Jump to content

NPR: Military preventing vets from seeking treatment


Recommended Posts

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6575431

Jennings called a supervisor at Ft. Carson to say that he had almost killed himself, so he was going to skip formation to check into a psychiatric ward. The Defense Department's clinical guidelines say that when a soldier has been planning suicide, one of the main ways to help is to put him in the hospital. Instead, officers sent a team of soldiers to his house to put him in jail, saying that Jennings was AWOL for missing work.
Richard Travis, formerly the Army's senior prosecutor at Ft. Carson, is now in private practice. He says that the Army has to pay special mental-health benefits to soldiers discharged due to PTSD. But soldiers discharged for breaking the rules receive fewer or even no benefits, he says.

Alex Orum's medical records showed that he had PTSD, but his officers expelled him from the Army earlier this year for "patterns of misconduct," repeatedly citing him on disciplinary grounds. In Orum's case, he was cited for such infractions as showing up late to formation, coming to work unwashed, mishandling his personal finances and lying to supervisors -- behaviors which psychiatrists say are consistent with PTSD.

Sergeant Nathan Towsley told NPR, "When I'm dealing with Alex Orum's personal problems on a daily basis, I don't have time to train soldiers to fight in Iraq. I have to get rid of him, because he is a detriment to the rest of the soldiers."

Doctors diagnosed another soldier named Jason Harvey with PTSD. At the end of May this year, Harvey slashed his wrists in a cry for help. Officials also kicked Harvey out a few months ago for "patterns of misconduct."

A therapist diagnosed Tyler Jennings with PTSD in May, but the Army's records show he is being tossed out because he used drugs and missed formations. Files on other soldiers suggest the same pattern: Those who seek mental-health help are repeatedly cited for misconduct, then purged from the ranks.

Most of these soldiers are leaving the Army with less than an "honorable discharge" -- which an Army document warns "can result in substantial prejudice in your civilian life." In other words, the Army is pushing them out in disgrace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is so sickening.

It's no wonder so many soldiers have come to Canada and are hiding off the radar, mainly in BC. I saw a news clip about a group of selfless Canuks who are providing food and shelter for these guys until political asylum can be arranged with our government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sheesh. i am quite anti military, because i can clearly see that if you are going to take someone and teach them to go against all their cultural trianing so that they can easily kill people, you are going to have issues when they get back to civvie life.

add on top of that the horrors they see, the stress of friends beign killed, the drugs they are given and exposed to (biological warfare and our government testing things)...

how can one expect any of them to return sane? that so many do is amazing to me.

but if we, as a nation, send them out, we, as a nation, owe it to them to get them any help they or their families need as a result.

it shouldn't be a difficult concept.

i must wonder if people are being kicked out for showing ptsd symptoms so they DON'T have to pay.

in any case, it's disgusting our soldiers are treated this way.

abi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I listened to the piece when it aired a couple nights ago. What soldier see and suffer as a consequence is truly awful, and it's unfortunate that the Army has yet to increase the size of its psych programs to meet the needs.

However, the reporter displayed a complete misunderstanding of how the military works. Because of that his report takes on a sensationalist tone which is largely wrong. For some reason, he assumes that the Army has a totally integrated system where doctors are involved with the daily work and supervision of soldiers, and that the system works in concert to persecute ill soldiers. This is no more true than it is in the real world.

You and I are MI and go to see pdoc's and therapists, but if we fail to show up for work, or show up drunk or drugged, or disheveled, unbathed, unshaven and not presentable to deal with customers...well we get fired. Our pdoc isn't responsible for that. We are. That is called personal behavior and personal responsiblity. The same thing applies in the Army. If the soldiers are not capable of working, then the doctors can order modified work schedules or duties, or even grant medical leave for weeks at a time. If the patient is having trouble, just like you and I, you back to the doc or the ER.

As far as discharges, there is not a global conspiracy to somehow save money by not granting medical discharges. The local units have nothing to do with any money or budgets, they don't even determine disability percentages or pensions and benefits, that's done by the Veterans Administration, which is not even connected to the Army. Discharges for performance are just that. Based on facts of misbehavior. Drug use documented by urinalysis, Unauthorized Absence, willful disobedience of orders, etc. The same rules that apply to all soldiers. A discharge hearing is conducted by a panel of three officers, and the soldier is allowed to have a JAG lawyer represent him, while the Army's case is presented by a regular non-lawyer officer.

[edit] This all leads to the question should the Army remove MI soldiers from operational units and put them in "Crazy Companies" for treatment with limited or low demand duties? Now, we don't hear about all the soldiers with PTSD who are treated successfully and able to continue working without breaking regulations. I dare say that most pdocs would recommend that MI people continue to work if possible, for socialization, support and to maintain a sense of self worth. No doubt Army psychologists are studying and debating these issues, but we don't hear about it.

