James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, March 19, 2007

More on Bush failure to "Support troops"

The corporate news outfits apparently have decided that you've heard all you need to hear about Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

They figure you're not interested in the other ways and places that the Bush administration and the Pentagon abuse veterans who have suffered physical, mental and/or emotional wounds in Iraq, Afghanistan and even earlier.

We've seen or heard very little in the corporation outlets on the maltreatment of active duty personnel and veterans since Scooter Libby was convicted. And then, of course, Libby pretty much disappeared when the politically motivated firing of U.S. attorneys popped up.

The American press moguls don't think you have the brains to pay attention to more than one Bush outrage story at a time and, more importantly, they don't want you watching too closely as the scandals pile up and undercut the arrogant brat they put in the White House.

Not everybody is so reticent, fortunately, but you have to know where to look.

So....a few updates on the Bush/Pentagon “support” of our troops:

* On March 14, Veterans for America – http://www.veteransforamerica.org – noted that the Army's inspector general reported that more than 90 percent of disabled veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been kept waiting for benefit evaluations beyond the 40-day limit set by the Pentagon itself. Some wait up to 18 months just to get an evaluation of their condition.

The report is based on a study of soldiers at 32 Army bases. It also states that the number of cases requiring evaluation jumped from 9,000 in 2001 to 15,000 in 2005. Conditions causing the slowness of the process include lack of trained personnel, lack of modern computer systems and even such things as lack of wheelchair access for some of the wounded that would allow them to see evaluators.

Veterans for America also notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs now has a backlog of 600,000 claims for treatment from veterans. The agency is taking four to six months to process a veteran's initial paperwork and more than 20 months to process the paper on appeals of denied treatment.

* The on-line magazine Solon reported that in order to fill the Bush escalation of the number of troops in Iraq, the Army is deploying soldiers with serious injuries and other medical problems. This report, passed on by Veterans for America on March 14, said some of those being sent back to Iraq have been declared by doctors to be medically unfit for battle. Some cannot wear their body armor because of their injuries.

Salon reported that on Feb. 15, 75 members of the Army's Third Infantry Division, Third Brigade, were ordered to attend a meeting with the division and brigade surgeons. The two high ranking surgeons summarily changed the medical profiles of the soldiers, thereby allowing them to be sent back to Iraq. Division officers deny the claims of the 75 soldiers.

* Alternet – http://www.alternet.org – posted a story March 15 on how National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, who have had some of the longest deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, are being turned loose within 48 hours of getting back to this country, with only the most perfunctory (or phony?) of mental health screenings. Responding to the routine questions, the Guard and Reserve soldiers give the answers that will get them turned loose as quickly as possible. And they are released, without additional support or services.

Often, say family members, the soldiers feel great isolation after the quick separation from those who have had the same experiences, and many eventually are found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And then the VA frequently delays or refuses treatment, the report says.

A 1996 study showed that reservists are more vulnerable than regular army soldiers to PTSD and psychiatric breakdown, the Alternet report says. The same study also found that almost 100 percent of reserve personnel show some signs of PTSD after serving in combat zones.

Alternet also points out that despite the tremendous growth in PTSD and the number of soldiers wounded in the battle zones, the Bush budget calls for substantial cuts in funding for hospital and medical care for veterans over the next five years.

* Veterans for America again: On Feb. 26 the veterans' organization published a brief report on the fact that the military mental health system is leaving 40 percent of its positions unfilled. A task force of 67 psychologists called early this year for an immediate overhaul of the military mental health system and the filling of vacancies. It said those psychologists who are on the job are under such strain that they are suffering high rate of burnout and loss of motivation.

* The Boston Globe on March 14 published a substantial report on the failures of the military mental health system and the enormous cost of that to veterans, with analysis of why the problems are so deep and individual stories illustrating the failures of the system.

A note for purpose of full disclosure: I am a member of Veterans for America, but am not an active participant in its fact-gathering or reporting.

If you know one or more of those bullyboy shouters who continue to support Little King George and the insane war in Iraq and who lack the capacity to understand anything beyond “support our troops,” feel free to take anything from this piece and the two pieces next below this to demonstrate how the Bush imperialists really “support” our troops.