February 22, 2007

Soldiers with Injuries, Schizophrenia, PTSD, and Brain Trauma are Left in Neglect

American soldiers sometimes return from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries to body, brain and mind. Sent to pristine, high-tech, Army hospitals such as Walter Reed Medical Center, they are set to receive some of the best care in the country. But according to an in-depth investigation reported by the Washington Post, the situation once they are dismissed to the longer-term outpatient care is disturbingly different. That care can be "nearly as chaotic as the real battlefields they faced overseas."

Especially affected are the soldiers struggling with schizophrenia, PTSD, paranoid delusional disorder and traumatic brain injury being discharged from the psychiatric ward. These soldiers are often assigned to "Building 18" which is described as being heavily infested with cockroaches and rodents, and is mold-covered, filthy, and with the ceilings sagging and fallen.

"I've been close to mortars. I've held my own pretty good," said Spec. George Romero, 25, who came back from Iraq with a psychological disorder. "But here . . . I think it has affected my ability to get over it . . . dealing with potential threats every day."

In the past, injured soldiers were discharged from the Army as quickly as possible. So why is there now the overflow of patients that seems beyond the capacity for an adequate level of care? According to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, the reason lies in the Army's need to retain as many soldiers as possible "because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution."

Read the full article: Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army's Top Medical Facility

Related Reading:
Caring for War's Hidden Casualties - Mental Ilnesses Triggered by War
US Military starts on-line Mental Health Screening


It doesn't sound like the system has changed since I was diagnosed in 1984. I was assigned to a medical holding company after being released from the psych ward. As an officer I was allowed to live in my own apartment. The enlisted soldiers who did not have quarters off post lived in a barracks. The physical condition of the barracks was better than the conditions of the facilities described here. The rest of it including the daily formations was rather similar. Because this was peacetime we didn't have the combat injuries but we did have people with physical and mental problems. As for the paperwork, it took approximately six months to determine that a captain with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder (later changed to schizophrenia) and specialties of field artillery and nuclear weapons was probably not suited to remain in the military.

Posted by: cannonier at February 22, 2007 05:23 PM

I wonder how many soldiers have been screwed up as a result of the dichotmy of being conditioned to obey orders and yet knowing that the US invasion of Iraq was sanctioned on false and immoral basis.

Posted by: HAL at February 22, 2007 10:49 PM

Our newspaper this morning says that the Army has reprimanded the Washington Post for their article... BUT will fix the problems brought to light by the article.

I for one COMMEND the Washington Post for printing this!


Posted by: Naomi at February 23, 2007 06:37 AM

The Diane Rehm show has a 50 minute Feb 21 audio broadcast "Outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center" - Two Washington Post reporters describe the challenges some injured marines and soldiers face as outpatients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


Posted by: Naomi at February 24, 2007 12:29 PM

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