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1 in 4 Iraq vets ailing on return

By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

More than one in four U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment, according to the Pentagon's first detailed screening of servicemembers leaving a war zone. (Related: Troops screened as never before)
Almost 1,700 servicemembers returning from the war this year said they harbored thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead. More than 250 said they had such thoughts "a lot." Nearly 20,000 reported nightmares or unwanted war recollections; more than 3,700 said they had concerns that they might "hurt or lose control" with someone else.

These survey results, which have not been publicly released, were provided to USA TODAY by the Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. They offer a window on the war and how the ongoing insurgency has added to the strain on troops.

Overall, since the war began, about 28% of Iraq veterans — about 50,000 servicemembers this year alone — returned with problems ranging from lingering battle wounds to toothaches, from suicidal thoughts to strained marriages. The figure dwarfs the Pentagon's official Iraq casualty count: 1,971 U.S. troops dead and 15,220 wounded as of Tuesday.

A greater percentage of soldiers and Marines surveyed in 2004-05 said they felt in "great danger" of being killed than said so in 2003, after a more conventional phase of fighting. Twice as many surveyed in 2004-05 had fired a weapon in combat.

"The (wartime) deployments do take a toll," says Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "We send them to austere locations, places that are extremely hot, extremely cold, very wet, very dry ... where they may also encounter an armed enemy."

The Pentagon's goal is to identify all troops in need of care in part by screening every servicemember on a wide range of issues before and after overseas duty.

Begun in 1997 and expanded in 2003, it is the most detailed health assessment of deployed troops ever. It came in response to ailments that surfaced after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Jim Benson, a spokesman at the Department of Veterans Affairs, says comparable data from previous wars don't exist.

In October 2004, a federal panel of medical experts that studied illnesses of Gulf War veterans estimated that one in seven suffer war-related health problems.

Benson said the percentage of troops back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with health issues is close to the portion of former servicemembers coming to the VA for mental health or medical care. He says 101,000 of the 431,000 war vets who have separated from the military, or about 23%, have sought help.

Contributing: Paul Overberg



Of servicemembers returning from the Iraq war this year:

47% saw someone wounded or killed, or saw a dead body.

14% had an experience that left them easily startled.

6% wanted help for stress, emotional, alcohol or family problems.

2% had thoughts of hurting someone or losing control.

1% had thoughts that they might be better off dead or could hurt themselves.

Source: 193,131 Defense Department Post-Deployment Health Assessments from January through August


Troops screened as never before
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
Pentagon efforts to screen troops for medical and psychological problems before and after they go to war — and in the months after they return home — could make the Iraq war veteran the most scrutinized fighter in American history.

"They are collecting data before and after, and then doing follow-up. That's amazing," says Joseph Boscarino, a Vietnam War veteran and scientist at the New York Academy of Medicine who does research on post-traumatic stress disorder. "That was never done before. It was always ad hoc."

The screening began in 1997. When it was expanded in 2003, William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, testified before Congress that it was necessary to avoid the kind of health problems that had occurred in the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

Thousands of returning veterans of that conflict complained of ailments ranging from memory loss to respiratory problems.

"That was a big problem in the Gulf War," Winkenwerder testified. "We really didn't know the baseline health status of people, so it was very difficult to compare when they came back as to what their status had been before they left."

The current screening before and after deployment is designed to correct that, Winkenwerder said.

First comprehensive effort

Servicemembers fill out a four-page health survey, which is entered into their medical record. They meet with a nurse, medical assistant or doctor, who goes over answers and can make a referral.

"This is the first war in which we're doing comprehensive assessments," says Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general.

The emphasis, she says, is on early detection and treatment of health problems: "We have to have strong and resilient soldiers in order to fight the war."

The Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine provided USA TODAY with screening results of servicemembers returning from the Iraq war from the time the war began in 2003 through August of this year.

The results came from the surveys filled out by troops. In some cases, servicemembers who were sent back to the fighting may have been screened more than once. The Pentagon says about 20% of deployed troops serve their tours outside Iraq, such as in Kuwait, and do not see combat.

or mental health treatment rose from 22% in 2003 to 35% in 2004. This year, slightly more than 28% of returning troops have required medical or mental health care.

The percentage of female troops with health issues has been higher than that of men. Last year, 43% of returning women required follow-up medical or mental health care, compared with 36% of men. This year, about 33% of female servicemembers were referred for follow-up care, compared with 27% of men.

In addition, a higher percentage of National Guard and Reserve troops have had health issues than those in active-duty forces, the survey shows.

Forty-seven percent of National Guard troops and 45% of reservists required some kind of medical or mental health care last year, vs. 29% of active-duty troops. This year, 30% to 35% of Guard and Reserve troops needed health referrals, compared with 25% of active-duty servicemembers.

