Skip to main content

Last week, a fellow Soldier approached me and informed me of a deeply disturbing situation. The Soldier had an appointment with behavioral health (mental) at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina this week. Friday, the Soldier got a call from the hospital saying that due to "schedule adjustments" her appointment had be cancelled and that they would be "unable to reschedule anytime soon". She was given no window for when to expect to hear from them again and no referral to any other DoD or civilian agency or service.

The Soldier is a Noncommissioned Officer and will be fine; she knows how to navigate the various systems out there to get help for herself. However, this worries me about the Fort Bragg and Army community as a whole. We are talking about Fort Bragg, NC here. The post is home to 30,000 Soldiers and their families, Including the 82nd Airborne Division.  The remaining deployed elements of the 82nd Airborne will return later this year, and the entire division will be home for the first time since spring of 2006. Since then, every unit in the division has been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, most for 15 months. What worries me most is the 20 year old single paratrooper sitting in his barracks room downing a fifth of Jack a night who is experiencing severe PTSD, who is at the end of his rope, thinking that if he can just make it to his mental health appointment next week he'll be okay. He then gets a call saying there is no chance of him getting help within the foreseeable future. Also, what about the military spouse who is trying to take care of three kids while worrying about her husband patrolling the streets of Baghdad day-to-day and seeing the news of increased violence.

And where does it stop? If this problem is occurring at Fort Bragg, where is else in the military are similar problems happening at other behavioral health clinics? And what is the issue that led to the “schedule adjustments”? Is this a symptom of Army mental health professionals over burdened and under manned due to nearly seven years of mostly unnecessary war? Or just a poorly trained incompetent and uncompassionate staff at the Womack AMC behavioral health clinic? Regardless, the consequences of these so-called “schedule adjustments” could be dire.

I’d like to invite everyone to help me investigate the source of the problems at Fort Bragg’s behavioral health clinic. You’ll find below the relevant contact information for the local Fayetteville newspaper, the Chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Representatives and Senators who represent Fort Bragg and the surrounding community. Let’s ensure all these folks understand there is a problem with way our Soldiers are being treated at Womack Army Medical Center.

Editor, Fayetteville Observer
458 Whitfield St.
Fayetteville, NC 28306
whitet@fayobserver.com

Congressman Ike Skelton
Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
202-225-2876

Senator Carl Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
(202) 224-6221

Congressman Bob Etheridge (NC-02)
Phone: (202) 225-4531

Congressman Robin Hayes (NC-08)
(202) 225-3715

Congressman Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
(202) 225-2731

Originally posted to RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 07:49 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  You're right, this is a desperate situation (11+ / 0-)

    that will have mortal results.  Will call, write etc.  I wish there were more ways to be immediately effective.  When this sort of story is exposed, the old pre-war fury of seeing clearly with no power to do anything comes rushing back.  damn.

  •  Pre-separation screenings (10+ / 0-)

    Over two years ago I was talking to my husband about mental health issues plagueing our returning troops. I suggested that all separating troops (and maybe all troops returning from combat) should undergo mandatory screenings for PTSD or any other possible health issues they might have. One problem with detecting conditions has been that our soldiers have to make the effort to get help. Not only are there still stigmas around having mental health problems, the conditions themselves can make it harder to seek help. By screening 100% of all service members, many of those who need some help will be much more likely to get it.

    As I write this, it occurs to me that this isn't good enough either. There needs to be mandatory followup after 6 months or so (or whatever psychiatrists/doctors think appropriate) because some issues might not show up immediately.

    Even in the private sector, it is difficult to find psychiatric/psychological care. There aren't enough doctors in this field, as well as many others (a separate problem that I don't know the solution to).

    Support the troops... vote for Democrats!

    by DreamyAJ on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:01:02 PM PDT

    •  The mandatory redeployment screenings happen (10+ / 0-)

      I recently redeployed and got one. It pretty much consisted of "Do you have nightmares? Do you need to see a psychiatrist?" and that was it.

      VetVoice.com, The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots.

      by RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:04:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That thorough, eh? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        llbear, RockRichard
        •  yup... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TexDem, llbear

          but I don't blame the screeners. Its kind of difficult when two health professionals must screen 800 dudes.

          VetVoice.com, The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots.

          by RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:37:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Talked to one of them who was at Hines VA (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TexDem, JVolvo, RockRichard

            He was there seeing a couple of buddies, I think.  He claimed he did sceening in the daytime and went home at night and screamed - welcome to the trainwreck.

            Jerry Northington [aka Possum] & Gilda Reed: We need you in DC. Sen. Obama, I think you're ready to step up.

            by llbear on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:06:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I do blame the screeners. (0+ / 0-)

            Sorry, but I do.

