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Wounded Warriors
December 5, 2004 1:47 PM   Subscribe

When the fighting stops. In World War II, for every American soldier killed in combat, there were three wounded on the battlefield, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command. In Korea, the ratio of killed-to-wounded was one to four. The ratio was the same for Vietnam. In Iraq, the ratio is one to 12.
Those combat survivors -- along with thousands more service members in Iraq and Afghanistan who are injured or who fall ill off the battlefield -- will add to the growing demand for services from an already struggling federal Veterans Affairs Department. More inside.
posted by matteo (33 comments total)

 
No Embeds at Landstuhl
Far from the battleground, and the eyes of reporters and cameramen, almost 500 wounded U.S. military personnel have been airlifted to Germany for medical treatment since the start of the Fallujah offensive. Despite claims that the heavy fighting has ended, another 46 arrived on Monday.

___

As of two weeks ago, 20,802 troops had been treated at Landstuhl from injuries received in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom

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Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq is a book about the soldiers returning from “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” wounded for life, physically and emotionally. Many are in their late teens and early twenties. They are double-amputees, paraplegics, burn victims, depressives.
posted by matteo at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2004




Nice work as always matteo.
posted by crusiera at 2:12 PM on December 5, 2004


.
posted by crusiera at 2:13 PM on December 5, 2004


looking at the bright side: war is less deadly than in the past.
posted by msacheson at 2:16 PM on December 5, 2004


Young deaths in war are always tragic, but somehow to see a 20-year-old double amputee or burn victim affects me more. yes that's selfish. There's a certain noble closure in death; for the wounded there's no final rest, and they drag themselves around at the cost of their dignity.

I suppose it's the burden of scars a society bears to remind itself of these ugly moments in its history. I used to feel comfortable thinking of veterans and war-wounded as old-timers, rather than fucking younger than me.

Thanks matteo.
posted by cosmonik at 2:28 PM on December 5, 2004


A wounded soldier photo essay from Mother Jones. (via Meat-eating leftist)
posted by xammerboy at 2:38 PM on December 5, 2004


1. There was no need to go to war with Iraq
2. As a nurse at a local VA hospital told me: we are in poor shape since Bush cut the budgets for VA hospitals.
posted by Postroad at 2:56 PM on December 5, 2004


What is stunning to me, reading the text of the photo essay xammerboy posted, is that not a single soldier shown in it has any real regrets. Most say it was a good experience. I was in the military, but I don't know I would take such serious injuries so well.
posted by procrastination at 3:39 PM on December 5, 2004


procrastination: I don't mean to be harsh, but these soldiers may not have their own interest at heart anymore. What kind of brainwashing indoctrination training do you think is necessary to convince a healthy, possibly balanced individual raised in a modern, (relatively) secular, (comparatively) rich democracy, to go to a foreign country and wage war. "War is hell", said Sherman, and I for one think it takes a lot to damn a woman or man to hell.
posted by Non Serviam at 3:48 PM on December 5, 2004


matteo,
I just bought Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't like people my age dying of unnatural causes. The death tolls are bad enough, but the injuries are almost worse in a way.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 4:05 PM on December 5, 2004


2. As a nurse at a local VA hospital told me: we are in poor shape since Bush cut the budgets for VA hospitals.

Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania:
[F]unding for veterans is going up twice as fast under Bush as it did under Clinton. And the number of veterans getting health benefits is going up 25% under Bush's budgets. That's hardly a cut.

Funding for veterans benefits has accelerated in the Bush administration, as seen in the following table.

In Bush’s first three years funding for the Veterans Administration increased 27%. And if Bush's 2005 budget is approved, funding for his full four-year term will amount to an increase of 37.6%.


In the eight years of the Clinton administration the increase was 31.7%


Those figures include mandatory spending for such things as payments to veterans for service-connected disabilities, over which Congress and presidents have little control. But Bush has increased the discretionary portion of veterans funding even more than the mandatory portion has increased. Discretionary funding under Bush is up 30.2%.


By any measure, veterans funding is going up faster under Bush than under Clinton.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:15 PM on December 5, 2004


The previous wounded/dead counts are irrelevant except to show how far field medicine has come or how bad Iraqi insurgents are at finishing their intended job. It should be the former, because the Viet Cong had a reputation for being more interested in wounding to the point of inaction-- not because they were especially humane, but because they knew there was a certain efficiency in it and they were really well organized.

