Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On My Mind: The Walking Wounded

Mark Benjamin over at Salon.com has been covering wounded soldiers and veterans' issues for quite some time. He wrote about the failures of military healthcare long before the Washington Post uncovered mold and mouse droppings at Walter Reed. Today he writes about how injured soldiers are being sent back to Iraq, sometimes after they've been diagnosed as medically unfit for battle. Soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, many of whom are on their third tour, told Salon that their injuries were being purposely ignored and some medical records were being fudged in order to meet the recent "surge" quotas.

A new study shows that almost one-third of U.S. soldiers seeking government health care after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with a mental problem. Dr. Karen Seal of the University of California and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center said the prevalence of mental problems among veterans threatens "to bring the war back home as a costly personal and public health burden." Seal found that about 13% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD. As a point of reference, about 15% of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD.

Other news today: Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley — the former commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, resigned after acting Army Secretary Pete Garem asked him to step down. Kiley is the third high-ranking official to be relieved of duty after the Washington Post exposed terrible conditions at Walter Reed and other military hospitals.

It's not all bad news: at the U.S. Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, a facility described as "MASH on steroids," soldiers injured by IEDs stand a 96 percent chance of surviving thanks to the incredible ER team.

"On My Mind"
is a column designed to encourage discussion within the medical community about politics and health issues. The writer of this column is a professor of American history and has an unhealthy obsession for politics.

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