs of disability payments. Regrettably, the service members who develop long-term neurological illnesses will be reduced to penury because bureaucrats in Washington refuse to accept the responsibility for injuries suffered defending our democracy.

It is unacceptable.

The Healing Project hopes you will take action.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has created a petition to address the most basic medical issues for our wounded warriors.

IAVA Petition/IAVA Action Commercial

From IAVAAction's Site:

As a recent report from the Government Accountability Office reveals, seven months have passed since the Walter Reed crisis and serious problems in veterans' care remain.

As of October 1, the veterans' budget is late. Until it is approved, the VA will be forced to ration care.

Now, it's up to the President and Congress to approve the budget. Add your name to the statement, and demand they take action.

Please sign and let your friends and Representatives know that our wounded warriors demand the best treatment that can be afforded.

Regardless of how one feels about the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, our service members and verterans deserve and demand your respect and it is time to stand with them.

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