11 November 2010

QotD: What do we owe our veterans?

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.


Random Michelle K said...

First and foremost, I agree with you 100%.

Second, I want to point out that there are people in govt who are working to try and change things.

My senator, Rockefeller, is on the Veteran's Affairs committee specifically because there are so many veterans in our state, and that is the best way he found to fight for those men & woman.

Here are the current members of the Veterans Affairs Committee: http://veterans.senate.gov/committee-members.cfm

Daniel K. Akaka, HI
John D. Rockefeller IV, WV
Patty Murray, WA
Sherrod Brown, OH
Jim Webb, VA
Jon Tester, MT
Mark Begich, AK
Roland Burris, IL
Arlen Specter, PA
Bernard Sanders, VT
Richard Burr, NC
Johnny Isakson, GA
Roger Wicker,MS
Mike Johanns, NE
Lindsey Graham, SC
Scott Brown, MA

vince said...

We owe our veterans health care that covers their physical and mental needs for as long as need. We owe them food and shelter - no veteran or his or her family should ever be homeless and hungry.

We owe them respect. Yes, there will always be a very small subset who do horrible things, just as there are human beings of every stripe who do horrible things. It's not exclusive to people in the military. But these men and women put their bodies in harms way, seeing and experiencing things that most of us haven't nor wish to. And they do so at the will of civilian leaders who often send them where they should never be sent for reasons that don't hold up to scrutiny. Yet these men and women go, feeling it is their duty to serve, even when the cause isn't one they agree with.

We owe our freedom to veterans.

ExpatMom said...


neurondoc said...

I happen to owe the veteran nearest to me $10, but that is a completely different issue.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with you 100%. As far as I know, we don't have veteran's hospitals in Canada, they get treated in our local hospitals like everyone else. There is a veteran's ward at one of the big hospitals in Toronto. From what I understand, it is mostly used to house aged veterans who need more care than available in a normal nursing home.

And I totally agree with Vince.

I watched the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa this morning, on tv, and observed the 2 minutes of silence to remember.

Herman X said...

I know that as a veteran who will one day be a retired, crotchety old geezer, it will be good to know that I have an emergency plan in case there is no other available health care option.

I just had a conversation with my father (also a vet) and asked him why he has not looked in to using the VA to supplement his current retirement benefits. He told me he MAKES TOO MUCH on his retirement benefit and that medicare covers more than the VA would anyway. Said there was alot of paperwork involved and that the nearest VA Hospital is roughly 60 miles away.

Oh well, I know at least one government employee is doing her part to keep the military safe the best she can!

Happy Veterans day TO ME!

aTEM (as TPT says for ahem)
Who do you owe ten big one too and for WHAT REASON!

Danny G said...

I agree with Natalie et al. Sadly, the lack of appropriate mental health care at the VA can result in our veterans experiencing homelessness, addiction and incarceration.

I'd like to add affordable housing to the wish list. There are about 50,000 homeless people here in Los Angeles County on any given night and about a quarter of them are veterans. Yes, you just did the math.

Also veterans struggle with addiction way disproportionately compared to the general population. And because of all the blame and stigma that accompanies drug and alcohol use, many of those veterans will also experience incarceration, homelessness, overdose and family trauma. So let's add more drug treatment programs that meet veterans where they are instead of where we think they should be.

Happy Veterans Day!

Carol Elaine said...

I agree with neurondoc and Vince. Affordable and adequate health care, food and shelter are the very least we owe our veterans. And respect. Always respect.