THE LAST BATTLE: Efforts to Provide Mental Health Care for War Veterans Falling Short
by Greg Barnes and John Ramsey
The Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 26, 2012
The last battle of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is being fought at home.
And in 2012, the military and the VA have done more than ever to respond to the anguish of men and women who are haunted by war.
This year, the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs rolled out promising new programs and research to identify and treat post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other lingering effects of combat that afflict as many as one in five service members.
Myriad studies are under way. Budgets for mental health treatment programs are doubling. Thousands of new counselors have been hired.
But there is little evidence that the tide has turned in the battle. Too many service members suffering from mental health problems still are not being identified until they get into trouble.
Suicides are climbing. Commanders struggle with the twin demands of monitoring the mental health of their soldiers while maintaining focus on their core mission of training for war.
Based on extensive interviews with troubled soldiers, military and VA leaders, and mental health advocates – along with evidence from statistical data and civilian and military studies – it is clear that there are things that must be done better if the country is going to win this fight against the “hidden wounds” of war.
THE FIX LIST
The military must do a better job of identifying men and women who are suffering from mental health problems early, before PTSD blossoms into domestic violence, substance abuse or suicide.
The military must make more mental health counselors available – in the field and at home.
The military and VA have to eliminate their communication problems and aggressively address the bureaucratic hurdles that slow the processing of veterans claims.
The country cannot depend on the military and VA to carry the whole burden of addressing the mental health problems of those who went to war. States, local communities, even volunteers must step up.
If the country doesn’t do a better job of helping service members and veterans damaged by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the price will likely be exacted over decades.
— Greg Barnes and John Ramsey, Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 26, 2012
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | 82nd Airborne Division, Capt. Michael Cummings, Col. Chad B. McRee, D.C., Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen Give and Hour, Fort Bragg, Michael O'Hanlon Brookings Institution in Washington, National Alliance on Mental Health NAMI Parity for Patriots, PTSD, RAND Corp Invisible Wounds of War, Senator Patty Murray, Staff Sgt. Joshua Eisenhauer, Stigma, Suicide prevention, The Last Battle, Womack Army Medical Center