So the comparisons are irrelevant-- we promised these poor suckers benefits and they should get benefits. Veterans deserve the coverage they're promised, whether they're forced to eradicate fascism, forced to pretend that the US is tough on communism or if they sold their lives to keep gas cheap so they wouldn't have to work at Jiffy Lube.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2004


The increase in funding is all well and good until the honorable discharge puts them back into mainstream society. What then? I wonder how many of our homeless are Vietnam vets who can't find employment and be self-sustaining because of permanent disabilities.
posted by Flamingo at 4:44 PM on December 5, 2004


From Steve's link:
While it's false to say the veterans budget has been cut, and false to say that any veteran getting benefits has been cut off, it is true that funding is not growing as rapidly as demand for benefits, or as rapidly as veterans groups would like.

Veterans groups are unanimous in calling for more money than the administration or Congress have provided. Four groups -- AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States -- have joined to ask for $3.7 billion more than the administration is requesting for next year.

Even Bush's own Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi -- in a rare break with administration protocol -- told a House committee Feb. 4 that had asked for more money than Bush was willing to seek from Congress. "I asked OMB for $1.2 billion more than I received," he said, referring to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Funny, the way you didn't include that part.

What percentage increase in veterans REQUIRING benefits has occured during the same period of increase in offered benefits versus Clinton? If Bush increased benefits by 50%, but his little playdate in Iraq increased actual veterans needing benefits by 100%, that's a net loss in quality, isn't it?

Unless there's a calculation of per-capita benefits for recently injured benefits, your retort makes as much sense as quoting that Clinton slashed the mounted cavalry budget versus that of Theodore Roosevelt.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2004


This is one of the things that bothers me the most about this war.

The wrongness of it aside, if we're going to send men & women into battle and make public proclamations about their honor and sacrifice, the least we could do is honor their sacrifices ourselves.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2004


Oops, a little more:
Veterans groups have called for "mandatory funding" of medical benefits, which would automatically appropriate whatever funds are required to meet demand. Kerry has endorsed mandatory funding, which would allow middle-income veterans with no service-connected disability to resume signing up.

The administration also has proposed to make the VA's prescription drug benefit less generous. Currently many veterans pay $7 for each one-month supply of medication. The administration proposes to increase that to $15, and require a $250 annual fee as well. Congress rejected a similar proposal last year. The proposal wouldn't affect those -- such as veterans with a disability rated at 50% or more -- who currently aren't required to make any co-payments.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2004


public proclamations about their honor and sacrifice

The public proclamations are really political and religious affiliation declarations. The troops in Iraq are either treated like idiots doing the work of corrupt public officials (because its better than working at McDonalds), or they are seen as corrupt themselves with no moral values killing and torturing with impunity.
posted by stbalbach at 5:11 PM on December 5, 2004


Although funding for the VA has increased, how much of that is for hospitals and Vets medical treatment?

Does the percentage increase keep up with ever increasing health care costs?

How much stress is the VA dealing with now when there is a war than when under Clinton when there wasn't?
posted by j-urb at 5:57 PM on December 5, 2004


Funny, the way you didn't include that part.

I didn't include that as postroad's idiotic statement was about cuts, not about rate vs increase in demand. It wasn't hidden, I posted a link to the full report.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:08 PM on December 5, 2004


This is a great post.

The following bit I found to be particularly jarring from the guy that lost his leg there:

I want to go back to the military. I want my old job back. I was infantry. We blew things up. I felt like my heart was in the right place over there.

I have heard echoes of this quite a fiew other testimonials, such as Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down, and Chris Hedges's recent essay. They certainly depict war as hell, but war is also a reality that creates undeniably strong bonds of camaradie among men that are not understood back in "the world". Life in the thick of it is brutal and unforgiving, but it becomes the central truth of a warrior's life. Back at home, life becomes ambiguous and strange.

As much as we can do to help heal these broken men (and I have myself done some VA Hospital volunteer work) it will certainly not be enough. What worries me as much are the wounds that don't show and go untreated. Not to cite an overused example but, by more than a few accounts, Timothy McVeigh when to Desert Storm as a relatively bright and optimistic young man, and then came back as... well we know what he came back as.

I think we may have unleashed as many monsters abroad as we have at home in undertaking this expedition.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 6:08 PM on December 5, 2004


S@L - was a chart really necessary?
posted by puke & cry at 6:28 PM on December 5, 2004


Tommy Gnosis: indulge me in a little experiment...