            Every one of them should be contacting their representative or senator and telling them what is going on.

            They can request, I think, that the information they're giving them be anonymous, unless their name absolutely is necessary to further the cause.

            If one health professional's duties is to screen 400 people, that's not acceptable and they should say so... at least to their congresspeople.  It's my understanding that they're allowed to do so.

            McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

            by gooderservice on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:17:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They are... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              llbear

              but thats kind of a no-no in military mentality. 1) no matter how hard, who complete the mission given to you and 2) you don't take things outside the chain of command.

              these aren't rules that someone would look down on or penalize them for, but duties that every soldiers feel they have.  Vets know what I'm talking about here.

              VetVoice.com, The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots.

              by RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:19:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've never been in the military... (0+ / 0-)

                so I can say I absolutely don't understand the "code."  But yet I've seen generals retire because they need to speak out -- at least that's what I've heard them say.

                So I'm hoping upon hope that more military personnel will, too.

                I know it's not the same, but in businesses, places of employment, I've seen people just give up -- they see something happening that is wrong, over and over again, and they want to do something about it, yet they know that the higher ups won't do anything and don't care, so they just accept the wrongdoing as the status quo and keep working.

                I'm not saying it's the same thing, but I'm saying I believe that sometimes it's human nature.

                Again I say, I've never been in the military (my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins have)...

                but duties that every soldiers feel they have.

                but I can tell you that as a civilian that I lost respect for Colin Powell when he didn't speak out when we needed him to.  I had much respect for him prior.  And needless to say, I have NO respect for one particular general who is a cheerleader for Bush.

                McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

                by gooderservice on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:35:14 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Life is different as a General (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  TexDem, gooderservice, llbear

                  you can retire and speak out, and have a slough of jobs as a consultant waiting to pay you more than you ever made in the military.  Where as a Captain or Major who has 10-15 years in service or so doesnt have the clout of a General and therefore wont get as much attention and the job prospects are a lot slimmer.

                  Powell is whole different story. He had no excuse. He was no longer a General and should have been working under a different "code" that included a duty to speak out.

                  VetVoice.com, The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots.

                  by RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:42:34 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Then I'm not totally off the mark... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    TexDem

                    in my thinking.  Thank you for giving me a clearer picture.

                    McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

                    by gooderservice on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 11:00:35 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Thank you for taking the time to ask the question (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      TexDem, gooderservice

                      Military Thinking is really weird if you aren't or haven't been in the military. In civilian life, you see a problem, find the obsticle, and look for several ways to solve the problem and go around the obsticle.

                      In the military you see a problem, find the obsticle, and look for several ways to solve the problem.  The chain of command determines which way to go around the obsticle. Unless you have some really smart NCO's like Rockrichard who can convince the chain of command that the correct solution is exactly what the chain of command always does - whether they do or not.

                      Jerry Northington [aka Possum] & Gilda Reed: We need you in DC. Sen. Obama, I think you're ready to step up.

                      by llbear on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 11:16:35 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  Sometimes I'm critical of our... (5+ / 0-)

    volunteer forces, but they are doing a job that our country, by vote of our democratic representitives, want done.

    I've never experience being shot at.  Nor have I seen a friend blown up.  But I have no doubt that such experiences, much less actual physical injury, causes life long distress.

    So, mental health professionals must be available.  I don't know whether the traditional professionals are absolutely necessary. But at the least there should be retired service personnel to be there to listen to the person's distress.

    Human contact is a great balm, and such counseling, or peer groups, should be available, 24 hours seven days a week.  And not next week, but now.  

  •  My family just recently had someone from the 82nd (8+ / 0-)

    return home.

    He isn't immediate family to me but I know enough about his circumstances to wonder about the long term consequences to his mental well being.  

    He was so young when he joined.  Just a kid out of high school lacking in direction.  He was getting into a few bouts of trouble here and there when he lived at home.  No plans for college.  No desire to even hold down a paying job.  

    A couple of recruiters later and some basic training and we were receiving email pictures of him carrying weapons through the streets of Iraq.

    We received pictures of him in the middle of the night charging into the homes of suspected terrorist.  Dealing with the families of those captured in the war on terror.  

    He is soooo young.  I have no idea what he currently thinks of his role in all of this.  I can only imagine he will have years and years to look back on his experiences.  God knows how his perspectives might change as he matures and develops more real life experience.  

    I can only imagine he is no longer the young immature man he was when he left.  I'm certain he has seen things that would probably be difficut for me to process even though I am twice his age.  

    I hope this country realizes the importance of providing for his needs if and when they develop.    

