Dec 4, 2009

Obama Appears Serious Attacking Mental Health Crisis

Joining the critics of the Afghan escalation, I do wish to point out one irony: President Obama appears serious in attacking the mental health crisis of veterans.

It's no great surprise to learn that training young adults to kill and put themselves in the line of fire tends to lead to psychological complications later in life, though you would get an argument from Dr. Sally Satel, resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute and Dick Cheney.

But Obama is earnest in turning around the Dept of Veterans Affairs (DVA) that has earned the wrath of veterans for decades. Under Bush-Cheney, the DVA went from indifferent to hostile in the face of 25-million American veterans and many for whom supporting veterans mean slapping a flag on their car. But medical care and disability benefits? Damn leebrals.

"We have to understand that for far too many troops and their families, the war doesn't end when they come home. Just the other day our own government's top psychiatric researcher said that because of inadequate mental health care, the number of suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may actually exceed the number of combat deaths. Think about that.
Think about how only half of the returning soldiers with PTSD receive the treatment they need. Think of how many we turn away - of how many we let fall through the cracks. We have to do better than this."
- President Obama, April 2008

"[I]t's also very likely that some of the veteran baby boomers who have filed claims in recent years did so not out of medical need but out of a desire for financial security ... [T]he rush of applications for long-term disability entitlements reflects the extent to which the culture of the DVA since Vietnam has become fixated on PTSD."
- Dr. Sally Satel, American Enterprise Institute, March 1, 2006

As a young U.S. Senator Obama affirmed in 2005 that veterans suffer decades later and deserve a vastly improved service from the DVA. Dr. Satel, the neocons' psychiatrist-in-chief, advocates that most Vietnam veterans cannot still have PTSD problems from the Vietnam War, a position shared by DVA Director of Compensation and Pension Services, Renee L. Szybala, during the Bush years.

This difference of opinion and commitment is the one reason veterans' advocates maintain hope for a change in direction at the DVA that Obama needs to cleanse of neocons and embedded political-minded civil servants. To sum up the attitude among veterans advocates towards the Bush-Cheney-neocon DVA, I cite the words of one veterans' attorney: "Fuck Sally Satel and fuck Dick Cheney." Linked is a piece in Veterans Today with text from Jason Leopold and Mary Susan Littlepage's report on the Obama administration and its work on changing the DVA.

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