Last year, some 67,000 soldiers returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan were treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Eighty-nine of them committed suicide. Perhaps even more than physical injuries, mental trauma incurred by servicemen tends to have an insidious ripple effect on the affected families and communities. Numerous studies suggest that domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and other destructive behavior is a regular byproduct of untreated PTSD.
Making matters worse, as Joshua Kors reported in an award-winning Nation expose published in March of 2007, there have been numerous cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq were suspiciously diagnosed by the military as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits which made it virtually impossible for them to treat their PTSD. (As Kors noted, the conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans’ rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.)
The Veterans’ Mental Health Outreach and Access Act of 2007, S. 38, headed soon to the Senate floor for a vote, would seek to address the metastasizing problems of returning vet’s PTSD.
The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senator Peter Domenici and co-sponsored by twelve other Senators, including Barack Obama (nor neither McCain, nor Clinton) calls for the nationwide training of peer counselors to assist returning vets with mental health issues and expands the range of mental health options available to veterans and extends the period of time during which veterans are entitled to receive free mental health counseling to five years. It also imposes guidelines for the adequate training of mental health counselors dealing specifically with veterans’ issues and expands access to qualified local facilities for veterans who live in rural areas that don’t have health centers affiliated with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Click here to implore your Senators to vote yes on S. 38.