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Iraq Vet Who Advocated For Others Kills Himself
April 22, 2011 6:36 AM   Subscribe

Iraq Vet Who Advocated For Others Kills Himself "Handsome and friendly, Clay Hunt so epitomized a vibrant Iraq veteran that he was chosen for a public service announcement reminding veterans that they aren't alone." - Clay Hunt died March 31 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The article states he had been dealing with "survivors guilt" and frustrated by a difficult disability claim process from wounds received in Iraq.
posted by randomkeystrike (70 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by jsavimbi at 6:44 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by plep at 6:44 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by pwally at 6:48 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by saulgoodman at 6:49 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by General Malaise at 6:50 AM on April 22, 2011


Jesus, I hate this goddamned war.

This story also reminds me of the piece on Brock Savelkoul, which aired on NPR a few weeks ago. It's all so stupid and devastating.
posted by jbickers at 6:58 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by Harald74 at 7:00 AM on April 22, 2011


Damn it this pisses me off. When are we going to learn we need to take care of these people when they get home?
posted by Silvertree at 7:02 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by fourcheesemac at 7:04 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by mkdg at 7:05 AM on April 22, 2011


I can't really express how shaken I am by this, even having known nothing about him or this story until now. 'Tragic' doesn't quite carry the weight of it. I'm sitting here on the verge of tears with worry for someone I never knew and everyone he worked so hard to represent, and I don't know what I can do. Is there anything I can do? Someone like this (and all of our soldiers) shouldn't have died in vain.

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posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:05 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hunt's friends and family count him a casualty of war — just like his buddies who died in the battlefield.

And so he was.

Such a compassionate man, who did so much to help others. I can only imagine what he might have done in a time with no war.

I am both saddened and enraged by his death.

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posted by misha at 7:06 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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and

Damn it this pisses me off. When are we going to learn going around the world kicking someone's ass almost always isn't a good solution.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:06 AM on April 22, 2011


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Yeah, maybe we need to do more for our vets than slap "We Support Our Warriors" magnetic yellow "ribbon" stickers on SUVs.
posted by orthogonality at 7:10 AM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


On March 31, though, Hunt didn't show for work. He stopped answering his phone. His frantic mother drove to his apartment. Maintenance workers forced their way in and found Hunt dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Christ, his Mom is the one who found him.

Marine veteran Clay Hunt had a tattoo on his arm that quoted Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien: "Not all those who wander are lost."

Fuck.
posted by misha at 7:13 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by Deathalicious at 7:15 AM on April 22, 2011


G.I. Party
For D.M., Vietnam veteran--committed suicide--1984

Today you reached retirement
with a disturbed and primal conscience.
Two 12 gauge Remington shotgun shells
saturated the field of ice that separated
body count from catatonic commitment.
Drunk and stoned, down in your worst
moment, you subpoenaed yourself
into believing the mission
was more important than the man.

-- in "Poetry and Sudden Fiction"
by Viet Nam veteran (1967-68) Victor H. Bausch


(previously, previously)
posted by orthogonality at 7:16 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


More u.s. soldiers in 2009 and 2010 killed themselves than were killed in combat. (can anyone find direct stats for this?)
posted by cashman at 7:29 AM on April 22, 2011


Oh, but they were killed in combat too.
posted by orthogonality at 7:31 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by desjardins at 7:34 AM on April 22, 2011


cashman, I don't have a direct stat for that, but I don't doubt it - relatively low direct casualty rates (at least in terms of KIAs) plus the mental turmoil. I think long stretches of suspense and enemies who work at levels of stealth, etc.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:37 AM on April 22, 2011


One of the many reasons why I'm against war. Even the winners lose.
posted by freakazoid at 7:47 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost a year old but there are some numbers here: Suicide Rivals The Battlefield In Toll On U.S. Military.
There were 197 Army suicides in 2008, according to the Army's numbers. The total includes active- and non-active-duty soldiers.

Last year [2009], the number was 245. This year [2010], through May, it's already 163.
posted by peeedro at 7:51 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by buzzman at 7:56 AM on April 22, 2011


I'm sure Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice will all sleep just fine tonight.

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posted by dbiedny at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Heard this on NPR. It was heart breaking, he wanted to hard to do good, believed it in, yet hearing his mom recount how he lost his innocence in the war was almost too much to listen to.

