Soldiers struggle to get help for PTSD

April 18, 2008 12:53:29 AM PDT
We tend to think of American troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, without visible injuries, as safe and sound. Still, while they may be safe, a new study makes in very clear that a disturbing number are not sound in terms of mental health.

"I've been home since 2005 and I still struggle with feeling like I belong here," said Steve Edwards, a soldier who served in Iraq.

Edwards spends just about every day in his San Jose subdivision. He never ventures far from home because he feels like he can't. That's when the anxiety from his time in Iraq sets in.

"Every day is a struggle with the depression, and the anger, and any pain you may feel," said Edwards.

Edwards suffers from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

A privately funded study by Rand Corporation finds 320,000 troops have experienced brain injuries while at war and nearly one in five or 300,000 suffers from PTSD.

"I think the numbers are a little low, if they're saying one in five, it's probably more like three in five," said Edwards.

The study also shows only half of those troops seek mental health treatment.

It turns out, of the 1,400 VA centers in the U.S., very few offer in patient care for PTSD. Meaning, vets can stay there for an extended period of time.

When veterans tried to open a private PTSD clinic in Guerneville earlier this year, locals decided they didn't want the vets in their town. The center has never opened.

"The treatment is inadequate," said Sid Wolinsky, a disability rights advocate.

Obstacles in Guerneville and a major back log within the VA system, mean veterans are not getting the treatment they need, according to attorney, Sid Wolinsky.

That's why he filed a class action lawsuit, demanding the VA fix, what he calls, a broken and inefficient system.

"There's no question this Rand study confirms and adds a lot more beef to what we've been saying and it provides an in depth study of just how bad the situation is," said Wolinsky.

The Rand Study will be a part of Wolinsky's case, the trial begins in Federal Court, on Monday.


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