Jennings called a supervisor at Ft. Carson to say that he had almost killed himself, so he was going to skip formation to check into a psychiatric ward. The Defense Department's clinical guidelines say that when a soldier has been planning suicide, one of the main ways to help is to put him in the hospital. Instead, officers sent a team of soldiers to his house to put him in jail, saying that Jennings was AWOL for missing work.
Well, this soldier didn't do what he said did he? He wasn't at the hospital, he was sitting at home. We don't know whether he actually received permission from his supervisor or just insubordinately told him that he wasn't coming in. It doesn't take a lot of effort to put on his uniform and check in with his sergeant before leaving for the hospital.

Richard Travis, formerly the Army's senior prosecutor at Ft. Carson, is now in private practice. He says that the Army has to pay special mental-health benefits to soldiers discharged due to PTSD. But soldiers discharged for breaking the rules receive fewer or even no benefits, he says.

This reference is rather vague. Is he talking about a medical retirement? There are not special categories of medical retirement. Mental conditions, heart problems, amputations, they are all the same. Soldiers less than 6 years of service are generally not eligible for medical retirements except for major disabilties. And again, medical disibility is handled by the medical corps, not the soldiers' unit. Hence his sergeants and Lieutenants have not control or interests in these matters.

Alex Orum's medical records showed that he had PTSD, but his officers expelled him from the Army earlier this year for "patterns of misconduct," repeatedly citing him on disciplinary grounds. In Orum's case, he was cited for such infractions as showing up late to formation, coming to work unwashed, mishandling his personal finances and lying to supervisors -- behaviors which psychiatrists say are consistent with PTSD.
Again, these are personal behaviors. A civilian employer wouldn't accept this behavior either.

Sergeant Nathan Towsley told NPR, "When I'm dealing with Alex Orum's personal problems on a daily basis, I don't have time to train soldiers to fight in Iraq. I have to get rid of him, because he is a detriment to the rest of the soldiers."

This is the gist of the problem. A soldier assigned to a combat unit is still expected to keep performing his duties. With a war on, they only have about a year at home to rest, and retrain before deploying again.

Doctors diagnosed another soldier named Jason Harvey with PTSD. At the end of May this year, Harvey slashed his wrists in a cry for help. Officials also kicked Harvey out a few months ago for "patterns of misconduct."
If anything, the failure here is by the medical officers for not providing better care. Misconduct is misconduct, you can't fault his unit.

A therapist diagnosed Tyler Jennings with PTSD in May, but the Army's records show he is being tossed out because he used drugs and missed formations. Files on other soldiers suggest the same pattern: Those who seek mental-health help are repeatedly cited for misconduct, then purged from the ranks.

The Army should allow permit drug users just because they have PTSD? You sure you want these guys wrenching on helicopters, driving tanks, handling grenades and high explosives?

Most of these soldiers are leaving the Army with less than an "honorable discharge" -- which an Army document warns "can result in substantial prejudice in your civilian life." In other words, the Army is pushing them out in disgrace.

They are being discharged for documented misconduct, not for being MI. Believe it nor not, the military is very tight knit and takes cares of those who make an honest effort to try to do their work. It takes a lot of screwing up to get thrown out.

a.m.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They are being discharged for documented misconduct, not for being MI. Believe it nor not, the military is very tight knit and takes cares of those who make an honest effort to try to do their work. It takes a lot of screwing up to get thrown out.

*nods* i grew up on bases and the medical care SUCKED lol. but soldiers watch out for one another.

i didn't actually raed the article, i just read what VE had posted, so it's very likely i missed a lot ;)

i have lots more to say about the military but my ride for work will be here any minute, so i'll try to remember to post more later :)

abi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With all that's gone on related to the Iraq war and I'd be willing to believe that there's an official policy to cover up PTSD rates to keep us there.

I can also believe that a lot of military types would rather face dishonorable discharge than a psych dx and won't really come to grips with the magnitude of it all for another ten years.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With all that's gone on related to the Iraq war and I'd be willing to believe that there's an official policy to cover up PTSD rates to keep us there.

I can also believe that a lot of military types would rather face dishonorable discharge than a psych dx and won't really come to grips with the magnitude of it all for another ten years.

i'm going entirely on the brainwashing *I* got as a military brat following my dad around... but the military social stigma is a LOT easier on dishonorable discharge than mental issues. we were told as kids it was better to accept severe punishments for severe behavior than to blame it on MI. never mind that the reason i was on base with my dad, not in MD with my mom and siblings, was that i was autistic and did better with the structure of the schools on base.

so i can easily see someone letting themselves get discharged long before they go to a doctor about it.

i don't know at what point i would say it's the superior officer's job to keep an eye out for these things and help their men get the help they need. they really should NOT be babysitting, but there is a point at which they need to help people out...

abi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm with A.M. on this one. If somebody is going to turn up late, without bathing, etc.- they are going to be kicked out. Period. And no, it won't be an "honorable discharge" any more than you'd get a good reference from any other employer if you were doing the same thing at a civilian job.

That said, I'm sure there's prejudice against MI soldiers, particularly in the infantry. We're talking about people who have to watch out for each other or die, literally. Yes, they are probably going to be agressive about "weeding out" people who are obviously unstable. It doesn't matter whether it is PTSD or anything else, if it is going to get them killed, then there is going to be a very negative reaction to it.

