Thursday, January 27, 2011

Unlike Barack, they can't ignore the wars

KTXL reports (link has text and video) on a fallen soldier's home coming, "It wasn't the way family members were hoping Specialist Martin Lamar would return to Sacremento." January 15th, while training Iraqi forces, Lamar was shot dead along with Sgt Michael Barkley in what the US military has said was an intentional killing (by an Iraqi who brought real ammo to the drill -- and a third soldier was injured in the attack). Military Wall of Honor notes, "This happened not only his wedding anniversary, but the day that Mick was originally scheduled to return home. However, his deployment had been extended until January 30th. He had a newborn daughter that he hadn’t even met yet." The Modesto Bee has a photo of Josephine Alvarado Lamar with their children Natalie Lamar, Brittney Conway and Nicholas.

Monica Miller (WCBS 880 -- link has text and audio) reports
on a new RAND Corporation study which finds approximately 1/4 of the New York service members returning "from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from mental health disorders." The RAND Corporation issued the following yesterday:

Military veterans from New York state who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are at high risk for mental health problems, according to a new study conducted by the RAND Corporation and funded by the New York State Health Foundation.

Nearly a quarter of veterans (22 percent) in New York state were found to have a probable diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and/or major depression. Compared to similar individuals in the general population, the veterans studied were at an eight-fold greater risk of probable PTSD and a two- to four-fold greater risk of major depression.

While many services are available to those in need, more than 40 percent of veterans report being unaware of what help is available or uncertain about how to navigate the systems that provide assistance. Outreach to connect veterans with services and better coordination among government and community agencies is needed, according to the study, which is the first to look at the needs of returning veterans and their families in New York state.

"This study underscores that many returning veterans have mental health needs that require substantial attention from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and other service providers in New York state," said Terry Schell, the study's lead author and a senior social scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "While many services are available, more needs to be done to make sure veterans get the help they need."

Since October 2001, approximately 2 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and an estimated 85,000 of the troops have returned to New York. Previous national research by RAND has shown that returning veterans are at high risk for mental health disorders and other types of impairments following deployment.

"Veterans who have served our country deserve a health system that is easy to understand and easy to access," said James R. Knickman, president and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation. "This study helps us to understand where there are gaps in services. It should be a priority for the Veterans Administration to improve outreach and coordination of services for all veterans in need."

The study found that 26 percent of veterans were unsure how to get answers for their questions about treatment. In addition, almost half of the veterans surveyed indicated that they prefer to receive services in the community rather than through the VA system.

In contrast to the high rates of PTSD and depression among veterans, the rate of veterans' illicit drug use was lower than in the general population, and alcohol misuse was similar to the rate found among comparable individuals in the general population. However, a considerable number of veterans misuse alcohol and might benefit from treatment, according to researchers.

The study also assessed the needs of veterans' spouses. Spouses reported experiencing several challenges after their veterans return from deployment. Nearly half reported problems dealing with their veteran spouse's mood changes and 42 percent were worried about the possibility of future military deployments.

RAND researchers say one clear finding from the study is that veterans' health and well-being are the responsibility of more than just the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans are frequently using providers from government-run programs other than the VA and from the civilian health care system.

"The needs of veterans are not addressed solely through the VA," said study co-author Terri Tanielian, co-director of the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research. "Veterans need services that may be better accessed through private providers, non-profit organizations or public health programs. These different systems must work together with the VA to provide veterans access to high-quality, coordinated care."

Researchers recommend more effort be put into connecting veterans with care coordinators who can provide personalized assistance across a range of service sectors. The existing system often misses the veterans most in need of outreach—those who have not yet enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration.

The study focused on people living in New York state who deployed overseas, then returned to the community. Unlike most other studies of veterans, RAND researchers drew from all veterans across the state, not just those receiving services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Researchers surveyed 913 veterans and 293 spouses of veterans from New York, and conducted six focus groups of veterans and their family members across the state. In addition, they documented services for veterans that are currently available in New York state.

