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Posts Tagged ‘VA’

VA Cost of Living Increase Blocked in the Senate by “unknown” Senator

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 28, 2012

Our guess, and it’s only a guess is Johnny Isakson

 Bergmann and Moore  September 27, 2012

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr4114eh/pdf/BILLS-112hr4114eh.pdf

After passing the House of Representatives, the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase for VA benefits was blocked in the Senate by an unknown Senator, according to Senate staffers who alerted Bergmann & Moore.

The Veterans COLA affects a number of key benefits for veterans: disability compensation, pension as well as survivor benefits. The uncontroversial bill adjusts VA benefits to keep up with inflation and easily passes Congress each year.

Until now.

Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran and Director of Veterans Outreach for Bergmann & Moore, LLC, a law firm concentrating on VA disability law, said, “This secret hold is unconscionable: it will take up to $500 next year out of the wallets of disabled veterans and their families: money they need to pay their rent and put food on the table for their children.”

According to a statement this afternoon from Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, blocking the bill will reduce benefits starting in January for 3.9 million veterans and their survivors.

Please read the entire post at Bergmann and Moore

Posted in Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A cost of war: Soaring disability benefits for veterans, while the cost of civilian veterans disabilities is kept in the dark

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 27, 2012

CNN Money A cost of war: Soaring disability benefits for veterans

Daniel Brink of South Africa was severally wounded and disabled working in Iraq. His medical care and indemnity are the also the responsibility of the US Taxpayer under the Defense Base Act only no one has the integrity to be honest about it.

After more than a decade of continuous warfare, the cost of disability compensation for wounded veterans is surging to mammoth proportions.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects to spend $57 billion on disability benefits next year. That’s up 25% from $46 billion this year, and nearly quadruple the $15 billion spent in 2000, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

“This is the cost of going to war,” said Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served as assistant secretary of defense during the Ronald Reagan administration. “We’ve made so much progress in medicine [that] you’re going to have a lot of people survive their injuries who didn’t in the past.”

About 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq and about 1,800 have been killed in Afghanistan. Some 633,000 veterans — one out of every four of the 2.3 million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — have a service-connected disability, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Please read the entire article here

Posted in AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Department of Labor, Injured Contractors, Iraq, Political Watch, Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

War Widow Blames VA Neglect for her Husband’s Suicide

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 18, 2011

Sadly this reads like so many  Defense Base Act  PTSD Suicides, Neglect and unreasonable demands….

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. Courthouse News   October 18, 2011

Neglect and unreasonable demands from the Veterans Administration caused another Iraq war veteran to kill himself,

his widow claims in Federal Court. She says that despite a doctor’s “clear diagnosis” of post-traumatic stress disorder, from roadside bombs, including one that killed 93 people, the VA refused to admit he suffered from PTSD, with excuses such as “the diagnosis ‘does not specify which Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was used'”; and that he “‘failed to provide dates of the incidents or names of any casualties.'”
Tracy Eiswert says her husband Scott suffered substandard care from the VA hospital in Mountain Home, Tenn., before he killed himself in 2008. He was 31. She survives, with their two young children.
It’s the latest in a string of lawsuits from families of veterans nationwide, who say the VA was less than helpful after veterans returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VA in July 2010 relaxed requirements for veterans seeking service-connected PTSD benefits, but the agency still faces criticism for its mental health services.
The 9th Circuit ruled this year in a California class action that the “VA’s failure to provide adequate procedures for veterans facing prejudicial delays in the delivery of mental health care violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment,” according to Tracy Eiswert’s complaint.
Scott Eiswert joined the National Guard in 2001 and served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005.