    •  tell your paratrooper (6+ / 0-)

      welcome home for me.

      VetVoice.com, The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots.

      by RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:38:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The unknown (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TexDem, JVolvo, RockRichard, blueocean

      wonder about the long term consequences to his mental well being.  

      I'm sorry, but I don't want to say exactly who I'm talking about, but believe me when I say it's a very, very, very close relative.

      This relative today is outwardly living a "normal" life to people who don't know the person, but believe me, this person is NOT the same as they were prior to going to Vietnam.

      I believe it's too late to "fix" the mental problems he's having, yet he seems to go through each day kind of okay, but it's the people around him that suffer, and have suffered for years.   I can't speak to his internal suffering, but I don't know who he is anymore.

      And he "only" served one tour of duty.  I can't begin to imagine the mental consequences that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will have to live with after repeated tours of duty.  My heart aches and my brain says, "Why?"

      McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

      by gooderservice on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:23:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As I noted above, read Davo. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexDem, gooderservice, JVolvo

        I am a Viet Nam Vet. I served in Pleiku, Saigon, and Tan Son Nhut. I never experienced unfriedly fire. I have friends who didn't have my good luck.

        After I got interested in PTSD I talked with a couple of those friends.  After Iraq turned sour - about 5 years ago - I told me for the first time that he had PTSD.  It was at first a confession, then a catharsis.  He really opened up to his brother.  For the first time in decades he seems more at peace with himself.

        The thing to do is get that person alone, I mean really alone. Then, talk a little about what you know about Iraq. Ask him what Viet Nam was like - really. He will brush you off. Back off. Later, let him know that whenever he is ready, you want to hear it.  When he is ready, you will.

        Jerry Northington [aka Possum] & Gilda Reed: We need you in DC. Sen. Obama, I think you're ready to step up.

        by llbear on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 11:38:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I appreciate the advice, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          llbear

          It sounds good, but I don't think it's something that I would be best suited for or could do. We would definitely clash. I can only think of one person that this vet would talk to... well, brush off and then maybe talk to later, but unfortunately that person is no longer with us.

          I will think harder about what you said and see if I can think of a better person to do it.  I fear it probably is too late now... the personality is set, especially in a rigid defensive mode, and also a manic/depressive style.

          Thank you.

          McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

          by gooderservice on Mon Apr 14, 2008 at 12:31:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Womack is overloaded (8+ / 0-)

    The whole state of North Carolina is woefully unable to take care of mental health needs. The News and Observer has had a lengthy series on the disastrous mistakes made at the state level.

    The army is not prepared to deal with the psychological effects of multiple 15 month combat deployments. It was not planned for at all.

    Womaack is not able to provide Ob/Gyn care for all of its patients because gynecologic surgeons are caring for wounded and sick patients overseas. They don't have enough Ob/Gyns now to meet demand. My wife is providing care in a nearby town for a number of military wives and military women.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:25:03 PM PDT

  •  Rockrichard, I'm helping drag the same bag (8+ / 0-)

    along with Clarissa Piccard.

    I'll quote her write-up - I have her permission. It's more succinct than mine:

                    Penalizing PTSD
    (Jan. 29, 2007) - We have just successfully intervened on behalf of another soldier at Fort Hood, TX.  He joined the Army when he was 19 and was trained as a medic.  He served a year in Iraq as a combat medic and returned with PTSD.  Prior to his return, he was a good, reliable soldier.  He was promoted to the rank of E-4 and was the personal medic to a major while in Iraq.  He was also exposed to numerous explosions and suffered several concussions while in Iraq.  

    Private X is a soft-spoken and unimposing young man.  Since returning from Iraq, he has been diagnosed with PTSD and put on Celexa and Seroquel to help him with his depression and anxiety.  His Army psychiatrist told his chain of command not to send him to the national training center, but they ordered him to go anyway.  He felt ridiculed and ostracized for seeking help, resorting to alcohol and marijuana as "treatment", ultimately failing a urinalysis test.  He also went AWOL for 20 days (to drive home to see his mother).  He was stripped of his rank, had to forfeit more than half of his pay, and given a seven day duty schedule.

    Although he was diagnosed with PTSD by the military doctors, his chain of command decided to initiate a chapter 14(a)(c) discharge (general) for his post-deployment misconduct.  They told him that his recent misconduct undid any right he had to care for his PTSD.  MSC intervened to stop the chapter and to have this soldier placed in the Warrior Transition Unit for evaluation and treatment instead--which should had happened in JULY when he was hospitalized for suicidal ideation.  If his chain of command had acted appropriately last summer, this soldier would not have had to self-medicate and his misconduct would most likely not have occurred.  

