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After War, Many Are Hospitalized, But Not for Battle Wounds

After War, Many Are Hospitalized, But Not for Battle Wounds

Written by Sy Mukherjee

Mental health problems like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) kept U.S. service members hospitalized for more days in 2012 than war wounds, accidental injuries and physical illness did, according to data from the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

Out of all outpatient hospital visits and inpatient stays by service members, over 19 percent were for a mental health issue — second only to injuries and poisonings. For hospital trips that required inpatient care, mental disorders comprised the most days spent in a hospital by far, despite the fact that only 26 percent of all hospitalizations involved a mental health problem:

usa today mental health hospitalization servicemembers
CREDIT: USA Today/Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center 

The only service members who had to stay in a hospital for longer than mental health patients were those with “severe amputations” and extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy requirements, according to USA Today.

Army officials attribute the long hospital stays for mental health problems to recent wars in the Middle East. “The increase in mental health hospitalizations is most likely influenced by exposure of servicemembers to stressful events associated with deployment to” Afghanistan and Iraq, said Army Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for Pentagon health affairs, in an interview with USA Today.

Officials also project that the trend toward an increasing number of veterans requiring extensive mental health services will begin to reverse itself substantially this year as the Iraq and Afghan wars wind down. At least 15 percent of service members returning from the conflicts suffer from PTSD.

Unfortunately, the medical safety net for American veterans hasn’t enjoyed the best record in recent years. Claims processing backlogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have left close to a million service members without the care that they need. In some regions, the waiting period for getting mental health treatment is so long that veterans have been committing suicide while waiting for their care.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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11:41PM PDT on Oct 6, 2013

I think that many WW II veterans probably had PTSD, but as it was a different time, it wasn't diagnosed because the thing was just to "get on with it", I'm sure many would have benefitted from therapy after what they went through. It is such a necessary thing. Another thing that mustn't get cut from the budget.

12:21PM PDT on Oct 5, 2013

sad

11:24AM PDT on Oct 5, 2013

My heart weeps for these brave men and women. God Bless them and restore them.

9:48AM PDT on Oct 5, 2013

I am so grateful that the mental health aspect is now being acknowledged. I am so grateful that the sexual assault problem has been brought out. I want to share that many vets who don't see battle also fight these demons, they know they supported it even if they didn't see battle. They left their families, they skipped holidays....for years, they no longer see the world the same and they don't fit in when they return home. Huge numbers of them turn to alcohol and drugs and try to blend in to society again or to cope with their military experience.

Please find the time to visit vets in the VA hositals. Find your local veterans assistance center. Go to the cemetaries on Memorial and Veterans days. Teach your children the real meaning of the holidays. Fly the flag. I can tell you "thank you" or attending a ceremony instead of throwing a bbq/watching football means the world for any vet whose life will never be the same. I go as I could never let one of my brothers think they are alone. I wish other Americans felt the same. Semper Fi.

6:13AM PDT on Oct 5, 2013

"In some regions, the waiting period for getting mental health treatment is so long that veterans have been committing suicide while waiting for their care."
This is sad

2:44PM PDT on Oct 4, 2013

Thank you for this article, and thanks to the 71 care 2 members who commented on this article, I enjoyed reading all of them. Keep the information coming.

11:44AM PDT on Oct 4, 2013

Every vet should have access mental health benefits for themselves and their families for their entire life. They families are affected also by the trauma the vets have gone through.

10:09AM PDT on Oct 4, 2013

Sadly noted,thanks for sharing

5:05PM PDT on Oct 3, 2013

We must end all wars. Furthermore, we are responsible for the well being of our veterans; therefore, we must demand an end to delays, and require some sort of evaluation of all veterans when they return home from war.

10:55AM PDT on Oct 3, 2013

thank you for sharing

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