In a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Colonel Charles Hoge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center reports that up to a third of Iraq War veterans have sought mental health care treatment since their return from Iraq.
Unfortunately, even as we learn of even more devastating consequences of war, on ongoing assault against veterans continues, with some columnists and analysts arguing that many of those claiming post-traumatic stress disorder are simply gaming the system in order to secure financial compensation.
Last year, the VA began an aggressive review of PTSD claims, reopening the claims of 72,000 veterans with the most serious PTSD. Rules were changed to require additional approval for PTSD claims. The review of the 72,000 claims ended only when at least one of those veterans received a letter from the VA and blew his brains out. The subsequent outcry drowned out the most important finding of the VA's investigation -- of the 1,000 reviews they completed before halting the program, not one constituted fraud.
The bottom line is that combat experience can be devastating. The experience of killing in combat, of seeing a friend, or civilians killed, is extremely difficult to deal with and the normal reaction is, as I often put it, to go a little bit crazy. Across America, police departments recognize that fact, by making counseling mandatory for any officer who fires his weapon on duty.
For soldiers, we make no such claim. Often, the only readjustment counseling a military veteran receives on the end of a year-long combat tour is a fifteen minute chat, in a group, with a chaplain.
We know the seriousness of the issue. Untreated combat trauma often results in difficulty readjusting to civilian life. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates than one third of the homeless in America are Vietnam veterans. Too many Iraq war veterans are joining them.
In a democracy, we share responsibility not only for the actions of the service members we send to fight, but also for their future. It is not enough to accuse a few veterans of cheating to get compensation, thus tarnishing the service of hundreds of thousands of others.
The young men and women serving in the military today commit their lives to protect the rest of us. When they come home, it's our turn to help them.
Coming Changes at Veterans for Common Sense
In recognition of the enormous challenges faced by returning veterans, and in response to feedback we received from you in our annual membership survey, big changes are planned for VCS in the coming months. With a tighter focus and increased resources, we'll be working to make a big difference for returning veterans. Over the course of the next few weeks, as those changes are implemented, I'll continue to write and keep you up to date.
In the meantime, thank you for your continued support for VCS.
Resource Guide Update
As many of our members know, last year Veterans for Common Sense published the first comprehensive guide for returning veterans. Thanks to the very generous donations we received after our last call support, we'll shortly be printing thousands of the print version of the guide for distribution at a national conference on PTSD hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Thanks so much to all of you who gave for this effort.
Before we go to print, we want the guide to be as comprehensive as possible. That's where you come in. If you know of organizations, treatment programs or other resources available for returning veterans, we'd like you to add them to the guide.
Take a look at the current version, and if you see a resource that is missing or can be expanded on, please do so. We've opened it up so any member can post edits to the guide, in the hope that a collaborative effort can build a much more comprehensive resource than our staff can do alone. This effort depends on you.
Letter to the President
As many of you who have been members of VCS for while know, our first major campaigns, in the fall of 2002 and the winter of 03, were letters to the President and the Senate/House leadership.
After some discussion, we've decided its time for another letter to the President, which is something we haven't done in quite a long time. We'll most likely focus on a couple of key areas: first, the treatment of the troops, especially on their return, and the heavy push coming from some think tanks (AEI in particular) to attack PTSD. We'll probably also talk about protection of civilians in Iraq and our concerns about prisoner abuse.
This time, before we draft the letter, I'd like to ask you for input. What do you think should go in it? What are the key points? If you could get into see GWB, what would you ask him?
Featured News: To A Soldier; Arrogant and Out of Touch
Douglas Nelston, a Vietnam veteran, writes an eloquent essay addressing the veterans of today and reflecting on his own experiences in Vietnam.
Tom Halsted wrote this week regarding an email he received from a soldier in Iraq about Dick Cheney's worst day.
Occupation: Iraq in the Arts
I'd like to invite those of you in the Washington DC metro area to attend a reception Thursday, March 2, 2006 hosted by the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.
Have you ever wondered what life is really like in Iraq? Want to see and hear firsthand the experiences of Iraq War veterans? Join EPIC at a reception honoring photographer and Iraq War veteran Benjamin Busch and his new exhibit, "Occupation." Speakers will also include VCS board member Erik Gustafson and Iraq War veteran Jonathan Powers (founded of Iraq War Kids Relief).
Thursday, March 2 at 6:30 pm
Marriot Inn & Conference Center (Lower Level Gallery)
University of Maryland University College
3501 University Blvd East
Adelphi, MD 20783
Admission is FREE, but donations are welcome.
All proceeds will benefit the artwork of Benjamin Busch and EPIC's Educational Programs.
National Gulf War Resource Center seeking executive director
The National Gulf War Resource Center, a national organization which has been advocating for Gulf War veterans health issues and the needs of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, is seeking a new executive director. Find out more at http://www.ngwrc.org
VCS Virtual Yard Sale
Do you have an old pair of skis in your attic that you don't use? What about a slightly out-of-date computer, or a box of collectibles? Now you can clear out your clutter and get a tax-deduction at the same time. Veterans for Common Sense is partnering with eBay and MissionFish to allow you to auction your old junk and find just the right buyer for it. Best of all, you can designate a percentage of your sale (from 10% to 100%) to benefit Veterans for Common Sense!
If you use Ebay (or want to get started) and want to find out how to donate part of your sale to VCS, click here:
Do you have a used car or van sitting in your driveway you need to get rid of? Did you know that you can donate used vehicles to Veterans for Common Sense, get a tax-deduction, and help support our mission at the same time?
We Need Your Support
As VCS works on its plan for 2006 and moves forward with a long-term strategic planning process, it is time to take our organization to a new level. Our objective is to double our budget and staff in 2006.
If you haven't made a gift to VCS lately, please consider supporting our work with a donation today.
Don't want to give online? You can call 202-558-4553 to give by credit card over the phone, or send a check to:
Veterans for Common Sense
1101 Pennsylvania Ave SE Suite 203
Washington, DC 20003-2229
Interested in writing for VCS?
Veterans for Common Sense is seeking interesting and hard-hitting original material for the web site. Are you a writer or interested in submitting materials? Editorial guidelines are located at:
On-Line Events Calendar
If you have an upcoming event, memorial service, or other event that may be of interest to other VCS members, please let us know. To post your event online today, visit:
As always, thanks for your support of Veterans for Common Sense.
With highest regards,
Veterans for Common Sense
1101 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003