A soldier is precious resource. Their lives should not be spent on trumped up wars like Iraq.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by samsara at 8:32 AM on April 22, 2011


A soldier is precious resource.

This is exactly the problem.
posted by swift at 8:34 AM on April 22, 2011


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posted by martin10bones at 8:36 AM on April 22, 2011


Here are a few other questions we were discussing with a serving officer the other day:
  • How well is the VA treating specifically female combat Veterans?

  • What steps have been taken to address the post combat needs of civilian employees of State, Treasury, Agriculture etc who have spent a great deal of time in a war zone?

  • What do we as a country owe civilian security contractors?


  • Any answers, let me know
    posted by shothotbot at 8:48 AM on April 22, 2011


    Which one works better here:

    Say, how is that peace prize winning working out?

    Support our troops indeed!

    October 27, 2007: “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.” (Guess that bank failed eh?)


    Because the only 'blame' for this vet was signing up - everything else here is someone else's problem made his.
    posted by rough ashlar at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


    ...

    Lately the world is just breaking my goddamn heart.
    posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 9:04 AM on April 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


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    posted by pointystick at 9:06 AM on April 22, 2011


    Why do any of these people have to wait to get their GI benefits and fight for disability claims? Those processes should happen like clockwork. It's fucking ridiculous that veterans are not taken care of. Jesus, raise some goddamn taxes and start taking care of people.
    posted by oneirodynia at 9:10 AM on April 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


    Why do any of these people have to wait to get their GI benefits and fight for disability claims? Those processes should happen like clockwork.

    They are happening like clockwork. That clock is blinking 12:00 and the old men in charge can't figure out the new electronic things.

    (Really - if they happen in a 'supporting the troops' way. the costs would increase. And that budget just is not there as the 'support the troops' people typically don't want to actually PAY for that support.)
    posted by rough ashlar at 9:15 AM on April 22, 2011


    Listened to this story on NPR yesterday afternoon. Had to pull over and weep. God Damn, what a waste of a life.

    RIP, Marine.

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    posted by Man with Lantern at 9:19 AM on April 22, 2011


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    posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 9:19 AM on April 22, 2011


    I hope he is at peace now.
    posted by xarnop at 9:24 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


    This is just so depressing. I really, really hate the military. It takes people who want some fairly reasonable things - a job, stability, real skills, a sense of purpose, shared labor with people who care about something - and turns them sick, miserable, broken, right-wing, racist, violent....the only people I've met who came out of the military as healthy as when they went in were people who were posted in places like Germany in the sixties. I mean, in general I like the reasons people have for joining the military; I just hate the actual military.

    All this "support our troops, you filthy hippie!" rhetoric is just a cover for how our society wants to take people, use them up and throw them out. Yeah, I "support our troops"; I support them coming home before they're messed up or get so stressed out that they assault civilians or their fellow soldiers.
    posted by Frowner at 9:25 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Clay continued to give back to ease the suffering of others in January of 2010, when he and Marine brother Jake Wood and others founded Team Rubicon, an early response team for natural disaster relief. Clay and Team Rubicon entered Port-Au Prince, Haiti one week after that country’s devastating earthquake, and immediately established field medical facilities, and secured transportation to those facilities for thousands of injured Haitians during a month-long stay in that ravaged country. Team Rubicon was on the ground saving lives long before the Red Cross and other institutional organizations were up and running. Clay found his true calling for service in the chaos of Haiti, and his warrior mentality along with his compassion for others were the perfect combination to deliver “hands-on” medical and other humanitarian aid to those so desparately in need.
    Rest in peace, Clay. I hope the rest of your brothers in the Corps follow the life you led, and get the help they need to keep it.
    posted by notion at 9:27 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Why do any of these people have to wait to get their GI benefits and fight for disability claims? Those processes should happen like clockwork.

    Much in the same way a Republican couldn't give a shit about a baby after it emerges from a womb they are the same way with a soldier when he comes home from war. They'll support the troops when they are wasting ammunition and supplies manufactured by their benefactors but they cease to be a profit center once they come home. Maybe we should outsource government mental health clinics to Halliburton; then the Republicans will be shouting from the highest mountain how it's the moral thing to do.
    posted by any major dude at 9:28 AM on April 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


    The article states he had been dealing with "survivors guilt" and frustrated by a difficult disability claim process from wounds received in Iraq.

