I DRIVE PAST a Veteran’s Administration hospital each day that I go to my office. It’s a new building, red brick and glass. Medical personnel are the only people I ever see entering or leaving. I never see the veterans, but I think about them, especially when I read that the suicide rate in the U.S. military is now the highest ever recorded. Or—when I hear about the soldier in a Bagdad military stress clinic who reportedly shot and killed five people last week.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referred to this incident in his testimony last week before Congress:
I remain deeply troubled by the long-term effects of these signature wounds of modern war (post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries), and by the stigma that still surrounds them. Last month, during a town hall meeting with soldiers at Fort Hood, Sergeant Nicole Fuffman, an OIF veteran, told me they were not getting enough psychological help before and after deployments. And I told her I thought she was right, and we were working hard to meet that need. She shot back, “They’re hiding it, sir,” referring to the reluctance of soldiers and families to speak openly about mental-health problems. Then she added, “It’s the cause of a lot of suicides, I would imagine.” And I would imagine she was—she is right. (Read the admiral’s entire text at the Joint Chiefs of Staff Web site.)
The Bush Administration wanted to cut mental health care for veterans. Earlier this month, the Obama Administration announced a budget for the VA that increases spending by 15.5%. According to the VA, this is the largest increase requested by a president in more than three decades.
NOW, I’M ASKING YOU: Why don’t we treat our soldiers and veterans better? Add your comments to our page right now, even if you’ve only got a few words to share. This week, let’s make this one public place where people will find thoughtful responses to this urgent question. (Also, please take our Quick Poll at left, today.)
We’ll be talking about this theme all week. Invite a friend to stop by and share a few thoughts, as well. Remember that Memorial Day is coming.
Please, tell us your stories. If you are a veteran, how have you been treated?
If you have veterans in your family, what have they experienced?
Please, add a Comment, even if it’s brief. You can make a difference, too, by sharing helpful thoughts with our readers.
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