Tracy Eiswert says her husband first sought help for his symptoms after he was honorably discharged in November 2005.
She says Scott saw a professional counselor at a private mental health facility in Greeneville for almost 4 months. Scott’s symptoms included depression, acute insomnia, extreme stress and irritability, according to medical records described in the complaint.
His counselor recommended individual psychotherapy and reported to Scott’s physician that he “certainly appears to meet the criteria for PTSD,” the complaint states.
According to the medical records, in May 2006, Scott’s counselor wrote a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, stating: “After meeting with Mr. Eiswert for several appointments, we have established a diagnosis of PTSD, per the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual Criteria.”
The widow says her husband applied to the VA for service-connected PTSD benefits based on the counselor’s diagnosis.
The complaint states:
“In the application Scott describes a number of incidents in Iraq as follows:
“Various Route Clearances – Roadside Bombs, Raids
“Convoy Escorts, all the Outside Wire Dangers and Stresses.
“Close Calls on Roadside Bombs
“Car Bombs and the Destruction they Cause, Including Civilian Fatalities (Body Parts)
“‘I was on a Raid with Fellow Soldiers when they got Blown-Up by a Massive Roadside Bomb. (93 Dead, 1 Crippled)” [Punctuation as in complaint.]
But the VA denied his claims three times before he killed himself, his widow says.
In its September 2006 denial, the VA stated that Scott’s counselor “does not specify which Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was used.’ The denial analysis also states that even though Scott provided ‘sufficient details concerning a stressor …’ it ‘failed to provide dates of the incidents or names of any casualties.'” (Ellipsis in complaint).
Tracy Eiswert says the VA doctor who assessed Scott did not have access to the records of Scott’s private counselor and “relied entirely on Scott’s narrative to make his assessment.” She says the VA doctor “concluded that ‘veteran has current diagnosis of depression, NOS. He does describe symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, however not enough to meet criteria.'”
(NOS apparently indicates “not otherwise specified.”)
The VA denied Scott’s claim a second time in November 2006, after receiving additional medical records from the Tennessee National Guard.
Tracy Eiswert says VA doctors gave Scott medications for depression and insomnia, but he did not tolerate them well.
By early 2007, Scott reported increased marital and family problems, increased irritability, nightmares, night sweats and difficulty sleeping, according to medical records in the complaint

Please read the entire story at Courthouse News

Posted in AIG and CNA, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Defense Medical Examinations, Delay, Deny, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Hope that I die, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, PTSD and TBI, Suicide, Veterans, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Count of Veteran Patients with PTSD from Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Hits Record High

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 2, 2011

An unknown number of these are contractors who are Veterans and are being denied PTSD screening, diagnoses, and treatment by CNA, AIG, ACE, Defense Base Act Insurance Companies.  Some Contractors who are also Veterans qualify for limited help from the Veteran Administration.

Veterans for Common Sense March 2, 2011

VA Report Obtained by VCS Using FOIA Reveals 182,147 OEF/OIF Veterans Treated for PTSD

December 2010, Washington, DC – Veterans for Common Sense used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the following VA report counting the number of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Please note the counts are seven months old.

Title: “VA Facility Specific Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veterans Coded with Potential PTSD through 4th Qtr FY 2010”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has requested VA to enumerate the total number of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD by VISN and VAMC using VA inpatient and outpatient records. GAO also requested that this information be aggregated with Vet Center utilization data. VHA prepared an initial report in October 2004 for health care utilization during FY 2004. This current report covers VA health care data for FY 2002 through 4th Qtr FY 2010….

A query of VHA health care utilization databases using the August 2010 DMDC separation roster yielded a total of 167,295 OEF/OIF Veterans coded with PTSD at a VA medical center and 39,174 Veterans who received Vet Center service for PTSD. Of these, 142,973 were seen only at a VAMC, 14,852 only at a Vet Center, and 24,322 were seen at both facilities.

In summary, based on the electronic patient records available through September 30, 2010, a grand total of 182,147 OEF/OIF Veterans were seen for potential PTSD at VHA facilities following their return from Iraq or Afghanistan Theater

Posted in Delay, Deny, Hope that I die, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Sgt Bill McKenna dies from Burn Pit Exposure

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on December 29, 2010

Earlier this year, after a News Channel 8-Tribune investigation, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs ruled McKenna’s cancer was directly related to the burn pits and awarded him 100 percent service-connected disability.