    This difficulty cannot be overstated, and it's been going on for decades. Someone very special to me is a Gulf War veteran who recently hit rock bottom in his life. He's been out of battle for nearly 20 years and seemingly fighting against the tide since then. He was not seriously wounded in war except for maybe some form of Gulf War syndrome caused by all the shit they were injected with. But his biggest problem is the PTSD. He never thought he had that - he thought other people, the ones you could tell were in bad condition just by the way they looked, were the ones actually suffering. So he kept his problems to himself as much as he could, but they'd force their way out anyway.

    It took him losing his maybe 20th job (from falling asleep at work, since he hadn't been able to sleep in days due to constant nightmares), going broke, getting evicted and ending up in a homeless shelter to finally go to the VA to see if they could do anything for him. This happened in December. Turned out, with his symptoms he could've been receiving disability payments for years. He was surprised to learn this. No one had ever told him that.

    So of course he goes to fill out the necessary paperwork, and that process has been an absolute nightmare. Just getting his forms and proof of service from the various departments all around the country that deal with this has been an ordeal. Call this place, they say this other place has it. Call the other place, they say no, these other people have that. Wait weeks to get the papers to fill out. Send them back and wait more weeks, only to find out there are still more things to fill out or something was filled out wrong or someone sent you the wrong thing, wait more weeks to get the right thing. Get diagnosed with severe PTSD by a VA-approved therapist but still have to wait months for the government to officially approve the diagnosis before you ever see a dime.

    Meanwhile, you're still homeless and still silently fighting all the demons you've been fighting since getting home from the war. The only people equipped to truly help you make it nearly impossible to be helped at all.
    posted by wondermouse at 9:29 AM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


    It never ends... Sometimes the survivors are the worst casualties.
    posted by jgaiser at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2011


    So of course he goes to fill out the necessary paperwork, and that process has been an absolute nightmare. Just getting his forms and proof of service from the various departments all around the country that deal with this has been an ordeal.

    Meanwhile, billions of dollars are "missing" in Iraq and Afghanistan and not a single soul has seen jail time for it because the Bush Administration has an outstanding gag order that is apparently being upheld by the Obama Administration, who just want to "look forward."

    American politics are an endless tragedy of greed. And the body count is continuing to rise.
    posted by notion at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


    Sometimes the survivors are the worst casualties.

    1) The dead don't suffer.
    2) All the toxic chemicals and metals left behind. Uranium is a known DNA mutagen and its being made into small itty-bits....all the better to be taken into the body.
    posted by rough ashlar at 9:51 AM on April 22, 2011


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    Gah.
    posted by LMGM at 10:16 AM on April 22, 2011


    Within the past seven months in the Portland area three veterans have died at the hands of police. At least one (and perhaps all of them) were "suicide by cop."

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    posted by vespabelle at 10:21 AM on April 22, 2011


