Military concerned over treatment for returning soldiers

WATE -TV (Tennessee)

Military concerned over treatment for returning soldiers

KNOXVILLE (WATE) — One type of injury that’s seldom reported for soldiers in Iraq is combat stress. An officer from Powell says the Army isn’t ready to treat returning soldiers.

First Lt. Phillip Goodrum has been diagnosed with severe depression and post traumatic stress. He claims the Army wasn’t ready to fully care for psychologically injured soldiers when he returned from Iraq.

“I was a threat to the medical system by speaking out and telling the truth about care that Reserve and Guards were being provided,” he says.

Anti-anxiety pills are prescribed to ease the panic attacks for the 16-year veteran who’s fought in both Iraq wars. “I’m just in total disbelief that at the level we’re at now, that no one has stepped forward to say, no, this is wrong. Let’s stop it.”

Soldier seeks treatment

The Army is pursuing a court-martial against Goodrum for being AWOL while in Knoxville. He checked himself into St. Mary’s Medical Center for psychiatric care.

Goodrum says he had no choice after the Army denied him treatment at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He claims this is documented in his medical records.

“The Army says it was a ‘misunderstanding’ that I was denied medical treatment. A misunderstanding that you deny a soldier medical treatment?”

Treatment for other soliders?

Over the last year, thousands of Tennessee guardsmen and Reservists went to Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the largest call up in over 50 years.

What psychological help will be available, if needed, for these soldiers and their families when they return? “The military recognizes post traumatic stress as an illness,” 6 News asks and Lt. Col. Charles Woods answers, “Oh yes,” adding, “since 1980.”

Woods is part of the National Guard chaplain service at McGhee Tyson Airbase, preparing teams to assist soldiers and their families.

Three of the state’s top-ranked chaplains say that while the vast majority of combat vets don’t suffer from depression, they must be ready for those who do. “We’re laying all of the foundations right now to be prepared for the surge,” says Maj. Kevin Wilkinson.

According to Lt. Col. Joe Bando, “Eight-six percent of the military coming back have seen a traumatic event, been involved in a traumatic event. We’re working very diligently to be ready for them in all phases: initial, reintegration and reunion.”

“If we get the word out to families and to returning soldiers that there’s no stigma with raising your hand and having the courage to say, I need to see someone with this problem,” Woods says.

Vet center preparing

The VA vet center in Knoxville is a place where soldiers with readjustment issues have been coming for 25 years. Ron Coffin is one of three counselors ready to assist returning vets. His staff is helping soldiers with problems from other wars.

By the end of this year, some of the 4,000 Reservists and Guardsmen may need assistance when they come home. “What we’re doing now is some planning so that we’ll be in place to help all those returning veterans,” Coffin says.

Questions remain for Goodrum

Tennessee’s U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bill First have lent support to Lt. Goodrum’s cause. In January, he went to Capitol hill seeking help from other senators. Now, he hopes the court-martial proceedings are dropped and he can go home.

“If it goes bad, what happens?” 6 News asks. “My life is ruined, basically,” Goodrum says.

An Army study shows that one in seven returning Iraq war vets suffers from depression.

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