National Guardsmen and reservists returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan “have been hastily channeled through a post-deployment process that has been plagued with difficulties, including reliance on self-reporting to identify health problems,” according to an investigation by graduate students in Northwestern University’s Medill School.
“Hidden Surge” found members of the National Guard must navigate disparate health care and support providers, made more difficult by the fact that many of them live in rural areas. Three of the stories were published in The Washington Post.
The reporters also found that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, most reservists were medically unready to deploy – an assessment made by a private contractor. “More than 2,400 Army Reserve soldiers were held back, at least temporarily, because of inaccurate assessments by the contractor, according to data provided by the Army Reserve Medical Command.”
Meanwhile, some soldiers with behavioral problems that could be aggravated by the stress of deployment and combat were improperly sent overseas.
The project, done by 10 students, was directed by faculty member Josh Meyer, who covered national security for the Los Angeles Times for 20 years. Students used video and interactive graphics to help tell the stories. A “How We Did It” sidebar says the students interviewed more than 150 people, reviewed documents and reports and traveled to nine states to do the reporting.
According to a press release, the Hidden Surge project is part of Medill’s National Security Journalism Initiative, funded by the McCormick Foundation.