The federal government has been less than candid in its assertions concerning the plight of our troops returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of troops diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) jumped by roughly 50% in 2007, the most violent year so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon records. The Defense Department has now disclosed a more realistic number for PTSD cases from the two wars. Officials say nearly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness since 2003 and that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret. Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker has admitted that he still doesn’t believe he has “good numbers.” While that’s understandable, it doesn’t excuse the numbers that had been disclosed by the government previously, which were apparently under-stated. It should be noted that the 40,000 cases of PTSD currently being reported cover only those that the military has tracked. There may well be many more that weren’t followed by the Department of Defense.
Officials have estimated that roughly 50% of troops with mental health problems don’t get treatment because they’re embarrassed or fear it will hurt their careers. An accounting of diagnosed cases released by the Surgeon General to the media in late May reveals the hardest hit last year were troops from the Marines and Army, the two ground forces bearing the brunt of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army reported more than 10,000 new cases last year, compared to more than 6,800 the previous year. More than 28,000 soldiers altogether were diagnosed with the disorder over the last five years. The Marine Corps had more than 2,100 cases in 2007, compared to 1,366 in 2006. They have had more than 5,000 PTSD cases diagnosed since 2003.
Increased violence in both wars and the fact that a number of troops are serving their second, third or fourth tours of duty — a factor mental health experts say dramatically increases stress – are all contributing to this most serious problem. It was reported in a recent private study that up to 300,000 of those who’ve served in these wars have symptoms. Regardless of how a person feels about the ill-advised war in Iraq, our government has a legal and moral duty to take care of all the men and women who have put their lives on the line for their country. There have been lots of instances where those returning troops have been largely ignored and that’s inexcusable.
Source: Associated Press
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