Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Veterans issues

Whether it's physical or mental or spiritual wounds, veterans carry the effects of the wars with them. Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports this morning, "Wounded soldiers and Marines are making choices about arms and legs that predecessors from earlier wars never had: whether to trade poorly functioning flesh-and-blood for microprocessor-driven substitutes. Advanced prosthetics created to replace limbs lost in battle now are being sought by troops with legs or arms that survived combat, but are not functioning well or are still causing great pain after months or even years of physical therapy." Zoroya notes that amputation of limbs are on the increase ("defined as when limbs are removed three months after an injure") and also increasing are the number of veterans deciding "to have their limbs removed and replaced with prosthetics months or years after being hurt".

From the easily seen wounds to those below the surface, Faye Fiore (Los Angeles Times) reports on PSTD among female veterans, zooming on on Sgt Angel Harris who is among the over "230,000 women to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq since 2001." Fiore notes how difficult it was for women (and some men) to receive VA benefits for their PTSD because they had to demonstrate that they were in "combat." That has changed. The article skirts over how. Former US House Rep John Hall was not re-elected. Apparently his constituents did not feel he represented them. (Disclosure, I know and like John.) And that's their right and their call. But one thing he did work on and deserve tremendous praise for was repeatedly addressing this issue and holding hearings on it. His work on this issue and his leadership on it means that many veterans -- women and men -- will be able to get the rating they need to get the health care they need without having to fund it themselves. Iraq is not a combat zone in this five feet or that five feet. The entire country has been declared a combat zone. The VA was pulled into today's realities by the work of Congress and John Hall was among the key leaders on that issue. Angel Harris, like a number of others who suffer from PTSD, attempted to self-medicate (alchohol) and her marriage was falling apart and, while deployed, she learned she was pregnant which brought new stress (had the drinking effected the fetus what about the other facts such as malaria pills). She developed PTSD in 2003. In 2010, the VA was finally willing to recognize it. (Again, the work of Congress is what forced the changes at the VA.)

Fiore notes, "Women have served the nation honorably since the American Revolution. Deborah Sampson impersonated a man and enlisted twice; Molly Corbin took over her husband's job loading cannons after he was killed in battle. Today, women deploy in greater numbers than ever before. Yet the effects of combat on them have only recently been explored."

Iraq War veteran Nehemie Almonor struggles with insomnia. Laura Bassett (Huffington Post) reports on Nehemie who is raising her young daughter, taking college courses and attempting to find a job while worrying about bills. Bassett explains, "Sleep disorders are an extremely common problem among veterans, according to the National Pain Foundation, and many of the symptoms they suffer -- including nightmares, chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, severe snoring, restless leg syndrome and sleep cycle disturbances -- are thought to be caused by PTSD. One out of five veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from PTSD, the National Veterans Foundation reports, and only half of them ever seek treatment." And that is no doubt part of it, but any young parent worrying about bills is going to have some sleep disorders. All the more so when they can't do their course work online at the house anymore because they can't afford the internet anymore and now has to make time (always a problem for parents of young children since time is finite and children take a lot of care) to walk to the library and use the computer there (which probably requires signing up multiple times since most big libraries now limit patrons to 15 or so minutes a time). I'm not dismissing the role the war has played. But I'm also noting that the veteran is suffering from problems that would take a toll on anyone.

Trevor Hughes (USA Today) reports on another Congressional victory -- however, yet again Congress gets no credit. I'm all for holding them accountable. I'm also for giving credit where it's due. The VA didn't create the Post 9-11 GI Bill, Congress did. The VA's contribution was knowing there was a flaw with the way payments would be made and not alerting Congress to that flaw thereby ensuring that thousands of veterans suffered unnecessarily as they waited and waited for checks that did not come. Huges notes an estimated 800,000 veterans utilized the bill in 2010. Back at the Huffington Post, Iraq War Veteran Don Gomez (of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) shares ten things he learned as he transitioned from military to civilian life.

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

Lastly, World Can't Wait wonders "Are the U.S. Wars on the Middle East Wrong Because They Cost so Much?:"

Or are they just wrong, immoral, unjust, and against humanity's interests?

U.S. occupations, bombs, and secret operations have wreaked havoc in the Middle East since 2001, sold to the public on the basis of being in the “United States' national interest.”

Rolling Stone reported that in 2010 the 5th Stryker Brigade’s “Kill Team” went on a shooting spree, killing unarmed Afghan civilians and mutilating corpses for fun, while US NATO bombing raids kill even more civilians this year than last. The U.S. detains hundreds of Afghans in Bagram, without charges, lawyers, or rights...and Guantanamo remains open, in spite of Obama’s declaration over two years ago that he would close it as a stain on America’s conscience.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends