In view of yesterday’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas by a 34 year old Iraq veteran, the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has again been highlighted. While his actual mental state can only be speculation, Ivan Lopez was under treatment for mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and psychiatric issues. He was undergoing diagnosis for PTSD, but had not been officially diagnosed. This raises the question if governments and the military are doing enough for PTSD.
The military was aware that he had mental health issues. “He was undergoing a diagnosis process,” Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, Commander of III Corps, said. Although General Milley said that Lopez was not a “wounded warrior,” because he had no physical injuries nor a purple heart, Lopez had a self-diagnosed brain injury. He previously served in the Army National Guard in Puerto Rico and arrived in Fort Hood in February.
Initial reports indicated that Lopez was involved in some kind of soldier dispute and was an active duty soldier, who was a truck driver. Lopez is married and the father of a little girl. After his killing rampage, Lopez committed suicide after being confronted by a brave female military police official.
A common scenario
One percent of the population are veterans and with a number of competing entitlement programs, veterans issues are easily pushed to the back burner. This starts with the diagnoses and approval of claims for disabilities. In the United States there is a backlog of 18 months for processing of claims.
The press conference at Fort Hood came late last night, however Lieutenant General Milley’s statement was revealing of the military and government culture. He said that the shooter had mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, was undergoing diagnosis for PTSD, but had not been officially diagnosed. His current issues were treated with prescription drugs. Whether or not he attended a support group is not known at this time.
Suffice to say that mental health issues are often treated with psychiatric drugs and with the overwhelming number of veterans the system is at its limits with mental health professionals dealing with these issues. Wounded warrior groups often form their own support groups to help veterans deal with these issues. Unfortunately government bureaucracies and the military have proven inept to deal with these issues and veterans dealing with these issues are often left to their own vices.
While governments and the military tout that they are addressing the issue, the issue of PTSD is a one day headline in the media and the consuming public, which shows more interest the Kardashians or the Duck Dynasty. The Affordable Care Act or Obama Care is a constant in some media outlets, while mental health issues are only addressed after a suicide or a dramatic event like yesterday’s Fort Hood shooting.
Due to a lack of public pressure, other than some veterans advocacy groups, who often are at odds with each other, governments and the military have become insensitive to those issues or pushed them aside until the next time.
A string of suicides over the Christmas have kept the issue alive in Canada. For now the Fort Hood shooting will draw attention to it in the U.S.
An article published by CTV on April 2, highlights the plight of a widower, whose spouse also a veteran, committed suicide by driving her vehicle into the oncoming lane. Although the incident was initially reported as an unfortunate accident, but Tom McEachern revealed publicly later that his his spouse, suffering from PTSD, had committed suicide. He is not taking his case in front of a parliamentary committee reviewing the New Veterans Charter.
The grieving widower is scheduled to testify before a Veteran Affairs committee on Parliament Hill on Thursday. “It’s my duty, I think, to tell them what went wrong,” MacEachern said Wednesday.
His retired 51-year-old wife was instantly killed Dec. 25 after she intentionally drove her car into an oncoming transport truck on the Trans-Canada highway near Calgary.
Government and military apathy, feeling of abandonment often lead to frustration of suffering veterans and their spouses. An example of this is another CTV article, which reference a letter sent to family and spouses of Canada’s Afghanistan fallen, inviting them to a National Day of Honour on May 9.
Family members of Canadian soldiers who fought and died in Afghanistan have been told to pay their own way to attend an elaborate service in Ottawa honouring the fallen, CTV News has learned.
CTV News obtained a letter dated last month by the “Director of Casualty Support Management” at National Defence, written to all 158 next-of-kin families.
It describes the May 9 National Day of Honor as a way “to commemorate our service and our sacrifices in order to achieve the security and stability we brought to Afghanistan.”
While the shooting of the last Fort Hood shooter became a large story in the main stream media, it also, once again, highlights the plight of our suffering veterans. While the dead are honored by governments, veterans are left to fight their biggest battle when they get home. They are up against a government and military bureaucracy that claims to be doing everything for veterans. The facts show otherwise.
The fight is left to veteran’s advocacy groups, with little engagement by the main stream media or participation of the public. It’s time for the public to take up the mantle on behalf of veterans and demand that their government and the military do much better in supporting mentally stressed warriors. Lip service and calling them heroes doesn’t cut it.