    For Eli by Andrea Gibson

    Eli came back from Iraq
    and tattooed a teddy bear onto the inside of his wrist
    above that a medic with an IV bag
    above that an angel
    but Eli says the teddy bear won't live
    and I know I don't know but I say, "I know"
    cause Eli's only twenty-four and I've never seen eyes
    further away from childhood than his
    eyes old with a wisdom
    he knows I'd rather not have
    Eli's mother traces a teddy bear onto the inside of my arm
    and says, "not all casualties come home in body bags"
    and I swear
    I'd spend the rest of my life writing nothing
    but the word Light at the end of this tunnel
    if I could find the fucking tunnel
    I'd write nothing but white flags
    somebody pray for the soldiers
    somebody pray for what's lost
    somebody pray for the mailbox
    that holds the official letters
    to the fathers,
    mothers,
    sisters,
    and little brothers of
    Michael 19
    Steven 21
    John 33
    how ironic that their deaths sound like bible verses
    the hearse is parked in the halls of the high school
    recruiting black, brown and poor
    while anti-war activists
    outside walter reed army hospital scream
    one hundred thousand slain
    as an amputee on the third floor
    breathes forget-me-nots onto the window pain
    but how can we forget what we never knew
    our sky is so perfectly blue it's repulsive
    somebody tell me where god lives
    cause if god is truth god doesn't live here
    our lies have seared the sun too hot to live by
    there are ghosts of kids who are still alive
    toting M16s with trembling hands
    while we dream ourselves stars on Survivor
    another missile sets fire to the face in the locket
    of a mother whose son needed money for college
    and she swears she can feel his photograph burn
    how many wars will it take us to learn
    that only the dead return
    the rest remain forever caught between worlds of
    shrapnel shatters body of three year old girl
    to
    welcome to McDonalds can I take your order?
    the mortar of sanity crumbling
    stumbling back home to a home that will never be home again
    Eli doesn't know if he can ever write a poem again
    one third of the homeless men in this country are veterans
    and we have the nerve to Support Our Troops with pretty yellow ribbons
    while giving nothing but dirty looks to their outstretched hands
    tell me what land of the free
    sets free its eighteen-year-old kids into greedy war zones
    hones them like missiles
    then returns their bones in the middle of the night
    so no one can see
    each death
    swept beneath the carpet and hidden like dirt
    each life
    a promise we never kept
    Jeff Lucey came back from Iraq
    and hung himself in his parents basement with a garden hose
    the night before he died he spent forty five minutes on his father's lap
    rocking like a baby
    rocking like, daddy, save me
    and don't think for a minute he too isn't collateral damage
    in the mansions of washington they are watching them burn
    and hoarding the water
    no senators' sons are being sent out to slaughter
    no presidents' daughters are licking ashes from their lips
    or dreaming up ropes to wrap around their necks
    in case they ever make it home alive
    our eyes are closed
    america
    there are souls in
    the boots of the soldiers
    america
    fuck your yellow ribbon
    you wanna support our troops
    bring them home
    and hold them tight when they get here
    posted by philotes at 10:27 AM on April 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


    I revere the men and women who put on a uniform (any of them, there's more than just the Army) and take their turn serving this country. And it makes me so, so sad that this is what many come to.

    I know a lot of vets who are proud of their service, and many more who are simply quiet about what they did. When a man like this -- who I would hope was doing OK as evidenced by his helping others -- breaks down and kills himself, I start to despair.

    God bless you, Marine, and and I hope you -- and everyone else who feels so overwhelmed -- find peace now.
    posted by wenestvedt at 10:50 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


    .

    Bringing the troops home is only half of it. We have a duty to take care of them and get them well when they return. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. This is one of our greatest shames as a nation. There's a lot of shit we don't get right here, but this tops the list to me.
    posted by stennieville at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


    This is just so depressing. I really, really hate the military. It takes people who want some fairly reasonable things - a job, stability, real skills, a sense of purpose, shared labor with people who care about something - and turns them sick, miserable, broken, right-wing, racist, violent....

    Wow. Did you even bother to read one word of the article before cut-n-pasting a rant about "those people" into a thread about the death of someone who was not right-wing, racist, nor violent?

    .
    posted by vorfeed at 11:04 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Understand the tightrope we walk when dealing with Iraq and Afghan war vets. We often demand that they answer for the sins that were committed in the nation, civilians dying, men tortured. American lives lost senselessly in sand and Humvees. And, in some soldiers' minds, when asked to answer for those sins, sins they did not commit personally, sins that they were far far away from; in some soldiers' minds, they must still answer for those sins. That is the mark of a soldier. You are single part of a whole, and the whole is, when you are on that battlefield, in essence, you. Sometimes, a soldier who has committed no crimes and has killed no one, has committed every crime, and still has blood on their hands.

    Coming home does not cure the problem. The time you spend in war is an entire lifetime, because everything you did was a matter of life or death, and every day could be your last, so every day was a lifetime. So, you come home having lived an entire lifetime that was brutal, paranoid; a common lifetime, a shared lifetime; "camaraderie" does not suffice to describe that communal experience.

    A soldier comes home, though his front door, as if he was exiting the Wardrobe, transforming from a man of experience back to a common, civilian life that is essentially the opposite of where he was before.

    It's a hard thing to understand, a hard thing to communicate.

    I guess my point is, treat them with respect, even if you hate what their soldier-life stood for. My point is, take care of them; really, do what it takes to take care of them. Give vets the resources they need without the shit bureaucracy, the shit red tape, just without the shit. They have fought so much, they should not have to fight for this. We are a better nation than this.

