As if there weren’t already scores of examples of the damage done to our troops psyches, here is yet another fine example. CNN.com reports that
A U.S. Army soldier who had served in Iraq was tackled by airplane passengers after he ran down the aisle and rammed the cockpit door on a flight from New York to Tampa, an official said.
The soldier in question was scheduled to be discharged July 12 and was on leave at the time. According to his brother
“has some mental problems related to his Army service,”
This is just one more example that our troops are stretched way too thin with many pulling 2, 3, or even 4 tours in Iraq. With each additional deployment, the mental health of our troops becomes further damaged, even the ones who are gung-ho about the war and wish to return.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the one of the most common health issues to affect troops who have deployed to Iraq to fight. Yet, not enough funding to take care of and treat these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines has been allocated. As of 2004 and according to an article in Psychiatric News, by the American Psychiatric Association,
…less than 9 percent of the VA health research budget is dedicated to mental illness and substance use, even though 35 percent to 40 percent of VA patients need mental health care.
The percentage of VA patients needing this critical mental health care has surely increased since the beginning of the Iraq War, specifically due to the repeated exposure to the situations that cause PTSD. If the Whitehouse and Congress really want to support the troops, they need to start with increased funding to the VA specifically for mental health-related issues. An Op-Ed article in the NY Times back on March 1, 2006(login required) reports on the rising number of older veterans who are being diagnosed, years after the fact, with PTSD. I do happen to disagree with the conclusion the article’s author comes to that many of these years-old claims are fraudulent.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder didn’t become commonly diagnosed until the Vietnam War. The Iraq War and the multiple deployments of troops has heightened the awareness of PTSD and its effects on returning soldiers. The episode described above can be classically described as a PTSD-related incident. Unfortunately, many returning troops are being discharged and told to visit the nearest VA Medical Center for any health-related issues they experience instead of being treated by military doctors.
If Congress and the Whitehouse were truly concerned about the mental well-being of our returning troops, they would immediately pass legislation increasing the funding to the VA for mental health treatment. It would be a small price to pay to ‘Support our Troops’. Perhaps if funding to the various mercenary groups currently operating in Iraq were cut, we could easily afford to pay for increases in VA funding. But that’s just my suggestion.