[...] war The Church of the Great Poo-Bah is also a reality that creates undeniably strong bonds of camaradie among men that are not understood back in "the world". Life in the thick of it Church is brutal and unforgiving frugal and difficult, but it becomes the central truth of a warrior's CotGPB member's life. Back at home, life becomes ambiguous and strange.

Life-changing experiences do not validate a system of beliefs or a life-style.
posted by Non Serviam at 6:41 PM on December 5, 2004


Read that rest of what I wrote, Non, if that is your real name. I'm not quite sure what your point is, but you've clearly missed mine by a few miles.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 6:43 PM on December 5, 2004


The chart et al was fine. Thx, S@L, that was good.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:08 PM on December 5, 2004


Tommy Gnosis: I'm sorry I gave the impression that I'm disagreeing with you, because I'm not. I was merely trying to point out, in my own clumsy way, that when the State (any State) trains soldiers, it not only teaches them to kill and survive, but it also changes them, in religious-like ways. Just look at the parallel between methods to induce someone into a cult and the basic military training: mild starvation, sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, ideological speeches.

*insert witty yet sad Nietzsche quotation about monsters, running with them, staring into the abyss, and the latter doing the same into one's soul*

And, although one can always hope, I'm not aware of anyone legally named "Non Serviam". Of course, if I had a son... do pet guinea pigs count?

Steve_at_Linnwood: nice chart, thanks for the information. As a non-American, I was wondering: if the chart showed net funding per veteran, would it have the same shape? Again, please excuse my ignorance.
posted by Non Serviam at 7:30 PM on December 5, 2004


I don't mean to be harsh, but these soldiers may not have their own interest at heart anymore.

I can't imagine how that could be...

Politics shouldn't matter in this. Soldiers fight for their country but it's their government who sends them.

Governments hosing the guys who are coming back isn't a new thing.

Fortunately there are a few good NGO's
posted by Smedleyman at 7:53 PM on December 5, 2004


Smedleyman: altruism is all fine and dandy until you have to choose between prima faciae and actual duties.
posted by Non Serviam at 7:59 PM on December 5, 2004


I didn't include that as postroad's idiotic statement was about cuts, not about rate vs increase in demand. It wasn't hidden, I posted a link to the full report.

Well, shit, Steve@Linnwood, if you ain't trying to hide anything, then maybe you could explain why, when postroad's comment was about the apple of budgets for VA hospitals, you felt an idiotic comment and gratuitous chart about budgets for veterans as a whole would mean anything beyond any other orange you just pulled out of your ass.

Here's what a small veterans' group called the, er, VFW said about Bush's funding for the VA hospital system. They, the consumers of health care, along with the nurse Postroad noted actually worked for a local VA hospital, all obviously have more credibility than oranges popping out of Republican asses:

VFW Terms President's VA Budget Proposal Harmful to Veterans

Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2004--"The president ignored veterans in the State of the Union Address and with today's release of his 2005 budget, it is further evident that veterans are no longer a priority with this administration," said the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., expressing dismay at the disgraceful 1.8% increase in veterans' medical care funding. "We look to Congress to reject the president's inadequate proposal and to provide a budget that fully acknowledges the debt our nation owes its veterans."

VFW Commander-in-Chief Edward S. Banas Sr., of Voluntown, Conn., said that with only a $500 million increase in medical funding, the administration's budget falls $2.6 billion short of what the Independent Budget recommends is needed to fully meet the demands for quality veterans' health care. "This funding package is a disgrace and a sham," Banas said.

"This deplorable budget will do nothing to alleviate the many thousands of veterans who are waiting six months or more for basic health care appointments with VA. Instead, the budget seeks to drive veterans from the system by realigning funding, charging enrollment fees for access and more than doubling the prescription drug copayment. This is inexcusable, especially when no member of this administration or Congress would wait this long for their health care.

"What the administration is proposing for veterans is a shell game. Veterans are being asked to pay for their own health care to make up for shortages in the budget. We are adamantly opposed to charging veterans an enrollment fee and we are opposed to increasing payments that veterans make for prescriptions and for other health care services, especially when millions of this nation's veterans are already locked out of the system," Banas said. "To ask this nation's veterans to subsidize their health care is outrageous. They have already paid for their health care with their sweat and with their blood.