Soldier dies from exposure to burn pit fires

Sgt Bill McKenna Obituary and Guestbook

Army sergeant’s widow wants military to pay burial expenses

by Howard Altman at The Tampa Tribune

If Army Sgt. Bill McKenna had died in Iraq during his two tours of duty, his widow would have had no trouble fulfilling the Spring Hill resident’s wish to be buried in New York, where the couple were born and met.

The U.S. military offers a $100,000 tax-free death gratuity to meet the immediate needs of survivors and up to an additional $8,800 in burial benefits.

But McKenna was not killed by the enemy. And he did not die in Iraq.

The 41-year-old died at 10:50 p.m. Tuesday at the HPH Hospice in Spring Hill as the result of cancer he contracted from constant exposure to the thick, acrid smoke that wafted almost every hour of every day across Balad Air Base in Iraq, where McKenna was stationed for about 18 months.

In bases across Afghanistan and Iraq, amputated body parts, Humvee parts, human waste, plastic meal trays and other garbage are incinerated, using jet fuel, in large trenches called burn pits.

Earlier this year, after a News Channel 8-Tribune investigation, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs ruled McKenna’s cancer was directly related to the burn pits and awarded him 100 percent service-connected disability.

But because he died after he was discharged from the Army as the result of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after a mortar blast blew his helmet off, Dina McKenna will not get the military’s active-duty death benefits. Instead, she is entitled only to $2,000 allocated for the burial of veterans.

Please read the entire story here

Posted in Burn Pits, Iraq, PTSD and TBI, Toxic Exposures, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , | 25 Comments »

VA creates new registry for soldiers exposed to hexavalent chromium in Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 23, 2010

The Department of Veterans Affairs is launching a Qarmat Ali registry to aggressively track and treat veterans exposed to a cancer-causing chemical in Iraq in 2003.

By Julie Sulivan The Oregonian

The national surveillance program will register hundreds of National Guard members who served at the Qarmat Ali water- treatment plant, looking for health problems associated with hexavalent chromium exposure, such as asthma and lung cancer.

The monitoring is a victory for nearly 300 Oregon Army National Guard members and for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Wyden proposed such a registry March 22 after veterans with breathing and skin problems told him in an emotional meeting in Portland that VA staff did not understand the hazards of their assignment.

“This is a concrete step forward,” Wyden said. “But it is only a step.” He wants the VA to go further and presume a service connection that will increase access and benefits.

The program is more a medical monitoring program than a confirmation of health problems. The VA does not presume a veteran who served at Qarmat Ali is ill — nor that any specific diseases are linked to serving there.

But the Qarmat Ali Medical Surveillance program will standardize medical exams nationwide, focusing doctors’ attention on lung cancer and other related problems and help direct treatment. Among the steps: ear, nose, throat, lung and skin exams as well as regular chest X-rays, said Dr. Victoria Cassano, director of radiation and physical exposure for the VA’s Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards.

Please Read the Entire Story here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Toxic Exposures, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

VA PTSD Ammended Adjudication Regulations

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 13, 2010

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its  adjudication regulations governing service connection for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by liberalizing in some cases the evidentiary standard for establishing the required in-service stressor.

This amendment eliminates the requirement for corroborating that the claimed in-service stressor occurred if a stressor claimed by a veteran is related to the veteran’s fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and a VA psychiatrist or psychologist, or a psychiatrist or psychologist with whom VA has contracted, confirms that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD and that the veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor, provided that the claimed stressor is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran’s service.


This amendment takes into consideration the current scientific research studies relating PTSD to exposure to hostile military and terrorist actions. The amendment acknowledges the inherently stressful nature of the places, types, and circumstances of service in which fear of hostile military or terrorist activities is ongoing. With this amendment, the evidentiary standard of establishing an in-service stressor will be reduced in these cases. The amendment will facilitate the timely processing of PTSD claims by simplifying the development and research procedures that apply to these claims.

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, PTSD and TBI, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

AIG, CNA, ACE Denials Add to Overburdened VA System

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 5, 2010

Thousands of Injured Contractors  are being treated by the VA because AIG,  CNA , ACE, refuse to accept their responsibility to provide medical benefits earned by  injured contractors.   Yes, you earned those benefits, they were paid for.

