Report exposes failures of Army mental health care

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

This week on Salon.com, Mark Benjamin and Michael de Yoanna are posting the results of their investigation into climbing “preventable death” rates among American soldiers. The reporters focused on the cases of soldiers in Ft. Collins, Colo., but also included the national implications of their findings. In January, they report, the army suspects more soldiers killed themselves than died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Their findings are being published in a series called Coming Home:

“Salon put together a sample of 25 suicides, prescription overdoses and murders among soldiers at Colorado’s Fort Carson since 2004. Intensive study of 10 of those cases exposed a pattern of preventable deaths, meaning a suicide or murder might have been avoided if the Army had better handled the predictable, well-known symptoms of a malady rampant among combat veterans: combat-related stress and brain injuries.”

According to Benjamin and de Yoanna, many, if not all, of the deaths were preventable. They point to systemic problems with the military culture and the military standard of medical and psychological care as the root cause. The reporters said the Army’s mental health system had failed the soldiers, many of whom had returned from Iraq and suffered classic symptoms of chronic PTSD.

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