Re: “War without end” (TNT, 7-25-26).
Adam Aston’s outstanding reports about the aftermath of war point toward changes needed in military mental health care.
Since World War II, soldiers have increasingly suffered more psychological wounds than the combined total killed and wounded in action. While service members receive excellent physical care, psychological care is fragmented, uncoordinated and without leadership accountability according to congressional reports.
Psychological care is provided through three separate, independent systems: military medicine, family and community centers, and independent contractors. This means inconsistent, uncoordinated care with no one responsible.
While early treatment is best for reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress, it can be weeks, months or never before soldiers/veterans receive appropriate treatment. Service members are often discharged with untreated psychological injuries, leaving family, friends and volunteers dealing with the injuries.
While volunteer efforts are laudable, they do not diminish the Defense Department’s responsibility to provide early and effective treatment for psychological wounds. The miitary needs to do an about face and develop a system of excellent mental health care.
A good first step would be to elevate the status and priority of mental health care by establishing an integrated Behavioral Health Corps, with leadership accountability similar to existing corps of medicine, nursing, chaplaincy, supply, dental, civil engineering and veterinary services.
Sue Nicholson Butkus