Despite these huge numbers there are those who want to advocate the use of the VA by all injured war zone contractors .   We say AIG and CNA have been paid to provide these services and need to do so or get out of the business.  Congress and the Department of Labor need stop putting this off and deal with it.  The VA  has enough to do without subsidizing greedy insurance companies and taking away from military war casualties.

Toward excellence for veterans

In 2003, Bush administration officials estimated that about 50,000 U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq eventually would file disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In this, as with so many things about the wars, the administration woefully underestimated, this time by a factor of 10. Already some 500,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have filed for disability — about one in every three who served.

With nearly 200,000 troops still deployed in the two nations, that number surely will rise. And the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are the smallest part of the VA’s current disability workload.

The Chicago Tribune reported last month that 84 percent of the increase in VA disability claims over the past seven years came from veterans of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars. In all, the VA paid out $34.4 billion in disability to more than 3 million veterans. The biggest single category for Vietnam, Persian Gulf and “war on terror” veterans: $8 billion for post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disabilities.

Funding isn’t the problem — Congress and the Obama administration have approved major boosts in VA spending in the last two budget years. The problem is the sheer size of the workload.   And it’s about to get bigger.   Read this in it’s entirety here

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Department of Labor | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

VA Official at Claims Summit: VA’s Disability Claim System “Cannot be Fixed”

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 23, 2010

AIG and CNA get off the hook while many of  you are forced into this overburdened VA Health System.   Some, even one of your DBA Lawyers suggested to Congress that Injured Civilian Contractors use the VA system rather than make the DBA insurance companies pay for the benefits they took premiums for.

At Veterans for Common Sense

March 18, 2010, Washington, DC (Federal Times) – Bailing wire and bandages cannot save the veterans’ disability claims process, the Veterans Affairs Department’s chief technology officer said Thursday at a roundtable discussion about ways of cutting the growing backlog of claims and improving accuracy.

“In my judgment, it cannot be fixed,” said Peter Levin. “We need to build a new system, and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

Levin’s comments came at a meeting organized by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to toss around ideas for repairing a system that has a backlog of about 1.1 million claims awaiting decisions and an error rate on claims of 17 to 25 percent, depending on who is counting.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Va., the veterans’ committee chairman, described the system as an “insult to veterans” who, on average, wait six months for an initial decision on benefits and who can wait for years if the decision is appealed.

“It looks like we are going backwards rather than forward,” Filner said. “No matter how much we raise the budget, no matter how many people we hire, the backlog seems to get bigger.”

“People die before their claim is adjudicated. They lose their home. Those lost their car,” Filner said.

Posted in AIG and CNA, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

VA Destroyed PTSD Documents

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 2, 2010

WATCHDOG GROUP SAYS VA DESTROYED “NORMA PEREZ” PTSD DOCUMENTS

Norma Perez urged her VA employees to misdiagnose PTSD. Now, VA says backup tapes were destroyed, including the one containing the Perez email.

NOTE from Larry Scott, VA Watchdog dot Org … In March of 2008, Norma Perez, a VA psychologist, sent an email to her employees telling them to misdiagnose PTSD … they should call it an “Adjustment Disorder.”

That email is here for viewing or download.

All hell broke loose in the veteran community.  Hearings were held.  The Perez email ended up as evidence in the Veterans for Common Sense lawsuit against the VA.

And, Norma Perez?  She got a transfer to a different VA facility.

For complete background on the Norma Perez scandal … use our search engine … here …
http://www.yourvabenefits.org/sessearch.php?q=norma+perez&op=and

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CREW Seeks Relief for VA’s Destruction of PTSD Documents

Author : Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Category : Press Release

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/crew-seeks-relief-for
-varsquos-destruction-of-ptsd-documents,1145359.shtml

WASHINGTON – (Business Wire) Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a brief seeking discovery after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) admitted to destroying documents responsive to CREW’s May 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in CREW v. U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs (D.D.C.). This lawsuit stems from CREW’s FOIA request for documents related to the VA’s policy of under-diagnosing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after an email was revealed in which VA employee Norma Perez discussed this policy.

