What portion of soldiers returning from Iraq will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other emotional illnesses as a result of their military service in a war zone? One estimate for expected PTSD puts it at 20%.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Almost half of the Vermont National Guard troops returning from combat have claimed some level of physical or psychological disability, and at least 20 percent of all Vermont troops are expected to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, officials at the Veterans Administration Hospital in White River Junction predict.
“What happens is that the vets who come back right now obviously have some readjustment because they’re coming from a hostile area back to a normal sense of life,” said Anselm Beach, a spokesman for the VA hospital. “PTSD, however, is more of a long-term diagnosis. Some of it could be chronic and some of it may not be.”
Some mental health officials say the VA’s estimate of 20 percent may be conservative because PTSD often doesn’t surface for months or even years. State officials say the figure could be as high as 30 percent.
15% of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD 13 years after the war ended. Of course almost all of them returned well before the fall of Saigon.
The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study calculated that, in 1988, 13 years after the conflict had ended, the prevalence of PTSD in Vietnam veterans was 15 percent, and that 30 percent had experienced the disorder at some point since returning from the war.
Dr. Charles Hoge, a researcher with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, found that one eighth of returing soldiers from Iraq were reportiing symptoms consistent with PTSD.
Hoge was one of the authors of a study of returning troops published in June 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that about one in eight returning soldiers reported symptoms of PTSD, but less than half of those with problems sought help, mostly out of fear of being stigmatized or hurting their careers.
-- 15.2 percent of all male veterans (479,000 out of 3,140,000 who served in Vietnam) and 8.1 percent of women (610 out of 7,200) were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in a 1986-1988 study by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey (NVVRS).
-- Almost half of all male Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD had been arrested or in jail at least once, 34.2 percent more than once and 11.5 percent had been convicted of a felony, according to the same survey.
-- VA statistics in 2004 showed that 161,000 veterans were still receiving disability compensation for PTSD.
Women soldiers returning from Iraq suffer PTSD at much higher rates than men.
-- According to a 2005 VA study of 168,528 Iraqi veterans, 20 percent were diagnosed with psychological disorders, including 1,641 with PTSD.
-- In an earlier VA study this year, almost 12,500 of nearly 245,000 veterans visited VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms of PTSD.
-- The Marines and Army were nearly four times more likely to report PTSD than Navy or Air Force because of their greater exposure to combat situations.
-- Enlisted men were twice as likely as officers to report PTSD.
-- 8 percent to 10 percent of active-duty women and retired military women who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD.
At Lexington's VA hospital, 316 veterans with the disorder made 4,550 visits to the outpatient clinic last year, up from 264 veterans who made 3,920 visits in 2002, the year before the war began, said spokeswoman Desti Stimes.
In an article about the suicide of a New Hampshire Air National Guardsman who committed suicide shortly after returning from Iraq some insight is provided about the horror of Iraq convoy operations.
Maj. Chris Hurley, operations officer for the 157th and Guindon's supervisor, was not in Iraq but kept in close contact with the unit. He told police officers that the rules of combat in Iraq are different from those in previous wars. The environment is unpredictable and unimaginably harsh, especially for those involved in convoy operations.
"(Hurley) was saying the Iraqis would actually send children out to blow up truck convoys, so when children were seen in the road, the soldiers were told to actually keep going and run right over them," Hurley's police interview reads, "because if they stopped for the children, as would be the norm, there was a possibility that these children could be armed or wired with explosives."
It was the first time the state's Air Guard members, who tend to specialize in defense tactics, had done anything like it, Hurley said.
One thing to note here: The US Army and Marines are sufficiently short on soldiers that US Air Force National Guardmen are doing convoy guard duties in Iraq. The unit described in this article drove 100,000 miles while in Iraq.
We have better drugs today for treating mental illness. Also, the military makes a greater effort to identify it. But about half of all soldiers avoid complaining either out of pride or in order to avoid being blocked from advancement.
How many soldiers total have served in Iraq so far? 300,000 perhaps? If anyone comes across some numbers please post them in the comments. Also, how many soldiers are being sent to Iraq each year for the first time? Some fraction of each new batch is going to add to the total who will suffer long term mental disorders as a result of their service. Based on the numbers above we could easly end up with 50,000 to 100,000 veterans with various forms of mental illness as a result of their time served in Iraq.
The costs of the mental illnesses resulting from service in Iraq will take forms such as higher rates of divorce, higher rates of abuse of spouses and children, poorer work performance and higher rates of unemployment, institutionalization of severe cases, suicide, murder, and other crimes. We will be paying for the Iraq war for decades to come.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 June 28 08:20 PM Mideast Iraq Costs|