Extraordinary turbulence continues in the Austin area after the tragic Fort Hood murders. Here is a news clip about the efforts of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) LINK among other progressive Veterans activists groups, focusing on the needs of our service members:
– They need more doctors,
– They need to be examined and treated, a
– They need an anti-stigma campaign that informs them about mental health symptoms, informs them about where to get help, and encourages them to seek treatment.
– That also means the military must have enough doctors provide prompt care.
The Fort Hood murders exposes the military’s acute shortage of mental healthcare providers. Appearing on CNN last week, Army General George Casey and other top military officials confirm about 20 percent of mental healthcare positions are vacant. In 2006, it was 40 percent vacancy rate at some posts, according to testimony at LTG Kiley’s Mental Health Task Force.
Veterans for Common Sense
Discussion About Mental Health and the Draft
The media recently asked VCS about the choices available to President Obama and Secretary Gates. I responded that our military is behind the undesirable Eight-Ball, with limited options. To fill the shortage of mental health care providers, the military can do one or more of the following:
1) Continue offering more financial recruiting and retention incentives.
2) Continue using stop loss and forcibly retaining staff beyond their enlistment termination.
3) Continue ordering more National Guard and Reserve to active duty.
4) Begin working with non-profits and the private sector to expand capacity. For example, DoD could expand their relationship with “Give An Hour.”
5) Reinstate the military draft for mental health professionals. For example, Congress would need to authorize the forced conscription of existing psychiatrists, psychologists, and support staff.
[Note: Deep down, we all know that if President Obama and Congress called for a draft, our college campuses and suburbs would erupt in opposition, potentially creating the strong public outcry needed to halt the endless bloodbaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Paul Sullivan]
America needs a robust discussion about the viability of all of these options. This is because, regardless of President Obama’s plans (escalation, staying the course, or withdrawal), the military still desperately needs mental health professionals, especially for service members forced to deploy multiple times into war zones, where the risk of adverse mental health conditions rises 50 percent.
Frankly, if the sharp increase in medical diagnoses among our soldiers and veterans was caused by gunshot wounds, we would see a far greater urgency in hiring medical treatment professionals. However, due to the discrimination and stigma against mental health conditions (conditions caused by the wars and repeated deployments to the wars), the military continues trying to downplay the significance of the expanding catastrophe.
VCS wants to thank those who keep up the fight and ask you to spread and share this information. VCS and Veterans United for Truth [VUFT] are still awaiting a decision from the Appeals Court about our lawsuit against VA. You may recall that VA was turning away suicidal veterans, and that VA’s notorious one million claim backlog continues to remain a problem for all veterans.
Veterans for Common Sense
Good News and Bad News
Here is some good news [LINK] for veterans on the mental health front.
First, the New York Times quoted Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) after VA’s top disability claims official, Patrick Dunne, resigned. This is good news because Dunne remained a significant obstacle to improving VA’s broken claims system.
VCS has also prepared a brief proposal to disband Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) regional offices and bring VBA claims staff to the front lines where Veterans interact with VA – at VHA’s hundreds of clinics.
VCS has also learned that the new VA regulations streamlining healthcare and benefits for Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, with an estimated value of $5 billion, are expected to become final by the end of the year. This is good news in terms of access to treatment and compensation during this severe recession. VCS first proposed this new policy in early 2007 during a Town Hall meeting with Rep. Bob Filner, the Chairman of the House Veteran’s Affair Committee. VCS then wrote VA Secretary Shinseki requesting new regulations, while Rep. John Hall, introduced legislation to force the VA to fix the problem.
In a bit of sad news, today VA released a report to VCS confirming the agency already treated 480,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran patients, including more than 227, 000 diagnosed with at least one mental health condition, and 134,00 diagnosed with PTSD. The trend continues on track at nearly 9,000 new patients per month, or about 300 per day, and absolutely staggering figure. Please see our new, attached “VA Fact Sheet,” dated yesterday. Please share this information far and wide, as few Americans realize the expanding scope of the devastation wrought by the two wars on our military, veterans, and families. Also is our “DoD Fact Sheet” describing the escalating casualties, especially in Afghanistan [see Comments Section below].
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.
My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.
I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.
I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.