Since this issue first came to light, the VA has resisted providing any documents. Most recently the VA claimed it had produced everything it had despite the fact that it had not even turned over Norma Perez’s email or – despite public outcry and congressional hearings on the matter – any other records referring to the email. As a result, CREW argued the VA’s search clearly had been inadequate and, amazingly, the agency said that it couldn’t locate the email because it was destroyed in 2008, months after CREW filed both its FOIA request and this lawsuit. In fact, all the VA’s backup tapes were destroyed, including the one containing the Perez email. The VA says it cannot produce any emails predating December 9, 2008.

Based on the destruction of the records, CREW has asked the Court to let us depose VA employees who may have known exactly what the VA was doing about PTSD and the extent to which the agency refused to provide proper medical care for veterans with PTSD.

Anne Weismann, CREW’s chief counsel, stated, “It is incredible that with all of the public outrage and concern over this issue, the VA took no steps to preserve important records. This smacks of a cover-up to avoid liability for a disgraceful policy that deprived our nation’s veterans of appropriate health care.” Weismann continued, “The VA is not above the law; like all other agencies, it cannot simply destroy documents that have been requested under the FOIA just because those documents may cast the agency in a bad light.”

Click here to read CREW’s brief.

Posted in PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Delay, Deny and Hope That I Die.”

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 5, 2010

Many injured contractors who are the responsibility of AIG and CNA under the Defense Base Act have been forced into the VA system to get help.

Is the VA subsidizing the insurance company profits on the backs of other disabled veterans?

It was Abraham Lincoln who said the purpose of the VA was to “care for him who shall have borne the battle.” But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed the VA further behind in that mission, and today there are a million veterans waiting for the VA to handle their disability claims.

That has led some to latch onto another motto making the rounds for how the VA operates:

“Delay, Deny and Hope That I Die.”

VCS on “60 Minutes” Exposing Long Delays Veterans Face with VA Claims

Posted in AIG and CNA, PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

PTSD Claim Tidal Wave at the VA

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 20, 2009

PTSD Claim Tidal Wave

A VA healthcare use report obtained by VCS using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) shows that of 1.1 million Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans eligible for VA medical care, approximately 134,000 were already diagnosed by VA mental health professionals with PTSD (“VA Facility Specific OIF/OEF Veterans Coded with Potential PTSD Through 2nd Qt FY 2009”).

A VA claims activity report also obtained by VCS using FOIA reveals only 58,000 of those veterans were granted service-connected disability compensation benefits by VA (“VA Benefits Activity: Veterans Deployed to the Global War on Terror, July 2009).

This means less than half (43 percent) of the veterans diagnosed by VA with PTSD receive disability benefits for PTSD.  VCS finds VA’s PTSD claim adjudication outcome absolutely unacceptable, and this salient fact is cause for immediate action by VA.

Read this in full at VCS

Posted in PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

US Army Underreporting Suicides, Says GI Advocacy Group

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 17, 2009

by Dahr Jamail

“A 2008 court case in California revealed a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) email that revealed 1,000 veterans who are receiving care from the VA are attempting suicide every single month, and 18 veterans kill themselves daily.”

What might these numbers be if the Civilian Contractors were included in these figures?

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Nov 16 (IPS) – According to a soldiers’ advocacy group at Fort Hood, the U.S. base where an army psychiatrist has been charged with killing 13 people and wounding 30 in a Nov. 5 rampage, the official suicide figures provided by the Army are “definitely” too low.

Chuck Luther served 12 years in the military and is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, where he was a reconnaissance scout in the 1st Cavalry Division. The former sergeant was based at Fort Hood, where he lives today.

“I see the ugly,” Luther told IPS. “I see soldiers beating their wives and trying to kill themselves all the time, and most folks don’t want to look at this, including the military.”

Luther, who in 2007 became the founder and director of the Soldier’s Advocacy Group of Disposable Warriors, knows about these types of internal problems in the military because he has been through many of them himself.

Luther told IPS that he believes the real number of soldiers at Fort Hood committing suicide is being dramatically underreported by the military.

