Latest Fort Hood Shooting Puts Military Mental Health in Spotlight

fort hood soldiersFor the second time in five years, Texas’ Fort Hood is mourning a mass shooting. The alleged gunman, Spc. Ivan Lopez, was an Iraq war veteran undergoing treatment for posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Reports are beginning to surface that an argument over leave time to attend his mother’s funeral was the final straw for Lopez.

Among people struggling with mental health concerns, it’s common for daily stresses to feel unmanageable. Lopez’s rampage has reignited concerns over mental health care in the military.

Lack of Mental Health Resources

More than two million soldiers have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and 20% of these veterans have symptoms of PTSD. The military continues to struggle to treat these veterans. Some are hesitant to seek help, while others find that long waiting periods and improper care make seeking help feel like wasted effort.

For veterans who are too affected to work, the picture is even worse. Veterans, on average, wait nine months to see their disability claims approved. Some veterans wait a year or more.

Repeated Deployments and PTSD

Lopez saw only four months of combat, but it’s not uncommon for soldiers to spend years in war zones. Many soldiers deploy on multiple year-long tours of duty, and some have to redeploy even after a diagnosis of PTSD.

Among soldiers diagnosed with PTSD between 2000 and 2011, a majority were diagnosed while deployed.

Legislation to Improve Screening and Care

Less than a week prior to the latest Fort Hood shooting, Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson introduced legislation requiring mental health screenings for all incoming military recruits. The bill would also require screenings for outgoing service members, since the trauma of active duty and deployments can lead to PTSD. Thompson argues that such screenings would ensure early intervention and proper treatment for troops struggling with mental health challenges.

References:

  1. Hickey, A. (2013, April 19). VA expediting claims decisions for veterans waiting a year or more. Retrieved from http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/9217/va-expediting-claims-decisions-for-veterans-waiting-a-year-or-more/
  2. Martinez, L., and Bingham, A. (2011, November 11). U.S. veterans: By the numbers. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136
  3. Sanchez, R., and Brumfield, B. (2014, April 4). Fort Hood shooter was Iraq vet being treated for mental health issues. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/02/us/fort-hood-shooter-profile/
  4. Somashekhar, S., and Nakashima, E. (2014, April 06). Military’s mental-health system faces shortage of providers, lack of good diagnostic tools. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/militarys-mental-health-system-faces-shortage-of-providers-lack-of-good-diagnostic-tools/2014/04/05/e7e7da42-bb4a-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html
  5. Thompson, G. (2014, March 27). H.R. 4305 – the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act of 2014 [PDF]. Washington, D.C.: United States House of Representatives.
  6. Watson, J. (2012, March 23). Army: Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD return to war. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/health/story/2012-03-23/Army-Soldiers-diagnosed-with-PTSD-return-to-war/53728396/1

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  • Blair

    Blair

    April 17th, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Coming from a military family all I hear from the men is how muc softer soldiers are today than what they used to be… I am not sure that this is true but I do wonder if all those years ago soldiers would have even thought about turning on each other even if they had PTSD. It seems like we have so little value on human life today that no matter your job, you are more willing to open fire on someone than to try to talk things out and I don’t know where this kind of sttitude comes from. It makes me sad for all of us and how much we have all lost as a result of this turn in behavior.

  • rhianne

    rhianne

    April 18th, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Is there really a lack of mental health services for our soldiers or is it more of a fact that they are more hesitant than the general population to seek help when they have a problem? I can see how it could go both ways. There has to be a fear in this make driven society that is the military to keep these things to themselves and try to handle it themselves. What would be best would be if there were not only more services available but an atmosphere of acceptance that made soldiers aware and more comfortable with getting that help when they realized that they need it.

  • Frank

    Frank

    April 19th, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    This guy had problems and the chances are pretty great that the military circumstances only led to the problems exacerbating. He should have been screened for this potential before he was ever even allowed to join.

  • Daniel

    Daniel

    April 24th, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    We can go around playing the blame game all we want but when the truth is told I think that most people will see that there are military resources and all kinds of help available to those who take advantage of it. This guy chose not to take advantage of that help, but instead chose to take out his aggression and anger in a way that wound up getting other people killed too. There is nothing that makes sense about any of this but to say that the resources are not there is just a stroty. You might have to ask for it and yes it might be uncomfortable but there are a lot of things about being a responsible adult that are hard. I know that what he was expereincing was real but there was HELP for that if only he would have sought it out in a different way.

  • hope

    hope

    April 26th, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    I still don’t understand. Please correct me if I am wrong but I thought that the whole visiting for his mom’s funeral thing had happened earlier? I mean, how long did he sit and stew over this one incidence? And the people that he killed, were they directly realted to the decision making process that upset him so much? I never really heard any of this and I guess that in the end it doesn’t really matter, what’s done is done but I know that if I as an outsider am still searching for answers then there have to be friends and family members who are struggling to know the truth too. It’s all so sad to have something like this happen, to not just have one person explode in a fit of unexplainable rage but then to have so many innocent people die as a result. Very sad.

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