Official Calls Wounded Warriors Report ‘Unrepresentative’
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2010 – The focus of a New York Times article depicting neglect and suffering endured by a group of wounded soldiers recovering in an Army program is unrepresentative of the recovery effort at large, the Army surgeon general said today.Video
Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker stopped short of calling the article that appeared yesterday inaccurate, but said the overwhelming majority of soldiers in warrior transition units are satisfied with the recovery regimen, according to an Army survey.
“I don't see them as necessarily crafting fiction,” Schoomaker said to Pentagon reporters about the article. “But I do believe that it is wholly unrepresentative of the totality and the context of what we’ve done for warrior care, especially in the last three years.”
Overall, 81 percent of participating soldiers are satisfied with the program, and about 90 percent of wounded soldiers recovering at Fort Carson, Colo. -- the focal point of the New York Times article -- are satisfied with their warrior transition unit according to the survey, Schoomaker said.
These figures paint a picture in stark contrast to the New York Times report, which the paper said was based on interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit and reports from other Army posts. The article states that warrior transition units have become “warehouses of despair” for many soldiers.
The Army surgeon general took umbrage at this portrayal of warrior transition units -- which are responsible for some 9,300 soldiers -- calling it “a poor characterization” and “almost 180 degrees of the truth.”
Schoomaker was asked specifically to comment on the report’s description of the units as “warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers.”
“Of all of the descriptions in there, with the exception perhaps of the suffering that individual soldiers and families have had,” he said, “that sentence alone is among the most offensive to us. And I think it wholly describes a situation that we feel is not present.
“We welcome you and any member of the press to go out and physically visit warrior transition units,” he continued, “to talk with those soldiers, to talk with their cadre and to see the larger context of how care is being delivered.”
The article raised concerns about the over-prescription of drugs by doctors and the abuse or misuse of both prescribed and illicit substances. A military official told reporters that 78 incidents of illegal drug use have been recorded at the Fort Carson warrior transition unit since 2008.
“We have concerns about the diversion of prescription drugs that can be used for recreational uses, just as in the nation at large,” Schoomaker said. “That's a big problem right now across the country. We’re also concerned because illegally obtained drugs can be used as complements to these other drugs.”
Schoomaker said an inspection of warrior transition units by the Army inspector general will be completed soon, and Army Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of Warrior Transition Command, is slated to visit Fort Carson to review policies and practices of their warrior transition unit later this week.
“With 9,300 soldiers currently in the program, we don't always get it right,” Schoomaker said. “To that end, we take every criticism and concern seriously and continuously strive to improve our program.”
The Warrior Transition Units were created with the purest of goals when they came into being, it was because the old "medical holding companies" of the past just were not doing a job of maintaining control over the ever growing number of wounded veterans filling the nations military hospitals that were not bad enough to still be hospitalized but not well enough to return to their units. Most will be given medical discharges due to PTSD and or amputations or other significant wounds. The majority of these soldiers are on so much medication that actually showing up for formations atregular times can be more than should be expected. Many are "zombies" from the narcotics the hospitals are giving them, or anxiety medications, etc, many of them are walking pharmacies, hardly capable of doing "work" of any meaningful type, yet the chain of command are writing these soldiers up for missing formations, reducing their ranks, taking away part of their paychecks and by the time many of their medical discharges are ready to be processed these soldiers have found themselves in so much disciplinary problems that instead of getting a medical discharge they are being thrown out of the Army on bad conduct discharges and finding themsleves owing the military thousands of dollars in over payments of enlistment or re-enlistment bonuses, which makes the depression even worse.
Last week they were hero's this week they are zero's and owe the Army they served honorably at war. Yes there is a requirement for discipline even for soldiers in medical treatment for war injuries but throwing a wounded soldier out of the Army with no medical benefits and a bad discharge which will now prevent them from getting even the basic care at the Veterans administration or being able to file for veterans compensation for their injuries, you have some very depressed veterans left kicked to the curb. There needs to be a lot more leeway given to these type of soldiers, they are not infantry troops training to go to war, they have been there and injured now they need help and compassion not to go thru a version of hospital boot camp and see who survives with all the stripes they arrived with.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Official Calls Wounded Warriors Report ‘Unrepresentative’