The Inner War: Helping Soldiers with PTSD

Earlier this week I posted a piece about a Marine in MA, who was arrested for firing into a crowd. The Marine had recently received the Marine of the Year award.

Every day we are hearing more and more stories about soldiers returning for Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. Not enough is being done to help them.

Representative Martin Meehan of Lowell, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, “has sponsored legislation that would help to ensure that fewer cases of PTSD go untreated when troops return to the United States.”

His bill would require that all soldiers returning to civilian life undergo a thorough mental as well as physical examination. The mental health screening now provided is just a form to be filled out. Meehan said that if an examination reveals the need for treatment, it would typically be provided when the soldier is back with his family, so that soldiers need not be concerned that revealing symptoms during an examination would delay their reunions with their loved ones.

Meehan wants the $3 billion that the Department of Veterans Affairs annually spends treating PTSD and other forms of mental illness to be at least doubled. His bill would require the VA to help soldiers who need treatment get it on an outpatient basis from non-VA providers if they live far from any VA clinics. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office reported that it had surveyed seven VA medical centers, and officials at six of them said they were concerned that they would not be able to meet veterans’ increased need for PTSD treatment. The VA’s own special advisory committee on PTSD reported in 2004 that the department’s capacity to treat PTSD had deteriorated prior to the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Read More: Boston Globe Editorial – The Inner War

The bottom line: “Congress — and President Bush — should back not just Meehan’s public awareness program but also his full package of proposals to strengthen treatment of combat-related mental disorders.”

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