This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.
Happy Veteran's Day. Sort of. I might be the poster child for tree-hugging, bleeding heart liberal, but I am ever thankful for people who are willing to serve my country and protect me by putting themselves in harm's way. Plus, I'm married to a veteran.
I'm a neurologist, so I think about the brain. I think about things that hurt the brain. I think about what happens to the brain after it gets hurt. Mix in thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan, and you see me worrying about the current state (or lack thereof) of adequate health care and mental health care for our returning soldiers. I am lucky that I have good health insurance (providing I remain healthy and employed, that is). TheHusband served in the military and was honorably discharged, so he is entitled to health care through the VA system. Sadly, I am happy that he does not have to receive care there. Trust me, I've worked in a VA Hospital, and I know of what I speak. Issues relating to poor health care in the VA system aren't solely related to the ... um... lack of services at the institutions (I'm being kind here), but also to the lack of coverage where coverage is needed. VA clinics and hospitals are relatively few and far between, especially in rural areas, where the need is likely to be greatest.
Traumatic brain injury and PTSD are seen in increasing numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. While the diagnosis of these disorders may be easy in severe cases, diagnosis and treatment of mild or moderate cases can be difficult and confusing. A simple PubMed search of PTSD plus TBI returned 102 articles, 21 of which were published in 2010. Not an insignificant problem. As you can imagine, something that is difficult to diagnose is likely to be difficult to treat. There is no real good treatment for either of these disorder, which even in their "mild" forms can be quite disabling. Add together disroders that are hard to diagnose, difficult to treat, and a health care system inadequately prepared to deal with these issues, and it equals sick servicemembers who are not receiving care they deserve.
The lack of adequate chronic and mental health care is a concern for all of us, not just for the servicemembers and their family members. The Army Times has identified a serious lack of available care for treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Reports have shown that the Army's efforts to reduce returning soldiers' suicides are failing.
So what do we owe our veterans? At the very least, we owe them adequate health care, especially to take care of war-related injuries.
I wish that this post included brilliant ideas for fixing these problems, but I don't have any. But neither, it seems, do people who are in charge.