“There are suicides of active-duty troops occurring regularly both on and off base,” Luther said. “One of them I knew personally since I served with him in Iraq and he was one of my soldiers, and they still have him listed as under investigation for suicide.”

“From what I know right now, there are at least three suicides they are not reporting at all. Most notably, there is a soldier who committed suicide that the Army confirmed through a press conference, and this is not being reported, and I’m working with the Pentagon to try to find out why that is not being reported,” he said. “The Army won’t even release his name.”

Yet Luther believes the situation is even worse.

“I definitely believe there are more than these. If this is what they’ve hidden from us that we know of, we can rest assured there are many, many more than this. We filed a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] to get information from them [Army], but they bog you down in red tape,” he said.

Due to the military’s continued attempts to mask the true number of suicides in the ranks, along with an ongoing refusal to make the radical policy changes necessary to properly treat soldiers and psychiatric care providers exposed to secondary post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Luther fears the worst for the future.

“There will be more 5 November [referencing the recent Fort Hood tragedy] attacks on fellow soldiers, and they will likely be even more drastic,” he said.

“Everybody has to outdo someone, so the next are likely to be worse. Violence breeds violence. I was trained to be very violent in combat as a scout…we killed or detained Iraqis before anyone else got there. Two months ago I warned the Army’s Chain of Command that before we had an attack by a soldier on other troops when they come home, we needed to make some dramatic changes.”

At the time of the interview, one week after army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan’s shooting rampage left 13 dead and over 30 wounded at Fort Hood, Luther informed IPS that in the previous three days at Fort Hood, “I’ve heard commanders tell soldiers requesting psychological help that they are full of crap and don’t have PTSD…so if we can’t implement these needed changes quickly and rapidly we are going to have more loss of life on U.S. soil by soldiers killing other soldiers.”

While not on the scale of the recent shooting incident, several other killings by soldiers have been reported at Fort Hood over the last two years.

According to official military statistics, Fort Hood already suffers the highest number of suicides among Army installations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. While Luther believes the number is far higher, Army officials at Fort Hood admit to at least 10 suicides on the base from January to July of this year, and at least 75 “confirmed” suicides since 2003.

Several years of repeated war-zone deployments are taking their toll, as Army personnel are experiencing record rates of PTSD, depression, other mental health problems, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicides.

According to the Army Suicide Event Report, a total of 99 soldiers killed themselves in 2006, the highest rate of military suicides in the 26 years the military has been keeping statistics on suicides. More than a quarter of them were by troops in combat postings in Iraq and Afghanistan. The figure does not include post-discharge suicides by military personnel.

In 2007, at least 115 suicides were reported by the Army, another record. Last year set another record, with at least 133 reported suicides, in addition to there being a record number of suicides in the Marine Corps that year.

The suicide rate for the Army for 2008 was calculated roughly at 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, which for the first time since the Vietnam War is higher than the adjusted civilian rate.

Thus far, 2009 is on pace to set another record for the number of suicides in the Army.

Private Michael Kern, an active-duty Iraq war veteran who is based at Fort Hood, served in Iraq from March 2007 to March 2008.

On Nov. 9, four days after the shooting spree at Fort Hood, Kern told IPS, “The 20th Engineering Battalion was hit hard in this rampage. They are scheduled to deploy in January to Afghanistan, and lost a lot of good folks on Thursday [Nov. 5]. I personally know a soldier in that Battalion who attempted suicide last night.”

Mental health problems and suicide appear to now be systemic in the military.

By October 2007, data within the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicated that approximately 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan were coping by taking prescription antidepressants and/or sleeping pills to cope.

In 2008, the Daily Telegraph of London reported that two out of five suicide victims among troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found to be on antidepressants.

In April 2008, the RAND Corporation released a stunning report revealing, “Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan – 300,000 in all – report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment.”

A 2008 court case in California revealed a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) email that revealed 1,000 veterans who are receiving care from the VA are attempting suicide every single month, and 18 veterans kill themselves daily.

Posted in PTSD and TBI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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