"We don't yet know the extent"
June 21, 2015 9:37 AM   Subscribe

The Other Wounds - "Most Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ injuries didn’t occur during combat. But their ailments have become an enduring consequence of the conflicts."

The Human Repair Shop - "It’s not easy to put a person back together, even at the U.S. military’s premier burn unit."

PTSD: The Wound That Never Heals - "Coming back to life after losing my first child."

The PTSD River Cure - "Chad Brown put down a gun and picked up a fly-fishing rod. The Navy veteran turned gear designer now wants kids and vets to heal each other on the great American waters that saved his life."
posted by the man of twists and turns (6 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I do some pro bono work on veterans' appeals -- I go up against the Secretary of Defense when a vet (or family of a vet) hasn't been able to get appropriate care or benefits, and they've been unable to convince the various functionaries, middle managers and review boards of the merits of their case. The vets often look bad -- poorly-educated, alcoholic, drugs, homeless, etc. -- and reading the file, you can see the government people going "nope, this guy doesn't deserve [whatever it is he's asking for]."

But that's not what these vets were offered going in, and they're often not getting what they signed up for. The military doesn't get to recruit (or especially draft) people and tell 'em one thing, but if they turn out not to be Ultimate Soldier material, cut 'em loose and let 'em twist on skid row.

I despise most of the uses our military's been put to -- by & large, we're not "protecting the homeland" or doing anything else we should devote our money & citizens' lives to, but I have respect for most of the people we send to do it. They don't get to choose which hellhole we're going to fuck up, and relatively few of them end up shooting, bombing or torturing civilians.
Still, just think what kind of country we could have if we spent the time and money fixing things up here.

In summary, war is hell, and we haven't even scratched the surface of the bills we'll have to pay. We may not "know the [exact] extent," but it's going to be fucking expensive, and we will have to continue to cheap out. I'm not optimistic that there's any way the economics works out -- if we earmarked enough money to pay for caring for our vets, it would be a huge pile, and ripe for stealing by one faction or another.
posted by spacewrench at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2015 [27 favorites]

spacewrench: Thank you for doing what you do.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:17 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, the articles. :-( (I couldn't even bring myself to click on the burn ward link...)

War is over - if you want it. Act accordingly.

There was a point a long time ago when I realized that nearly all Americans always vote for a pro-war President whether R or D - that perpetual warfare was what Americans actually wanted, or at least thought they wanted. I told a friend about this insight and she said, "What, you haven't seen their movies?"

My wife and I are unanimous on this issue - we will never support a pro-war candidate. We are single issue, but this issue is a litmus for a wide range of other issues. This is why we stopped supporting Mr. Obama in his second campaign, and why under no circumstances would we possibly support Ms. Clinton, as a cheerleader for the Iraq War.

Strategic voting is not a bankrupt concept and there are many cases where a rational person will consider it, but when it comes to supporting mass murder in the form of warfare, the choice between which murderer we think will kill fewer people is no choice at all.

You vote for it, you own it. If you vote for a candidate you know is pro-aggression, then you share in the responsibility when they later start a needless war (and haven't they all been needless for the last 50 years?)

Speaking for myself, I have a visceral response - to pull the lever for a war candidate is to take ownership of the stories in these articles, the endless moderate miseries that are the lasting consequences of a war over decades, as well as the huge stories and battles and hundreds of thousands of innocents dead.

I used to be more nuanced on this matter, but I saw that decades of nuanced thinking on the left had resulted in an electoral environment where all the Serious, Sensible candidates on both sides were strongly pro-war, and less-than-pro-war candidates were by definition Not Serious.

Suppose they gave a war and nobody came? If even a minority of Americans adopted such a hard line, the political landscape would change overnight. This is the time to act - before the primaries. Show them these articles, and tell them this is wrong.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:37 PM on June 21, 2015 [7 favorites]

Instead of -- or to complement -- the articles linked in this great FPP, there has been some recent fiction that gives a deep, humane view of what these returning soldiers are experiencing, including Phil Klay's National Book Award-winning Redeployment, Atticus Lish's Preparation for the Next Life, and Ben Fountain's National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.
posted by twsf at 6:57 PM on June 21, 2015

I've never worked directly with the VA, but I worked in healthcare for a bit helping to design safer electronic medical record software (with a focus on infusion pumps) that allowed better doctor-doctor contact within a lot of big research hospitals, as well as patient contact with GP and specialists.

Some of my work involved working with health insurance (most frustrating part), and the most important work involved attempting to drastically reduce preventable medical errors. Before taking the job, I knew that this was a serious problem in hospitals but had no idea that the number of patients who die from easily preventable medical errors is in the 6 figures annually. We're not talking about risky procedures that don't go as well as they could have. More like leaving surgical supplies inside of a patient after an operation, nurses and PAs misreading the handwriting of doctors, losing entire sections of a paper medical record, and healthcare professionals administering deadly doses of a prescribed medication or an incorrect, inappropriate medication due to mixing up close names or grabbing the wrong colored vial.

Anyway, in this capacity I worked in everything from neonatal ICU to major burn wards. Training doctors and nurses /troubleshooting software issues and designing safer interfaces. I saw a lot of veterans receiving care for injuries sustained in multiple wars.

My feelings on the issue are pretty much identical to those of spacewrench. We have only begun to see the true price of these wars. The statistics for KIA and wounded are not yet and may never be accurate. They simply don't reflect the continuing struggles for veterans particularly dealing with the affects of IED related head trauma, burns, PTSD and related mental problems inflicted on our soldiers. Way too many are unable to get or maintain a decent job due to the disgusting lack of physical, mental, and economic support. The families of the veterans are just as and sometimes more negatively affected than the veterans themselves. They will deal with these issues for the rest of their lives. We will see more suicides caused by the desperation and difficulty in getting appropriate help for head trauma and PTSD.

Nothing is inevitable about this situation. It did not and does not have to be this way. That's the greatest lesson I learned from a Vietnam combat veteran who taught a small and intense course focusing on America at war (and warfare in general) during my undergrad years. If we don't some serious reflection about the direction of our society during the opening years of the 21st century than we will lose whatever decency we can salvage from our colored and troubled history.
posted by WhitenoisE at 7:27 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Why do we have to cheap out on paying for the results of these wars? It sure is and will continue to be much more costly, but look at our defense budget. If we can pay for armed forces to go to war, we'd better be able to take care of them when they get back. Or maybe we should stop treating men and women like plastic chess pieces and sending them to war and giving them crappy care when they get back. Sorry. Partner of a combat vet here and friend of others. Just a couple of days agoI had to listen to a vet friend and his wife on my porch vent about how he had an infection in his jaw and because of the sheer, totally ridiculous beauracracy of the V.A., couldn't get antibiotics for a week. Now he has, but the infection already spread to his teeth, and he might lose a couple. Words fail me further.
posted by branravenraven at 12:34 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

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