Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shrinking The News...

A column by Peter Sheehy

"But my dear man, reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know"
-Alan Watts

If “The Third Time is a Charm,"
Why are We Still Failing our Wounded Soldiers?

This morning the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing, "Third Walter Reed Oversight Hearing: Keeping the Nation's Promise to Our Wounded Soldiers."

Despite some progress since the previous two hearings, the theme, at least in the questioning from Representative Waxman (D-CA) (chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) was more about broken promises.

In questioning Michael Dominguez, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Waxman discussed a soldier who was redeployed despite his need for "psychiatrically limiting medication," and also outlined ways in which the Department of Defense's own redeployment procedures were not being followed. Waxman described the "systemic problems" of wrongful discharges of soldiers with psychiatric conditions that are caused by the military's refusal to accept the reality that many soldiers' mental health problems are combat-related.

In one shocking exchange, Waxman cited a memo obtained by NPR from the Director of Mental Health at Evans Army Community Hospital who has authored a manual on care for soldiers, that declared "we can't fix every soldier" and "neither can you." "Everyone in life has to be held accountable for what they do in life," so "get rid of the dead wood." Waxman concluded his testimony by insisting that the military stop blaming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on previous conditions, and thus stigmatizing soldiers with dishonorable discharges that will also limit their ability to seek VA care.

I would be interested to know how many of these vets end up in your Emergency Department?

For the Government Accountability Office Report on Health Care for Service members see GAO Testimony Before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives.

See NPR's outstanding series on PTSD and mental health care for soldiers .

Click here for video coverage of today's hearings.

Shrinking the News is a column written by Peter Sheehy, who earned a PhD from the Department of History at the University of Virginia. His dissertation is on the cultural history of psychotherapy. Dr Sheehy teaches history at the Horace Mann School in New York City and is working on a book about the history of psychotherapy.

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