"This budget indefensibly will not meet the increasing health care needs of our veterans, nor will it lessen the many months they wait for disability benefits.


Oh, and here's what those goddamned commies at the Paralyzed Veterans of America had to say about Bush's magnificent funding of the VA health care system:

This year has been a troubling time for veterans. We have witnessed an inadequate budget proposal submitted by the administration, filled with gimmicks instead of real dollars. We have seen the House of Representatives pass a budget resolution that called for $28 billion in veterans cuts over 10 years - a budget passed as the war in Iraq began - and then ultimately agree to the Senate-passed amount, which would have provided sufficient health-care resources to match The Independent Budget s recommendation. But when the House next acted, it provided only the amount recommended by the administration, yet again breaking faith with veterans. Sadly, this funding uncertainty happens nearly every year as veterans issues are not accorded the priority that lip-service pays them.

One of the things that we have determined is that in a typical year, our expenses increase 6 to 7 percent by new enrollment in Priorities 1 through 7. In addition to that [enrollment growth], increased utilization, because the veteran population ages, and health-care expenditures and health-care utilization increase. With every increasing year of age, particularly in an elderly population, we have another 2 to 3 percent incremental cost every year. So a 7 percent increase associated with enrollment in our highest priority groups, coupled with another 2 to 3 percent of increased utilization costs, coupled with a conservatively estimated health care inflation rate of 4.5 or 5 percent, yields a 13 or 14 percent per year increase in the money available to take care of just our core population of veterans.

For FY 2005, the administration requested an increase of only $310 million in appropriated dollars, a mere 1.2 percent increase over the FY 2004 level. This was the lowest appropriation request for VA health care made by any administration in nearly a decade. The administration chose to use budget gimmicks, higher out-of-pocket costs for veterans (including a proposed $250 user fee for Category 7 and 8 veterans and increased copayments), and major cuts in long-term care programs as a substitute for requesting real dollars. VA has also chosen to continue to deny enrollment to new Category 8 veterans as a cost-saving measure.


Stick those apples on your chart.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:10 PM on December 5, 2004


Why don't you just those apples up your ass Dr. Flower?

Glad to see you didn't commit suicide after your "reckoning" never happened.

expressing dismay at the disgraceful 1.8% increase

that with only a $500 million increase in medical funding

an increase of only

Only in Washington-speak is a increase of less than you would like called a "cut."

Regardless of what the two lobbyist groups* say, the numbers from the OMB (a non-partisan group) speak for themselves.


*Yes, even the VFW is a lobbyist group, attempting to pressure Congress to give it's memebers more money....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:39 AM on December 6, 2004


veterans funding is going up faster under Bush than under Clinton.

well, the fact that Clinton's war, ie Kosovo, was a Zero Combat Losses military operation, may have something to do with it.
with the thousands of kids coming home from mr Bush's war with a few limbs missing or other permament handicaps -- a massive flow of seriously wounded young men that will continue in the foreseeable future -- it is hardly surprising that Bush has to spend a few more dollars on them, finally.
also, Posty's nurse mentioned lack of funding for VA hospitals, as others have pointed out already, not VA funding per se.
the proverbial skyrocketing health care costs may have something to do with the much-needed increase, too.
posted by matteo at 4:24 AM on December 6, 2004


These numbers of permanently maimed and wounded are gruesome but pale in comparison to the numbers who will be psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives, living the nightmare over and over.
posted by nofundy at 5:23 AM on December 6, 2004


The previous wounded/dead counts are irrelevant except to show how far field medicine has come or how bad Iraqi insurgents are at finishing their intended job. It should be the former, because the Viet Cong had a reputation for being more interested in wounding to the point of inaction-- not because they were especially humane, but because they knew there was a certain efficiency in it and they were really well organized.

US medevac capability was already fast by Vietnam, and personal protections like body armor and better helmets are largely responsible for the lower rate of fatalities to injuries. People are getting horribly wounded (there are lots of cases of brain damage from bomb attacks) and survive injuries that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts.

It's more efficient to wound your enemies because each wounded soldier requires a bunch of medical personnel and equipment, which takes resources away from fighting you.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2004


Britain has similar problems:

Life goes on
We focus on the death toll in Iraq. But what future for the squaddies the war has put in wheelchairs?
posted by matteo at 1:09 PM on December 9, 2004


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