The Washington Post ran a story today about Walter Reed Hospital syndrome reaching beyond the walls of that crumbling institution.
One of the vets quoted in the story (Ray Oliva) talked about his VA hospital in Livermore, California. Livermore, Livermore. Ah! A Clothesline post from Saturday. Livermore CA is home of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that just won the competition to design a hydrogen bomb for the U.S. Folks, this is even bigger than the national LEGOs championship. Read on.
And let us not forget the poignant reaction of Bruce Goodwin, chief of the nuclear weapons program at Livermore. "I am personally humbled by this."
"This" is permission, yea verily, encouragement to develop a deadly and devastating instrument of human destruction. Apparently our government believes someone has to do "this."
So now the same city in which the government plans to design weapons of mass destruction that can be verified is also home to a veterans' hospital where conditions have been cited by some as being as deplorable as Walter Reed. There's a grim message here somewhere. Pared down to its essence, it goes something like this: Ship 'em out, shoot 'em up, bring 'em home and warehouse 'em in a substandard facility. They're so, like, yesterday, you know?
Oliva says he wrote to "our" people, Senators Feinstein and Boxer about Livermore, but never got a reply. That's unacceptable.
And he's not the only one going on record with stories ranging from poignant to horrifying. How about this one?
. . . At the sprawling James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., Spec. Roberto Reyes Jr. lies nearly immobile and unable to talk. Once a strapping member of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, Reyes got too close to an improvised explosive device in Iraq and was sent to Walter Reed, where doctors did all they could before shipping him to the VA for the remainder of his life. A cloudy bag of urine hangs from his wheelchair. His mother and his aunt are constant bedside companions; Reyes, 25, likes for them to get two inches from his face, so he can pull on their noses with the few fingers he can still control.
Maria Mendez, his aunt, complained about the hospital staff. "They fight over who's going to have to give him a bath -- in front of him!" she said. Reyes suffered third-degree burns on his leg when a nurse left him in a shower unattended. He was unable to move himself away from the scalding water. His aunt found out only later, when she saw the burns.
You want stats? Got stats for you.
Nearly 64,000 of the more than 184,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who have sought VA health care have been diagnosed with potential symptoms of post-traumatic stress, drug abuse or other mental disorders as of the end of June, according to the latest report by the Veterans Health Administration. Of those, nearly 30,000 have possible post-traumatic stress disorder, the report said.
Post-traumatic stress isn't new. We used to call it "shell-shocked." And by and large, folks chalked it up to "one of those things" that accompanies war. Que sera.
The WaPo article outlines problems in vet facilities nationwide, including San Diego, Phoenix, Fort Knox, Fort Campbell, Fort Bragg, Fort Dix and Fort Irwin. And let's not be forgetting our own VA facilities (plural) in Minnesota that reportedly turned away Marine Jonathan Schulze, who subsequently committed suicide.
On my way home today, I passed the house whose front yard sports a large sign, proclaiming, "We Support Our Troops."
Somewhere recently, I saw a blog comment, the gist of which was this: You can support our troops or you can support George Bush, but you can't do both. Amen, brother, amen.