Friday, November 23, 2007

Iraq and Afghanistan War Casualties 66% Higher than Previously Reported.

The Healing Project has observed the poor treatment of our wounded warriors since our inception. Greg Zoroya in USA Today reports 20,000 Vets' Brain Injuries Not Listed in Pentagon Tally. In our view, this casualty count is the tip of the iceberg. So-called soft injuries including combat-traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, Depression, Suicide and Severe-Mental Illness have been ignored since the beginning of these conflicts.

While much attention has been focused on the gallant and extraordinary efforts of our field surgeons, medivac teams and medics that have driven survival rates to unprecedented levels; little attention has been paid to the bulk of the injuries in these conflicts. These injuries and illnesses are real. The research community has been perplexed for years (2003 forward) at the lack of preparation to deal with these ailments.

It is time to call on your Senators and Representatives and demand an explanation of how these injuries went undiagnosed and untreated for five years. If your Representative serves on the House Armed Services Committee or House Veterans Affairs Committee or your Senator serves on the Senate Armed Services or Veterans Affairs Committee, it is especially important to make your voice heard. These committees drive the legislation and control the budgets for the Department of Defense and the Veterans the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is time for accountability. $600MM was set aside in the June Supplemental Budget for the screening and treatment of PTSD and TBI. It would be useful to know how this money was spent, who spent it, and what are the results? If it has not been spent, why has it not been spent? It is no longer sufficient to believe that an increase in funding will result in any benefit of our warriors. The same people who understated the number of casualties are still in charge of the programs and there budgets intended to screen and treat the wounded; this is rewarding delay and inaction. This is not tolerable.

The Healing Project advocates the immediate mobilization of the civilian healthcare sector to relieve the backlog of wounded veterans. Our research hospitals and teaching hospitals have the diverse range of facilities and personnel to quickly triage and treat the bulk of these cases. Further, the latest systems and technologies should be employed to rapidly screen and identify these injuries. Finally, a request for volunteers (paid) should be publicly made to individual practitioners with appropriate training across the country, especially in mental health, to relieve the stress of the military and veterans medical system. Many, if not most, civilian medical personnel, are more than willing to serve their country and help those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.

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