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Joseph Bobrow

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The Familiar Stench of Hypocrisy on Veterans Mental Health Care

Posted: 10/09/2013 5:51 pm

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing--after they've tried everything else."

But Churchill was wrong. He was actually being uncharacteristically optimistic. In the case of a recent DoD decision regarding the mental health of our service members, Churchill understates our capacity for doing the wrong thing over and over again. Yes, our representatives have passing moral spasms when it is revealed that military families have had their death benefits cancelled as a result of the government shutdown; yes they pound their indignant chests when they quick visit photo-shoot at the WWII memorial. But this kind of hot air actually allows them to disavow their responsibility for the very injustices they are waxing outraged about.

On the Rachel Maddow Show last night, Paul Reickhoff, founder and Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that veterans and military are "the favorite political chew toy" of Democrats and Republicans alike. Well spoken.

Want some new hot air that will really challenge your "resiliency?" Try "evidence-based," "gold standard," "top shelf" reintegration practices, the ones DoD, Congress, the White House, private foundations and big corporations have been clamoring about for years in order to fund the best care for veterans. "There are thousands of programs out there, which ones work?" is a question I've heard from generals, senators, corporate executives, you name it. Repeatedly, and in large public forums.

Here goes. In USA Today, Greg Zoroya writes that Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, a resiliency program created in 2009, at a time when mental health issues and suicide were "spiraling higher in the Army and leaders were grasping for answers," has been refunded at a cost of $50,000,000 per year. The cost will rise to $75,000,000 per year by 2019.

Grave questions regarding this program have been continuously raised by expert researchers. Zoroya writes what many know, that "suicide rates have continued climbing to record levels in 2012." And 2013. By this measure alone, CSF is a failure, but what the heck, let's throw some more money at it.

Let's ignore evidence-based reintegration programs that have served thousands and have been featured as best practices by DoD and VA's own Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and TBI! "What works?," they continue to whine. "Tell us, tell us do, so we can fund and scale it up." If I've heard this once I've heard it 250 times.

But it's really the same deceptive, foul-smelling, hot air we've been breathing these days, coming from inside the Washington beltway. Ignorance and ineptitude rule the roost. And they beget cruel negligence. And I'm being quite understated, a bit like ole Winston.

 

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