A change in combat

The numbers suggest that the severity of the war increased after 2003, when much of the fighting had been concentrated around the initial invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led forces in March and April. As the insurgency took root in 2004, the percentage of U.S. military personnel who witnessed someone being killed or wounded rose from 36% in 2003 to 50% in 2004. It is 47% this year.

The percentage of troops who said they needed stress-related therapy after war duty has almost doubled since the first year of the war. But that portion remains small, rising from about 3% in 2003 to about 6% this year.

The actual proportion of troops with stress-related mental health problems may be far higher. In an anonymous survey in 2003, Army researchers found that 15% to 17% of front-line troops suffered depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A 1986-88 study, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey, found 15% of male and 8% of female Vietnam veterans had been diagnosed with stress disorders.

A recent study by Boscarino, of the New York Academy of Medicine, found that the postwar mortality rate of Vietnam veterans who had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder was twice that of other veterans from that conflict.

Because so many PTSD cases remain undiagnosed and untreated, Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of the Deployment Health Support Directorate in the Defense Department, says the Pentagon will begin follow-up health assessments of troops later this year. The screenings will occur three to six months after troops get home, when some mental and physical symptoms may be more evident.

"It's yet another opportunity for accessing care," he says.


Among servicemembers returning from the Iraq war:
45% felt they were in great danger of being killed during their tour.
19% were bothered by finding little interest or pleasure in doing things.

14% were bothered by feelings of depression or hopelessness.

9% had an experience that gave them nightmares or that they thought about when they didn't want to.

3% worried about serious conflicts with their spouse, family or close friends.

Source: 538,232 Defense Department Post-Deployment Health Assessments of servicemembers returning from the Iraq war from April 2003 to August 2005



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Thanks for the info., but do not rule out veterans of knowledge have become a target of electronic harassment and covert stalking.

Many of us victims now being hit with remote pulses to the chest.

Please see International Petition

Petition to U. S. Government Agencies and any Other Agency to Cease and Ban Direct Energy Programs and Electronic Surveillance of Innocent Humans.

April 8, 2004-July 20, 2005 (Present & Ongoing)
Internet address:
(Petition Human Rights)

and learn about it.

I would appreciate it if someone could enlighten me about this 'remote electronic harassment, direct energy?' that Ken Lee is referring to . A petition to ban direct energy programs and electronic surveillance of innocent humans // and a reference like ' hit by remote pulses to the chest ?? I may sound dense, but it is only that I know Nothing about This Subject. IT is possibly a Form of "Being Programmed a certain way, and a method to ascertain the Subject does not deter from that Certain Path ? Like Being Crammed full of Propaganda and not wanting anyone to Empty it OUT ? What ? VGF Please, won`t someone who Is in the Know...Enlighten me ? Whatever it is, I am Against it...As I am against Any Kind of mind programming. ( Tho I am sure it goes on All the time with our Service Men & Women who are sent OUT THERE to Fight The 'Effluents` dirty wars For them.)


There is no real basis for this fear. Such people are sick and need help. It is in the same category as little green men from Mars trying to steal our essence. Perpetuating such rumors only distracts from the real issue of a dangerously incompetant Administration. The real hope is that people will face that issue and vote them and their supporters in Congress out of office.

It does seem the military, and our society as a whole, learned nothing from the Vietnam War. Many soldiers were returned from that terrible conflict with no debriefing, no medical checks... one day in the jungle, next day on the streets of the good 'ole USA. How can we send our young men into such hell and expect them not to be impacted by the horrors of war and third world living conditions?

As a vet of Korea and the clod war until 1960, I can say that no one I knew came out of the service "undamaged" in one way or another....and many so badly "damaged" that they had no hope of any kind of a "normal life". I am one of them.

Please note that NONE OF THE CURRENT CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP IN THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS EVER SERVED IN ANY REAL WAY IN THE SERVICE... most certainly not "the commander in thief" George W."AWOL"Bush, nor our "other prioities" Vice President, (or is it President of Vice?) Dick Cheney!To them our men and women of the armed services are nothing more than rubbish to be expended to enhace the all encompassing powers of the ruling elite.....OUR GOVERNMENT FROM BUSH ON DOWN IS COMMITTED TO THIS ILLEGAL WAR , BE IT TO THE DEATH OF US ALL....INCLUDING THEIR FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIAN BASE....
So either join Sheehan and the rest of us in opposition to this war, or kiss what ever future WE might have had good bye!

thay should put George W Bush,on trial with Saddam,He took Saddam out of power.And trun his country,in to a battel field,George W Bush,is doing the same thing,killing Saddam people,off, realy stop and thank about he lies to stared the War.

