Homeland insecurity

City Times Editorial Board

Imagine you’re this rich, powerful person. You’re one of the most influential people in the world and people are constantly trying to get into your good graces. Unfortunately, when someone gets to this level of power and status, there will be other, not as influential people, who will be trying to knock you out of that position

So what do you do? You get someone to watch your back. You get security and you treat them as well as possible. If they get hurt on the job, you make sure they get the best care possible. And once they’ve retired you’d probably want to make sure they’re compensated justly.

Makes sense right? So then why can’t one of the richest and most powerful “men” in the world, the United States government, seem to grasp this concept?

According to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, upon returning from Iraq or Afghanistan an estimated 25-40 percent of soldiers have “invisible” wounds-psychological and neurological injuries associated with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI), which have been dubbed “signature injuries” of the Iraq War.

Along with this, the National Institute for Drug Abuse has repeatedly concluded that PTSD and depression are risk factors for substance abuse and suicide, which has increased by nearly 20% in active-duty soldiers, as reported in an internal US Army report.

So what is being done to help these men and women who have served their country honorably?

Out of 1.7 million troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan 799,800 have been discharged and eligible for VA care but only 299,600 have taken advantage of it. Out of those nearly 300,000 veterans, 120,000, almost half, have been for mental disorders.

How can such a load be handled fairly when the VA’s mental health workforce consists of a mere 17,000 employees? That amounts to roughly one practitioner for every 734 soldiers.

One person to handle over 700 patients, all of whom suffer from mental distress. One person to take care of hundreds of soldiers, who along with psychological disorders may very well also suffer from substance abuse. It’s a wonder these case workers don’t suffer mental problems themselves.

Is there hope for these soldiers? What can be done to help the veterans who suffer these debilitating diseases? The most obvious answer is to hire more VA workers. But that’s only the beginning. We have to provide a better support system for when they return from overseas. We have to make sure that their transition back into civilian life is as smooth and pain free as possible. We have to embrace them and let them know that what they have done is appreciated. We can’t let them end up broke, mentally ill and on the streets like so many do.

If this continues, we’ll eventually be left with no security and who will watch our backs then?