That doesn't make it right, of course. These people need help more than they need being shoved out the door. But I don't think it's a conspiracy or because it is "just because they're MI." Anyone who was consistently unreliable, behaving erratically, etc. would be treated the same way whether it was due to a medical condition or just because that's how they are.

Oh, and the guy who got arrested for being "AWOL" when he said he was going to the hospital? I agree that this is fishy. If he called his supervisor then went to the hospital, then how the hell did those MPs show up fast enough to arrest him? And if he didn't go to the hospital right away...why not? If he could hold it together long enough to wait until morning, he could have held it together long enough to show up at formation. We're not talking some hour-long Event here.

And Abi, you've got it straight on. The military mindset: You don't go around blaming your behavior on MI or anything else. You don't make excuses. You do your job and you deal with your shit on your own time. Right or wrong, it's how it is. Not a conspiracy, and not new to the war on Iraq or even to the U.S. military. Anybody remember the phrase "return with your shields or on them?" ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The VA sucks at giving competent pyschiatric care.

I've been trying to get help for my schizophrenic cousin (a vet) and have been working with the Adult Protective Services lady. She called the social worker at the VA hospital where my cousin gets his drugs and asked if there was any therapy available.

This is a quote: "We haven't found that therapy is effective with our psychiatric patients."

;)

So a man who has been delusional for 40 years will be delusional until he dies, because the fucking Veterans' Administration will not provide decent medical care for him. He is given his drug prescription every 6 months, and they don't care that he's hearing voices, and that he's paranoid, and that he doesn't bathe....they just don't give a shit. They got their four years out of him.

It is criminal to treat our vets this way.

olga

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anybody remember the phrase "return with your shields or on them?" ;)

i remember having a conversation with a friend and explaining the military mindset... that soldiers should be expected to have certain behaviors that might not be socially acceptable. that's part of the point of boot camp. but i was told it was a conspiracy and outrage anyway. sighs.

It is criminal to treat our vets this way.

i fully agree. like i've said: i'm anti military but absolutely PRO take care of anyone IN the military. yet another thing i've tried explaining to people and gotten blank stares. ah well.

if i had my way, anyone whose job it is to risk their lives on a regular basis to keep this country safe (cops, firemen, EMTs, soldiers) should get a helluva lot of benefits for as long as THEY need them.

abi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Keep pushing for the care Olga. The squeaky wheel gets the grease at the VA, and if you aren't talking to the right person, you wont' get the right response. I saw this happen repeatedly with our prosthetic/orthotic patients.

My cousin was in the USAF back in the 70's for a single hitch when his Sz hit him. He's had pretty darn good care from the VA hospital in Hamptom VA, lo these many years. Meds, docs, support groups, plus support from the DAV groups were his lifeline until my uncle took him to a town 5 hours away, cutting him off. ;)

Congress has failed to fully fund the VA medical obligations to vets for over 10 years. Consequently, the VA was forced to create 8 priority levels for access to care. If your illness isn't service connected, or you weren't already in the system, it's tough to get any services. Again, its' not the VA to blame it is Congress!

Personally, having spent 5 years in a prosthetic office dealing with the VA among other, I think that the VA no longer serves a valid purpose. Everything the VA does is available in the civilian community at lower overall cost. I think all eligible veterans should be given a super-duper Medicare card and allowed to get care near home at their convenience.

a.m.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think all eligible veterans should be given a super-duper Medicare card and allowed to get care near home at their convenience.

a.m.

good idea!! as far as i'm concerned, they've all paid in for whatever benefits they can get.

abi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi All:

On one of my recent train trips i met a guy who recently served in iraq. and he was wanting to talk to me about some of the aspects. he said other things were way to troublesome to remember much less talk about. we were also talking about my MI. and he said that he goes to a military type therapist once a week. I dont know if this was the VA or what....but the guy obviously has some big mental issues that he gets help for. He was a nice guy and I really felt for him. I cannot imagine the horrors of war and then having to come home and deal with it.

so, for one person the "military system" was helping him. I just hope that the ones that need help - get it and are able to recieve help from the government. its the least we can do for sending these people to war.

december

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Boyfriend served two tours in Vietnam and one in Irag. From Vietnam he came back with an infection on

his entire back (from the jungle) that he will take antibiotics for the rest of his life. He still has flare ups. He retired as a Lt. Colonel. He receives 10% disability. (Not enough to me). When he sleeps at night, he has to have a door open with light in case he wakes up in the middle of the night (it won't be completely dark) He still has nightmares. Every now and then he will yell out during sleep or begin kicking or waving his arms. After all this years, I think his close army buddies have finally convinced him to apply for disability for PTSD. I'm sure it won't be much, but every little bit helps. He does get alot of medical services through the VA. Actually, after leaving the army he went back to school and then went to work at the VA as a Registered Nurse and later, in management. Well, I forgot the topic. I could go on about this man. I think a lot of him. Oh, here's the topic. I'll ask him what he thinks about the military preventing vets from seeking treatment and come back later.

Rhonda

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...