Accomplishing Something Terrible

By now, most Americans are cognizant of the fact that today marks the five-year anniversary of President Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech. A vast majority agree that this war was a mistake – in terms of both lives sacrificed and the long-range damage to our economy.

And now we’re learning more about the toll taken in the broken bodies and minds of our veterans — and what’s not being done to care for them.

The Rand Corporation just released a report, Invisible Wounds of War examining the impact Iraq has had on the health of returning veterans. Rates of post traumatic stress disorder, depression and brain injuries are examined.

In fairness, the report lumps Afghanistan with Iraq. But, given the fact that troop levels in Iraq have dwarfed those in Afghanistan over the past five years, it’s a safe bet that the overwhelming number of long-term health problems are found in those veterans returning from Iraq. Read the entire report here.

The report also analyzes the system-level (health care, military, etc.) attention to providing the proper care for our veterans. Not surprisingly, the infrastructure to give veterans the treatment they deserve simply does not exist. In my estimation, the will to provide readily available, appropriate care for veterans also does not exist.

The final paragraph of the report summary says it all.

“Among our recommendations is that effective treatments documented in the scientific literature — evidence-based care — are available for PTSD and major depression. Delivery of such care to all veterans with PTSD or major depression would pay for itself within two years, or even save money, by improving productivity and reducing medical and mortality costs. Such care may also be a cost-effective way to retain a ready and healthy military force for the future. However, to ensure that this care is delivered requires system-level changes across the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. health care system.”

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