    Additionally, we believe he may have an undiagnosed and untreated TBI.  In the time that I spent with him, I noticed mental confusion and memory loss pertaining to conversations that we had, which is not consistent, I suspect, with the cognitive abilities of a medic.  His unit says he was screened for a TBI, but he asserts that he was not.

    MSC was able to stop the discharge and have Private X placed in the Warrior Transition Unit. He has been told he is going to be given a medical discharge now instead.  Pending the medical discharge, he will be receiving comprehensive treatment for his PTSD.

    The problem with existing DoD regulations is that the commanders are not required to follow the recommendations of the doctors who are evaluating and/or treating our returning wounded warriors.  MSC is going to be approaching members of Congress to change that.

    Clarissa runs Military Spouses for Change.

    Clarissa is damn good at dealing with these issues. She is married to an active duty guy, they are now at Ft. Hood, and she is a lawyer. It took the intervention of the Surgeon General of the Army to get this guy into a WTC. But she did it.

    Jerry Northington [aka Possum] & Gilda Reed: We need you in DC. Sen. Obama, I think you're ready to step up.

    by llbear on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:30:01 PM PDT

    •  Carissa is a great asset (5+ / 0-)

      friend, and tireless advocate for troops and veterans. She spends time with us over at VetVoice.

      Why haven't I seen you around those parts? ;)

      VetVoice.com, The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots.

      by RockRichard on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:32:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Following an election in IL-14 (6+ / 0-)

        I am dealing with way too many Veterans - and active duty personnel to do much more than IGTNT.  I do that because many military families in these parts go there and expect to see the candles posted.

        Then, last week, a bunch of our local National Guardsmen left for Iraq [rounds 2 to 4].  So, that meant goosing up local support.

        Then there is Gilda Reed. Nothing like having a Military Mom on crutches [she had polio as a child] in Congress in Congress calling bullshit on the DOD and VA for their PTSD treament.  Did I mention that she is a professor of psycology?  And when this mother of 7 calls bullshit, she calls bullshit.

        I read but don't comment at VetVoice. Maybe I will after Jerry Northington - another Veteran who is one of the nation's most respected veterinarian specializing in neurology.  Read the link - the picture of possum in basic training is a hoot!

        BTW - WELCOME HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Jerry Northington [aka Possum] & Gilda Reed: We need you in DC. Sen. Obama, I think you're ready to step up.

        by llbear on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 08:50:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  good lord. (5+ / 0-)

    I wonder when, if ever, young Americans will regain their trust in military service. If it isn't the strong notion that civilian leadership in Washington is actively trying to get you killed, then it's that they don't care about you once your term of service is up. The next president is going to have to do a great deal more than say nice things in order to regain that trust.

    •  Sarcastically said... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TexDem, llbear, RockRichard

      but I angrily say:  Oh, but John McCain SAYS (not acts) that our military should be taken care of.  

      I'm just venting.  I'm sorry.  

      McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

      by gooderservice on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:28:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well, that was (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexDem, gooderservice, JVolvo, llbear

        what I was illustrating. These people are saying they "support the troops" when they are doing nothing for the health, safety, or well-being of our soldiers. Then, when someone step up to bat for our folks in uniform, and pushes for humane treatment of them, or better pay, better armor, health care, any kind of improvement, it's like they went and tore the head off a kitten in front of a sunday school class.

        •  Well said. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TexDem, JVolvo, llbear

          And now sarcastically said... I'm off to buy that magnetic yellow ribbon to affix to my car.  That's good enough, right?  (I'm done with my angry sarcasm.  Thanks for listening.)

          Why, oh why, oh why does it take OVER A YEAR for a GI bill?  Just to name one thing.  I just don't get it.  I don't understand.  (Or maybe I do... they're liars.)  

          Why did it take a doctor, a grandfather of a soldier to start buying and sending the proper helmets to his grandson and his squad and many others?  Cher... that's right, Cher contributed a substantial amount of money to the grandfather's mission to get the proper helmets made and sent to the Middle East.

          I know there was a hearing in Congress where the grandfather testified, and a "show" on Washington Journal about it, but let's talk about Obama bowling, and let's listen to George Will misstate Obama's comments about arugula... you know, the important things.

          Our family was devastated when my nephew, on his own without telling anyone, went and enlisted in the Army.  I don't even want to talk about that.  I know he didn't do it because he felt a duty; he wanted other things.  Not that that's necessarily bad, but under this administration and the current mindset being what it is, it was a mistake for him to do it.  I'll tell you, he's regretting his decision now.  

          McCain's learning curve takes decades, and we don't have that kind of time. MLK Holiday? GI Bill?

          by gooderservice on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 11:11:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site