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    posted by jabberjaw at 11:05 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I think we may get it wrong in requiring them to "get better". I don't mean that wanting to offer comfort and hope is wrong, but assuming that we can give them "a treatment" that will fix the ravages of war is inhumane to the experience of being human.

    Some will come back broken, some may not, but all changed. Support, comfort, resources... all of these things are good. But a medical cure for a broken soul misses the point.

    There are things you can see in this world, a certain understanding of suffering and you are beyond where most humans will ever be. If you want to forget you have to literally cut off a certain part of your inherant self--- that's what the drugs do, that's what the treatments try to do, but inherantly you know. You've seen unbearable suffering and knowing that this universe allows so much unbearable suffering to exist is not tolerable for the human condition.

    The best we can do is honor the suffering of those who have seen such things. Sure research what seems to help the most, do surveys and interviews about what seems to help, take outcome measures. But if you think in all this the goal is to wind up with a person who hasn't seen war, you are inherantly trying to erase a human being who has seen war. And quite frankly, that may be what they want too.

    Carry the memory of who they were. Know what happened to them and do anything in your power to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else. Don't give up hope there is something we can do. Tragedies will continue to happen but if we all show that we want to prevent them and we will support the people they happen to, I think it helps. Even if it doesn't fix.
    posted by xarnop at 11:20 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


    my brother has gone thru hell and back, fighting for his veteran benefits. you have no idea the pain, suffering but more so, the HUMILIATION veterans go thru to get benefits they are entitled after being spent and chewed out by military services or war.

    to say am enraged is to put it mildly.










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    posted by liza at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


    We have a duty to take care of them and get them well when they return.

    Thomas Kiely and a guest had a whole show about how poorly the Vets are treated. After the revolution - abandoned until there was a need to get troops and to counter the argument 'Why? Look at how they were treated' - the 1st programs for supporting the vets were created. Such a cycle was discussed and then the programs of WWII were mentioned.

    Now why the VA Centers and bennies after WWII? Because the support was needed to keep the cold war going. With the end of the cold war, back to ignoring da troopers.

    If one wishes to get historical - WWII Vet programs and treatment appear to be an anomaly.
    posted by rough ashlar at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2011


    "while them that defend what they cannot see
    with a killer's pride, security
    it blows the mind most bitterly
    for them that think death's honesty
    won't fall upon them naturally
    life sometimes must get lonely"...orpheus
    posted by kitchenrat at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2011


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    posted by Halloween Jack at 12:08 PM on April 22, 2011


    Rest in peace my fellow soldier - but the rest of you so need to know that his case is far from the exception.

    I've posted here before how I fell into some financial bad times and had to stay at a shelter for woman Vets. It was financed by a program from the V.A. Would you like to know who many of their clients were? They were Vets returning from Iraq.

    I met one young woman while I was there - she was in her 20's. Her jeep had been blown up with an IED and she had several scars, a permanent limp and a lot of metal replacement parts inside one leg. Quite a few psychological problems as well but I suspect being blown up would probably do that to you.

    She was staying at a shelter for homeless people. The V.A. had denied her claim for 100% disability; they were giving her 30% or so ; think metal leg, permanent limp-PTSD. She had no money to support herself and was in no shape to get a job either physically or mentally. But the V.A. kindly funded her stay in a homeless shelter full of recovering drug addicts and early release prisoners. What. The. Fuck.

    Why do you not know about things like this?
    Probably the main reason is that there is little to no real investigative reporting being done in America anymore . The corporate media have better things to spend their money on than telling the story of the woman I described above who is just one of hundreds of thousands.

    Vets give their health and sometimes their minds to fight in this immoral war. We have learned nothing from Vietnam.

    I won't be voting for Obama next election (nor anyone else most likely) because I can not morally support the people who do things like this to our country's young men and woman.
    posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:32 PM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


    What if we did a such a project, in which the stories of veterans facing the repercussions of their service can tell their stories and be seen? Website? Blog? Video project? Other form of project?
    posted by xarnop at 12:41 PM on April 22, 2011


    Survivor's Guilt Haunting the Military
    posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on April 22, 2011


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    posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:48 PM on April 22, 2011


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    posted by localhuman at 4:06 PM on April 22, 2011


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    posted by MeiraV at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2011


    shothotbot:

    Let me answer your questions with some antecdata and an opinion...

    How well is the VA treating specifically female combat Veterans?

