Nov 14, 2007

How will returning vets scenario play in California?

I recently wrote about the Marlboro Marine two-parter that ran in the LA Times on Sunday and Monday. It told the story of James Blake Miller, a 22-year-old Marine suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing combat in Iraq.

Some experts predict 30% of returning soldiers who have seen combat will suffer from PTSD.

Now, AP (via Santa Barbara News-Press) is running a story about a soldier arrested today in Watertown, NY, for going AWOL because the military's mental health facility at Fort Drum couldn't provide proper care for him in his condition.
At a news conference hours before his arrest, Sgt. Brad Gaskins said he left the base in August 2006 because the Army wasn't providing effective treatment after he was diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression.

''They just don't have the resources to handle it, but that's not my fault,'' Gaskins said.

At the time, the Fort Drum mental health facility had a staff of a dozen caring for approximately 17,000 troops, Ensign [his attorney] said.

Gaskins said he hasn't been able to get a job because of his PTSD, and that he and his wife have separated. He said he has only supervised visitation rights with his two children.

With the majority of military personnel deaths in the Iraq war coming from California, and most of them from the Los Angeles area, it's a safe guess that there are more soldiers serving in Iraq from this state and metropolitan area than from any other area in the country.

Will California and the federal government rise to the Herculean task of providing for our returning soldiers? It looks like a disaster in the making.

In a separate article, AP reported on homeless veterans.
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released [last] Thursday.

Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, PA.