The report, "A Needs Assessment of New York State Veterans: Final Report to the New York State Health Foundation," can be found at The study is part of the New York State Health Foundation's Initiative for Returning Veterans and Their Families, which aims to advance solutions to address the needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.

RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, is the nation's largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on quality, costs and health services delivery, among other topics.

Meanwhile Steve Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) weigh in on Barack's State of the Union speech sections that focused on Iraq and Afghanistan:

The war in Iraq occupied no more space in President Obama’s State of the Union address than it has in his administration’s foreign policy: not exactly a footnote, but no longer the contentious, consuming, convulsive center of all attention.

Iraq came up only briefly in the 46th minute of a speech that lasted just over an hour, but his five sentences and 72 words amounted to a declaration of victory, if a subdued one.

“Look to Iraq,” he said, using the experience here under his presidency as an example of the restoration of American standing in the world, “where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high.”

Nearly 50,000 troops remain, but American combat patrols have ended, he said, and violence is down, though the last week has seen a particularly bloody spike in bombings and violence that has killed scores of people across the country.

And Myers is taking Iraq questions from people leaving comments at the article. Military Families Speak Out's Sarah Fuhro weighs in on the speech in a letter to the Boston Globe:

When he finally got around to discussing the two wars that eat up billions of tax dollars and that have killed or maimed thousands of young men and women, he spoke as if these conflicts are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace.
He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but neglected to mention the 50,000 who remain. He mentioned how our civilians “will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,’’ but did not explain that they can only move about the country in a military convoy. If, or when, we leave that devastated country, we will leave it with millions of unemployed, angry people who cannot possibly contribute to their own security, let alone ours.

The following community sites -- plus War News Radio and -- updated last night and this morning:

And we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Bradley Manning's Torture Commonplace in U.S. Prisons" (OpEdNews):

The corrosive, solitary confinement being inflicted upon PFC Bradley Manning in the Quantico, Va., brig is no exceptional torture devised exclusively for him. Across the length and breadth of the Great American Prison State, the world's largest, with its 2.4-million captives stuffed into 5,000 overcrowded lock-ups, some 25,000 other inmates are suffering a like fate of sadistic isolation in so-called supermax prisons, where they are being systematically reduced to veritable human vegetables.
To destroy Manning as a human being, the Pentagon for the past seven months has barred him from exercising in his cell, and to inhibit his sleep denies him a pillow and sheet and allows him only a scratchy blanket, according to Heather Brooke of “Common Dreams” (January 26th.) He is awakened each day at five a.m. and may not sleep until 8 p.m. The lights of his cell are always on and he is harassed every five minutes by guards who ask him if he is okay and to which he must respond verbally. Stalin's goons called this sort of endless torture the “conveyor belt.”
Not surprisingly, Manning is attracting global attention to the Pentagon's sadism. If anyone did not believe the Pentagon's ruthless treatment of Iraqi prisoners when the Abu Ghraib torture photos were released, they believe it now that it is torturing one of its own. In this assault upon the body and mind of a 23-year-old American soldier, all of the Pentagon's arrogance and clumsiness is revealed to the world. Perhaps not even the French military---when its frame-up on treason charges of Jewish Colonel Alfred Dreyfus was exposed---attracted to itself the global searchlights of opprobrium now bathing the walls of a Marine Corps brig at Quantico.
The kind of isolation torture Manning is enduring in recent years has spread itself quietly throughout U.S. correctional facilities like a deadly gangrene. According to one reliable report, by 2003 between five and eight percent of the prison populations of Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia were rotting in isolation. In some federal prisons the cells are referred to euphemistically as “Communications Management Units” and are, incidentally, “disproportionately inhabited by Muslim prisoners,” according to an American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) law suit challenging them. In another suit, the ACLU has accused the Texas Youth Commission of "throwing children (girls) into cold, bare solitary confinement cells...” and told the TYC bluntly its “reliance on solitary confinement has to stop."

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