Thursday, January 29, 2009

Purple Hearts: A Cold-Blooded Decision |

Purple Hearts: A Cold-Blooded Decision |
"Purple Heart awardees are entitled to enhanced benefits, including exemptions from co-payments for hospital and outpatient care. They are also fast-tracked for getting appointments for medical care and psychological services.

Soldiers come home to few psychological services and virtually no individual therapy. It isn't uncommon to wait several months to see a therapist, and then only once a month. MTBI sufferers may see as many as seven different therapists.

The military has made little effort to deal with MTBI and PTSD. Soldiers suffering from PTSD outnumber amputees at Walter Reed Hospital 43 to 1, but there is no PTSD center. After diagnosis, sufferers usually go to the hospital's psych division, where they are housed with bipolar and schizophrenic patients and tanked up with drugs. A study by Veterans for America (VFA) found that some soldiers were taking up to 20 different medications at once, some of which canceled out others.

The military has lost 22% of its psychologists over the past several years, mostly to burn-out. Soldiers have difficulty finding private therapists because the Department of Veterans Affairs pays below market rates and even cut those reimbursements in 2007. About 30% of private psychologists won't take on military patients because they can't afford to. The situation is worse for the National Guard and Reserves, who make up almost 50% of the troops deployed in both wars and who, according to VFA, "are experiencing rates of mental health problems 44% higher than their active duty counterparts." Health care for such troops is generally inferior - and more expensive - than that offered full-time regulars.

Many soldiers are also reluctant to report their symptoms because they are afraid it will keep them from getting a promotion or landing a job once they leave the military. Only 53% of those diagnosed with MTBI sought help and, according to the Rand Study, "roughly one-half got minimally adequate care."

Worse, solders who report behavioral difficulties may find themselves discharged from the service, with the consequent loss of medical care. They may even be billed for their recruitment bonus."

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