Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

I have a piece up at the Prospect today taking a look at the state of care for veterans today:
On December 22, 2005, Joshua Omvig, a 22-year-old reservist from Davenport, Iowa, committed suicide with a gun in his pickup truck, after returning from a tour of duty Iraq a year earlier. He suffered post traumatic stress disorder, a common problem with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Omvig's parents, Randy and Ellen, began lobbying for comprehensive PTSD care for all veterans; they even used his memorial webpage to lobby for mental health care. Omvig became a symbol in committee hearings for veterans suffering from PTSD. The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act was signed into law last week. On this Veterans Day, nearly two years after Omvig ended his own life, and more than six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, it seems appropriate to step back and survey the state of veteran benefits.

The exact number of Iraq or Afghanistan veterans experiencing PTSD is unknown. In 2004, the Associated Press estimated as many as one in eight returning soldiers might experience symptoms related to combat stress. The percentage of soldiers who encounter combat stressors like being ambushed or receiving rocket fire is estimated to be about 90 percent of those serving in Iraq, according to the National Center for PTSD, which is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Of the 1.5 million troops that have returned from Iraq, the VA estimates that at least 283 soldiers have committed suicide after exiting the military; 147 have killed themselves while stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Suicide rates for soldiers once they have returned are double the rates during deployment.
Read the whole thing.

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