Saturday, November 21, 2009

Obama, Veterans Benefits, and Combat Related PTSD

Veterans have served and sacrificed in defense of our Nation. When they complete their service, we must do everything in our power to assist them in re-entering civilian life and finding employment. Government as well as private employers should play a prominent role in helping veterans who may be struggling to find jobs. As one of the Nation's leading employers, the Federal Government is in need of highly skilled individuals to meet agency staffing needs and to support mission objectives. Our veterans, who have benefited from training and development during their military service, possess a wide variety of skills and experiences, as well as the motivation for public service, that will help fulfill Federal agencies' staffing needs. It is therefore the policy of my Administration to enhance recruitment of and promote employment opportunities for veterans within the executive branch, consistent with merit system principles and veterans' preferences prescribed by law. The Federal Government will thereby help lead by example in promoting veterans' employment.

Not sure how enforceable any of these policies are as I am not well versed in reading through government legislature, but I am happy to see the president making strides in this direction. Not just because I am currently serving. It is just the right thing to do. Trust me there are many in our Armed Forces that have sacrificed much more than I ever will and I think it is a shame if those who have put forth tremendous sacrifice defending the country aren’t able to reap the rewards upon their return. I am still a firm believer in the meritocracy, however I think often times people both in and outside the service fail to recognize the parallels between military service and many other seemingly unrelated careers. There are many lessons learned that transcend job experience that are valuable in any life situation, job, or team scenario. Here is the full executive order.

Employment is one thing, but I would love to see greater strides made towards mental health and wellness of soldiers returning from combat. One of the most rewarding acquisitions I ever made in the military was purchasing Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder training for medical practitioners treating returning veterans. Given the expeditionary nature of our services, the decreased size of our force, and the extended and intensified operations tempo there are a lot of our defenders returning with combat related PTSD. Not only are many of these veterans not being treated when they return home, many are being sent back over again.

More than 600,000 Americans have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Psychological trauma is cumulative," explained Dr. Paul Ragan, a former Navy psychiatrist who is an associate professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. More deployments can mean more mental stress, and for some, more mental illnesses, he said.

Army surveys show that for those soldiers deployed once, the rate of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder is 12 percent. For those deployed three or more times, the rate is 27 percent.

"People who have psychiatric symptoms, actively symptomatic with PTSD or depression, are being sent back to the very situation that caused their PTSD and depression," Ragan said.

The Army's chief psychiatrist, Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, agrees with the Rand Corp.'s estimate that 300,000 service members have demonstrated post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Some are returning to the battlefront, although the Army is not keeping track of how many.

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