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Report Says Pentagon’s Psychological Services Are Dysfunctional

Report Says Pentagon’s Psychological Services Are Dysfunctional

Back in 2007, Congress instructed the Pentagon to investigate innovative ways of helping soldiers who were coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The result was the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), which, four years later, seems to be spending tens of millions of dollars without tracking where the money is going or setting priorities. According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the military is having a lot of troubling dealing with nebulous but devastating disorders like PTSD.  This is despite the fact that President Obama declared PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to be the “signature injuries of today’s wars.”

“We have an organization that exists, but we have considerable concern about what it is that it’s actually accomplishing,” Denise Fantone, a GAO director who supervised research on one of the reports, told ProPublica. “I can’t say with any certainty that I know what DCOE does, and I think that’s a concern.”

Shockingly, the DCoE has never turned in a budget that conformed to federal standards.  It has also been plagued by hiring difficulties and a lack of clarity in its goals.  According to ProPublica, the DCoE was “created on the fly and tasked to deal with some of the most complicated mental-health issues in the military’s history. In addition, it has faced stiff bureaucratic resistance, with some Pentagon officials questioning its usefulness.”

Many cases of PTSD go undiagnosed and untreated, so it’s impossible to know how many soldiers are slipping through the cracks, but estimates range into the hundreds of thousands.  The DCoE was supposed to help the rising numbers of soldiers with brain injuries and PTSD, but they seem to be having intense difficulties dealing with these “hidden wounds of war.”  Both the Pentagon and the DCoE admitted that they need to fix many of the elements highlighted in the GAO report.

“Currently, the DCoE is conducting a comprehensive review to prioritize initiatives, including those congressionally mandated, to identify and resolve strategic issues, resource allocation, priorities, and approve execution plans,” said Cynthia O. Smith, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense. “There is still substantial work to be done. We must ensure we are properly allocating resources and establishing priorities to take care of our service members.”

The question is, where will they begin?  More than half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at VA hospitals have been diagnosed with some sort of mental health problem, and there’s a critical shortage of army neurologists overseas, which is a problem because soldiers often suffer concussions caused by roadside bombs.  Clearly, both the DCoE and the Pentagon have their work cut out for them.  It seems like the first step, though, should be some decent infrastructure for the DCoE.

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Photo from U.S. Army via flickr.

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20 comments

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8:38AM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

Noted!

6:10AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Oxymoron?

5:44AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Oh the poor stressed out soldiers!! Someone please ask the governement what they were dong there in the first place? They didn't find the weapons of mass destruction even after complete destruction of Iraq. they didn't find Bin Ladin in Afghanistan and they dropped mini nukes there weighing 30 tons each also. They didn't kill and are not killing any militants there in Pakistan but civilians.

And lets not even we ourself be accused of biasness if we just considered OUR soldiers and worried about Their stress only. consider the thousands of infants who were left orphans and homless because of these very soldiers or the families who lost their loved ones and homes in useless bombing raids or he girls that were raped there and not even counting the thousand more who were left dismembered or are in jails like Gitmo, Abu Gharib and Bagram taking water boarding baths everyday. Who will offer them therapy?

9:16PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Pentagon’s Psychological Services Have Been Dysfunctional for years!!!

7:13PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

It is awful that we send young men and women into horrible, dangerous situations for months on end, and then do nothing to give them emotional and mental support.

12:13PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

The public needs to know more about the reality these men & women are ACTUALLY facing when they come home. Another article on here talks about the "reality" shows about returning soldiers and their families being reunited for the first time. It said the soldiers refer to them as "reunion porn:" and they are nothing but "farting rainbows and fairy dust." We had no dam business getting into these wars in the first place but our government should at least take greater responsibility and accountability for those who served and are now seriously physically and mentally messed up. Going to war is highly profitable, treating our own victims of those wars is not. At least not to our government.

12:10PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Universal Health care for all.

10:10AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Thanks for sharing.

9:41AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Before anyone comments on our military service men/women please remember -- crap flows downhill. Our servicemen/women are trained and do what they are told. Our government and politicians need to start working for the people not themselves. They need to make these pharmaceutical companies and medical agencies accountable for what they do and don't do.

8:59AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Hmm, 1 out of 5 solders who served in Vietnam were in the criminal justice system after the war. I believe this could be the precurser to our ever increasing violent society,
Today, the odds are even higher. To my mind, I think all serviceme/woman should have a 6 months retreat after their service where medical assistance is available to help our wounded solders both mentally and physically.

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