    What steps have been taken to address the post combat needs of civilian employees of State, Treasury, Agriculture etc who have spent a great deal of time in a war zone?

    What do we as a country owe civilian security contractors?


    The VA doesn't do much for the male veterans, and judging by the four women vets I know, they don't do shit for women.

    Civilian employees? Nobody owes them anything. Their status is about par with the dog's dinner. Please excuse my sarcasm. My husband's a simple servant, linked with the AF, he's been the invisible man for over twenty years.

    We don't owe the security contractors anything. Most of them are jack-booted thugs, no better than mercenaries, and the few decent people got a belly-full and got out as fast as they could.

    Don't get me started on Halliburton and their evil.
    posted by BlueHorse at 5:06 PM on April 22, 2011


    .
    posted by BlueHorse at 5:07 PM on April 22, 2011


    frustrated by a difficult disability claim process

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
    posted by fullerine at 5:59 AM on April 23, 2011


    This is a tragic story, and unfortunately not the first time I've heard one like it. War is a terrible thing and takes a tremendous toll on those who experience it. However I would like to address a few of the comments in this thread, specifically as it relates to the VA and the process of caring for our returning soldiers.

    Active duty soldiers are cared for by the Department of Defense TRICARE system until they leave the military. Once a soldier does leaves the military, they then transition to the care of the VA. This transition is something both organizations have been working on for years now, and there are still improvements to be made.

    The nature of the current conflicts have created new challenges for the VA in terms of providing the best service to our soldiers. IED's have resulted in new kinds of injuries, especially traumatic brain injury (TBI) and loss of limbs. TBI is still not completely understood and thus has caused issues not just with the treatment but also with determining disability ratings. Advances in medical treatment in the field also means that more soldiers are surviving serious injuries that would have killed them in past conflicts. And PTSD is a huge issue that has an bleeds into other issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, crime, and homelessness. And as with TBI, there have been issues with determining disability ratings related to PTSD.

    However I do want to assure you that the people working at and leading the VA are some of the most mission-driven and dedicated individuals in the country. Many are veterans themselves, and while valid points can certainly be raised regarding our decisions to get involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, you should know that the people on the front lines of caring for our veterans are deeply committed to their charge. And some of the issues brought up in this thread, like PTSD, improved care for our female veterans, and veteran homelessness are at the "tip of the spear" when it comes to the initiatives and strategic planning of VA leadership.

    But back to this young man, it is indeed a heartbreaking story and it pains me every time I hear one like it. Semper Fi Marine.
    posted by Man Bites Dog at 9:46 AM on April 23, 2011


    Just created an account for this post.

    I work for the government doing this disability decision work, and seeing cases cross my desk from veterans is heart breaking. We have very strict rules for what we're allowed to consider, and unfortunately, the actual impact of PTSD is incredibly hard to measure.

    Considering a veteran case, they have to meet the same requirements as the general public (who have lately swamped our department with claims due to the failing economy). We rely on medical evidence from any of their treatment sources which, for veterans, are usually the VA. VA records are rather notoriously confounding, and while I HAVE gotten good descriptions of function from them, it's the exception, not the rule.

    First, you have to have the diagnosis, usually PTSD or major depression, something like that. Second, it has to be so bad that they are essentially unable to function in two of three spheres: their daily life, their ability to concentrate and maintain a reasonable pace, and their ability to socialize. As a grim side note, suicidal ideation is not in itself enough to meet any of those criteria, though someone who is hospitalized TWICE for an extended period each time for suicide attempts within one year of each other only has to meet one of those criteria. Yeah, it's that harsh.

    These are HARD criteria to meet. Most people with severe mental illness don't. And for anyone under 50, even pretty major physical issues aren't going to allow them. There is no real consideration given to the fact that they are veterans, except for empathy, and trying to handle things as sensitively and professionally as possible.

    These things can change, and indeed SHOULD change, but it will require legislation, money, and a desire to change the status quo by those with the power to do that.
    posted by Inspector Javert at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


    "From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
    And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
    'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
    What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.'
    'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
    His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
    His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
    And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.'
    'O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
    To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.' "


    .
    posted by perilous at 12:56 PM on April 23, 2011


    Related: 9th Cir. rules that VA failure to treat PTSD violates Constitutional rights.
    posted by jabberjaw at 4:16 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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