We the people demand a Resolution of Inquiry about the real truth of sending our service men and women in harms way. President Bush has lied to the people about his real reason for the war. It is time to hold his feet to the fire for the truth so to speak.
I think he should be impeached, they impeached President Clinton for far less, a cigar, and said he lied, but he did not lie.
So lets get on with the Resolution of Inquiry.
We need to get out of Iraq before the death total hits over 2,000.
We don't need any more mamed service men and women.

When is America as a whole going to wake up to the dishonesty of this war and to those, esp. Pres. Bush, who began it and have maintained the lies to support it's continuance.

We can "just say no". In some respects it is worse than drugs....

This obvious fact should be present every time they reveal any other one (war is shit).
It is good that we are finding out the true effects of war on veterans by comparing their before and after psychological and health issues. We should not be doing this in order to "to have strong and resilient soldiers in order to fight the war."
These studies show that violence leads to violence. The trauma of war echos in all our minds. The road to a cleared conscience is a long way away. We must take the first step by ending this violent war and the administration behind it!!!

P.S. Electronic government spying sounds kinda cool, like James bond and stuff. Lets not get off the subject Mr. Lee.

I am a wife of a veteran of Korean War. Is there not enough Veterans with out making more. The war in Iraq is a unless war fought for no good reason. The Veteran medical bills are very high and is not enough money to go around for more veterans to be made.

He said, "Mission Accomplished" ... but he never told us what the mission is. I assume from the horrors I read in and hear from the media everyday that whatever he might have had in mind isn't accomplished at all. In the meantime, it will soon be 2000 of our young women and men who have died ... and how many thousands of innocent Iraqis ... and all because he wants to rule the world. I've seen Presidents come and go. Mr. Bush is far and away the worst of the lot since 1940 when I was born. Yet those who support him treat him like he's Jesus Christ walking across the water and continue in their roles as toadies.

I served honorably for over 13 years including 3 combat tours in the Middle East. Our current administration, especially Donald Rumsfeld, should be fired and prosecuted for gross incompetence.
Starting an illegal and immoral war against a soverign nation that posed no threat to the US whatsoever is a direct violation of not only our US Constitution but of our sense of humanity as well.
Rumsfeld insisted that the oil fields take priority and be secured FIRST after we invaded. Any Army recruit in basic training will tell you that the military teaches us that the FIRST thing our Army does when it invades a foreign country is it SECURES ENEMY MILITARY INSTALLATIONS AND AMMO DUMPS. This denies the enemy the ability to continue killing us. Since we did not do this in Iraq, the insurgency now has enough military grade high explosives to last them into the next millenium.
Thanks bush and Rumsfeld.

Thank your for your comments and I am glad to see that not all the military support the war as Bush/Rumsfield pretend. Oil has been for forfront for this war all along and look what it has gotten us. Sky high oil prices at home, thousands of miliatry lives lost, no respect ANYWHERE in the world, thousands at home on the brink of financial disaster and if the world a safer place, not just no but HELL NO.
Yes thanks Mr Bush and Mr Runsfield.

I dont know what branch you were in but when i was there our first objective was to identify and secure enemy caches and army barracks so i guess you were in the wrong branch and dont put down the war because you are crapping on all the service members that lost their lives over their

Hey Gregg, who told you the troops are screened as never before? They lied to you.My son returned from a year tour in Iraq last March he was asked to reinlist shortly after they reached Iraq sugar coated with a poor bonus and a poor pay check he did reinlist. He then was sent to FT. Drum NY. and they was going to send him back to Iraq with his new unit 5 months after he returned from Iraq. so who ever told you they was screening the returning troops 3-6 months after they returned they LIED to you as well as all the help they are receiving.My son is progressingly getting worse with PTSD,ALCOHOLE,NIGHTMARES,SUISIDE THOUGHTS,ANGER,RAGE,DEPRESSION,FLASH BACKS. He has been seeking help threw the counclers on post but no one would give him any medication till I called a VA center in NY.Then they give him generic medication, but they can send billions of dollars to repair and feed the other countries. Weman are more inclined to report problems than men are so I dont think the percentage of soldiers with these problems are correct. The truth is these soldiers have to kiss but to get help and in my sons case I had to demand someone to get him medication before he gets into trouble like that Marine did. And look what happend to that man, he got sentances to the mental instatution. Thank you Bush for damaging my son I tryed so hard to raise into a good man. Now he is damaged with a disability mentaly he will probly never see any restatution for.And how about Cindy Sheehan the lady that lost her son in the War. The presadent BUsh has to much of a ego to pull the troops out. you are right he thinks he is Jesus.I beleive Bush is getting off on trying to fulfill bible profacy. God Bless All The Surviving Soldiers!!!! Get your self deserved help. And all the returning soldiers with mental problems should receive disability money for the rest of their life. Dont let the militairy just discharge you like yesterdays trash.

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