Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Military caught on tape cheating Vets out of health care as policy

We've posted before on the military cheating Vets out of the long term care that's due them for PTSD. They've been caught at it by 'Sgt. X' and still no one's listening.


Last June, during a medical appointment, a patient named "Sgt. X" recorded an Army psychologist at Fort Carson, Colo., saying that he was under pressure not to diagnose combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Listen to a segment of the tape here.

For more than a year he's been seeking treatment at Fort Carson for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the Iraq war. Sgt. X is also suffering through the Army's confusing disability payment system, handled by something called a medical evaluation board. The process of negotiating the system has been made harder by his war-damaged memory. Sgt. X's wife has to go with him to doctor's appointments so he'll remember what the doctor tells him.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor's appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn't accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected -- that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation -- and cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

When [Army sawbones] McNinch learned he would be quoted in a Salon article, he cut off further questions. He also said he would deny the interview took place. Salon, however, had recorded the conversation.

A recently retired Army psychiatrist who still works for the government, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said commanders at another Army hospital instructed him to misdiagnose soldiers suffering from war-related PTSD, recommending instead that he diagnose them with other disorders that would reduce their benefits. The psychiatrist said he would be willing to say more publicly about the cases and provide specific names, but only if President Obama would protect him from retaliation.

Less money for damaged soldiers = more money for the military industrial complex and cushy post-retirement jobs for generals + hides the true cost of Bush's Imperialist Oil War.

Go read the rest, please.

If you are aware of a soldier who has served or is serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts and is having trouble getting a PTSD diagnosis or proper benefits, please contact Mark Benjamin at mbenjamin (at) salon (dot) com.

NOW on PBS did a report on a similar situation last week. See it here.

Thousands of U.S. troops are getting discharged out of the army. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries, and haven't been getting the care they need. The Army's been claiming these discharged soldiers had pre-existing mental illnesses. But health advocates say these are wrongful discharges, a way for the army to get rid of "problem" soldiers quickly, without giving them the treatment to which they're entitled.

NOW covered this issue last summer, and this week we revisit the army's controversial position and follow up with affected soldiers we met.

As a result of the media attention from our report and others, the Department of Defense revised its criteria for diagnosing pre-existing conditions and, now, fewer soldiers are receiving the diagnosis, making more of them eligible for care.

I suggest we e-mail President Obama and demand he do the following:

1) Issue an Executive Order to SecDef and the VA to knock off the cheap shit NOW. INSIST that Veterans be properly diagnosed and cared for.

2) Make retaliation against those GIs and Medical Officers who come forward and speak out a court-martial offense, and a criminal offense in the VA.

3) Review all previous diagnoses of 'pre-existing personality disorders' and 'anxiety disorders'. ALL of them.

4) By all means have the Armed Forces Committee, the JAG Corps, and DOJ investigate this, but take care of the Veterans first.

Just as a closing thought, now that Senator DOH! (Party of No - NC) has heard from every Post Commander of VFW, AL, DAV, MCL, VoteVet, and every other Vets outfit in North Carolina, he has dropped his obstruction to the appointment of Tammy Duckworth to Veterans Affairs. I think General Shinseki and Major Duckworth will do what's best for our Veterans. If they are allowed to.

Crossposted at Alternate Brain.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Unmaking of A Marine

If you are interested in Veterans Affairs as we are, go read this book review.

If Boudreau's brutally honest, devastatingly accurate, hard-hitting memoir, Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine were read by the powers that be in Washington, D.C. and by the journalists assigned to cover both military conflicts, there is absolutely no way in hell the plight of our nation's veterans would take a backseat to the issues currently dominating the evening news coverage or the topics of conversations at dinner tables throughout the country.

And therein lies one of the central themes of Boudreau's 222-page book: the images of the war he has heroically fought have been implanted inside of his mind and are on a permanent loop.

"To say I was duped is not sufficient to lighten the load," he writes. (my em)

The post-traumatic stress of the war in Iraq will forever be a part of Boudreau's identity and it will be a lifelong battle to keep it in check. For some soldiers, post-traumatic stress is the precursor to suicide, for others it leads to a life of drug abuse, alcoholism, or crime.

Boudreau said "the smallest action or phrase from a commander can influence Marines and other soldiers not to seek help."

"The pressure to prepare ourselves quickly was intense. When the first Marine came to my office and asked to see the psychiatrist about some troubling issues from our time in Iraq, I was sympathetic. I said, "No problem." When another half dozen or so Marines approached me with the same request, I was only somewhat concerned."

"But when all of them and several more returned from their appointments with recommendations for discharge, I'll admit I was alarmed. Suddenly I was not as concerned about their mental health as I was about my company's troop strength."

Boudreau said the treatment of post-traumatic stress is antithetical to the mantra of "Mission Accomplished."

"The mission will always supersede treatment," Boudreau said. "And because of that the treatment will always be dubious."

"And all the talk from bureaucrats about putting an end to multiple deployments, which has been blamed on the skyrocketing cases of post-traumatic stress and suicides, is inconceivable," Boudreau said.

"I've heard the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say 'we have to change this ethic,'" Boudreau said. "But it's not going to happen. Why? Because the military cannot afford a 20 percent reduction in its force."

There are hundreds of thousands of known PTSD and an untold much larger number that are as yet undiagnosed or have not surfaced yet. This is a problem that will be with us until the last Veteran of Bush's Dual Clusterfuck dies eighty years from now. Or depending on how long the Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue, 150 years from now. We had better do some serious thinking as a nation about how to deal with it in a compassionate and effective manner or we are going to pay a tremendous human and societal price for Bush's criminal imperial misadventures. The cost of his entire administration in actual money so far, both current and the debt passed to two or three generations yet to come, will be as nothing compared to the cost of not doing the right thing for these Veterans.

Crossposted at Alternate Brain.