Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Military: The Need for Legislative Improvement of Mental Health Care for Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. OVERVIEW OF PTSD AND THE UNITED STATES MILITARY
     A. PTSD: Definition and Treatment
     B. Traumatic Brain Injury
     C. Problems Resulting from Undiagnosed PTSD
     D. Reasons PTSD is Frequently Undiagnosed
     E. Stumbling Blocks for Receiving Treatment:
        Denial of Coverage and Inadequate Health Care
        Facilities
III. CONGRESSIONAL AND MILITARY SOLUTIONS
     A. The Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention
        Act
     B. Other Acts
     C. Individual Programs Implemented by the
        Department of Defense and Individual Branches
        of the Military
 IV. PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE SOLUTIONS, BUDGETARY
     CONCERNS, AND INTERMEDIARY STATE ACTION
     A. Mandatory Mental Health Screening
     B. Increase the Number of Health Care Facilities
        and Professionals
     C. Reduce the Stigma Associated with PTSD through
        Outreach and Education
     E. Budgetary Concerns
     F. Proactive Solutions on the State Level
        1. Veterans Treatment Courts
        2. PTSD, the Insanity Plea and the Death Penalty
 VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Sergeant Christian E. Bueno-Galdos came to the United States with his family in 1992. (1) He was seven when he began life in the United States, but it was not until he joined the Army that he became a United States citizen. (2) Bueno-Galdos loved being in the army and re-signed to complete a second tour of duty after returning home from his first tour in Iraq. (3) Though married, Bueno-Galdos also supported his parents with his military paycheck. (4) Tragically, Sergeant Bueno-Galdos arrived home on a 747, dead at the age of twenty-five; his coffin was draped with an American flag. (5) Four more soldiers died that same day on May 11, 2009. (6)

Also on that day, during Sergeant John M. Russell's third tour of duty, Sergeant Russell snapped. (7) Walking into a stress clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Russell took the lives of five American soldiers, including that of Bueno-Galdos. (8) One week prior to the tragic shooting, Russell had been referred to counseling and his weapon had been taken away. (9) His actions are described as "the single deadliest episode of soldier-on-soldier violence among American forces since the United States-led invasion" began in 2003. (10)

Although the motive for Russell's attack remains unclear, the fact that he had been referred to counseling at the stress clinic suggests the attack was a result of a mental disorder. (11) Major General Daniel Bolgier told the media that mental health issues come with a "stigma" and "[n]ot all injuries are physical, and so you've got to have that door open for the guys ... it's particularly challenging for a fellow like Sgt. Russell." (12) Large numbers of military personnel suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD") which results in increased homicides and suicides committed by veterans. (13) In 2005, Congress proposed the Veterans Mental Health Services Enhancement Act ("Service Enhancement Act") to offer rigorous mental health treatment programs to veterans of both Operation Iraqi Freedom ("OIF") and Operation Enduring Freedom ("OEF"). (14) While the bill failed to pass Congress, the problem of mental health disorders for OIF and OEF veterans remains. To solve this problem, Congress should enact legislation, similar to the Service Enhancement Act and other proposed Acts, that have the following goals: I) reduce stigma surrounding PTSD; 2) lower the rates of suicides and homicides committed by veterans; and 3) assist veterans in diagnosing and treating PTSD. This legislation should increase the number of health care professionals and the efficacy of care, improve nationwide outreach and education, and implement mandatory mental health screening requirements.

This Note argues that legislation requiring improved mental health treatment for veterans of OIF and OEF is necessary to protect American service members from the dangers of mental illness. …