Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Soldiers' mental illnesses deemed "pre-existing" by Pentagon

Read this report and weep.

This is one of the "casualties" of war bureaucracy. It's more like 22,500 casualties. It's also one of the meanest policies and "catch 22's" those who love to plan and play war have ever propagated. The audacity to blame pre-existing conditions for American soldiers' mental health breakdowns, PTSD, etc. while and after they have been serving in Iraq. Is this how the Pentagon interprets our desire to "support our troops?"

After reading this article, please call and write your Congressional leader and tell them America is above this, that our emotionally wounded soldiers deserve better...much better.

A few excerpts from Philip Dine's St. Louis Post-Dispatch article from Sunday, September 30, 2007:

Thousands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq — as many as 10 a day — are being discharged by the military for mental health reasons. But the Pentagon isn't blaming the war. It says the soldiers had "pre-existing" conditions that disqualify them for treatment by the government.

Many soldiers and Marines being discharged on this basis actually suffer from combat-related problems, experts say. But by classifying them as having a condition unrelated to the war, the Defense Department is able to quickly get rid of troops having trouble doing their work while also saving the expense of caring for them.

The result appears to be that many actually suffering from combat-related problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries don't get the help they need.


Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo, said he learned of the practice from returning Iraq veterans. He called it an "abuse" of the system and "inexcusable." "They've kicked out about 22,000 troops who they say have pre-existing personality disorders. I don't believe that," Bond said in an interview Friday. "And when you kick them out, they don't get the assistance they need, they aren't entitled to DOD or Veterans Administration care for those problems."


Defense Department records show that 22,500 cases of personality-disorder discharges have been processed over the last six years.


Soltz, an Iraq war combat veteran who founded the group http://www.votevets.org/, said
untreated psychological problems were contributing to the highest military suicide rate in a quarter-century and to growing homelessness among veterans, he said. If such widespread mental problems really existed before people joined the military and saw combat, they would have been uncovered when the recruits were enlisting, Soltz said.


One Republican congressional staff member who works on military issues said the rationale behind the Pentagon's practice was: "We didn't break you, you were already broken. You're not our responsibility."

"One soldier I know received a diagnosis for a personality disorder after a 45-minute talk," said the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He'd been in the military 10 years, had made it his career, and then he was told he was being shuffled out in a couple of weeks. We keep getting these stories."

The Post-Dispatch story also points out that legislation inserted into the recent emergency war bill by Kit Bond and Barak Obama tries to change and begin to address the Pentagon's current policies on this. But that is not a done deal. Your appeals can make a difference.

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