The Shafting Of Our Career-Soldiers

The picture painted in yesterday’s posting about the shabby treatment by the U.S. Army of our reservists and national guard members who have been called up and deployed to Iraq, is possibly even grimmer for our career military personnel.  In the current issue of The Nation, Joshua Kors tells the story of Army specialist Jon Town and how he and other career soldiers have been duped, lied to and shafted by the Army after committing their lives and their livelihood to the Army.

The nightmare began for Town while deployed in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004, as described by Kors,

He (Town) was standing in the doorway of his battalion’s headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head. The impact punched a piano-sized hole in the concrete facade, sparked a huge fireball and tossed the 25-year-old Army specialist to the floor, where he lay blacked out among the rubble.

Kors goes on to report,

Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town’s neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.

Seems reasonable that at this point Town could not be combat ready which would logically result with an end to his military career, but what is unreasonable, what is unconscionable, what is possibly criminally fraudulent is how the Army has railroaded this soldier in order to replace him with another warm body, on the cheap.

Kors’ article goes on to tell readers,

…instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town’s wounds were actually caused by a “personality disorder.” Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.

Not only would specialist Town never receive disability or medical benefits from the Army, he would not receive any retirement benefit, and he would not be eligible for medical care provided by the Veteran’s Administration because the Army doctor handling his case conned Town in to accepting what is known as a “5-13” discharge (which according to the Army seperations manual is Regulation 635-200, Chapter 5-13: “Separation Because of Personality Disorder.” ).  On top of everything else, the Army demanded, according to seperation rules, that Town return $3,000 of the $15,000 re-enlistment bonus he had previously received, because he was unable to fulfill his contract.

A man permanently disabled, quite possibly with brain damage, is discarded like used waste material by the Army and left to put his life back together or not, without a second thought.   The article by Kors goes on to report that this seems to be a systematic and widely practiced strategy of unit commanding officers in cahoots with medical officers throughout the Army.  The reason behind it, reducing monetary expenses, as apparently the Army is strapped (no surprise here, after four years of depleting the bulk of our Army resources in a war that we “won” and then subsequently lost), it has been estimated that through this 5-13 process the military will avoid $8 billion in disability pay and $4.5 billion in medical expenses, by cashiering out its wounded manpower.

Obviously distressed and depressed by how he has been mistreated, Town made a failed attempt at suicide in May of 2006, which resulted in the Army sending him to a psych ward for a short time, and then busting him down from corporal to specialist.  Town’s story is not unique, Kors’ article describes other soldiers in other commands treated the same way, and at least one of them, Chris Mosier of Des Moines, Iowa, eventually was a successful suicide, after being railroaded out of the Army by the same doctor who discharged Jon Town.  Mosier never got over the trauma of being in a convoy in Iraq when a roadside bomb blew up the truck in front of his, seeing and hearing his buddies screams as they lie dying from their wounds and being on fire; and then having to collect the miscellaneous chopped, shredded, bloody, burned body parts of his dead comrades so they could be returned home.  Scenes like this are not unique in Iraq and not unique in any war, the effects on soldiers used to be called “shell shock”, and for many years there was little or no treatment available to those suffering from this, except maybe the most severe cases either being warehoused in VA facilities, or left to wander the streets.

At a certain point, after the Vietnam war the medical establishment identified and began developing treatments for “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD), and not only military personnel, but civilians in public service roles and civilian victims of natural disasters were able to seek treatment, recognition and respect.  Apparently our current military commanders prefer to put their heads down in sand in terms of accepting the reality and doing the moral, honorable thing in terms of taking care of those soliders who marched, unequivocably, upon their command.  It seems that for the mid-level careerists in the military officer corps making their numbers, in terms of holding down expenses and providing warm bodies to their commander-in-chief is more important, than doing what is morally and ethically right.

Shame on these people, and shame on the American people for continuing to tolerate the lies, misrepresentation and mis-management of the current Administration.

Added 30-Nov-2007: Please visit my advocacy site FIGHT-PTSD.ORG.

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8 Responses to The Shafting Of Our Career-Soldiers

  1. Lance Corporal says:

    Reading things like this makes me angry, sometimes, to identify with the USA anymore as an American citizen. I used to be proud of my country and our tradition of fair play and justice, and most of all of supporting those who’ve given to the country and the collective good– of giving credit where it’s due.

    Now, in the military as well as the private sector, the motto seems to be not “reward those who have sacrificed for the greater good,” but instead, “let’s shaft the suckers who give their all so we can get our greedy palms on more dough.”

    This BS personality disorder diagnosis story riled me up like I haven’t been riled in years. I hope these idiot shrinks and psychiatrists in the army, and all their commanders complicit in this screwing-over of our veterans, get nightmares at night that torment them for years, for the way they’re royally shafting US War veterans *with major head injuries from combat*! It’s been an obvious article of faith among militaries in years past, that you *pay* your veterans and support them for giving their service (and often their blood) for their country. You never, ever shaft them, especially not to save a few extra bucks. But that’s what the USA is doing.

    Predictably, this will come back to bite us in the ass.

    Historically, if you’ll recall, Queen Elizabeth I in England was such a penny-pincher that she refused to pay the English defenders against the Spanish Armada for months, who were dying by the thousands by diseases such as typhus that were rampaging throughout the English fleet, exacerbated since the English sailors couldn’t afford even basic housing on dry land anymore– they’d given up their daily jobs and duties to serve in the fleet.

    Unsurprisingly, this provoked rage and resentment among the English against their government and Elizabeth in particular, and the English soldiers were much more reluctant to serve in subsequent conflicts and carry out their orders– they focused more on booty and plunder in large part because they figured it was their only means for financial survival, they didn’t trust Elizabeth to actually compensate them.

    So the year after the Armada, the English invaded Spain itself, and the Spanish defeated England, utterly smashed the English in that crucial battle in part because the English soldiers were seeking out plunder rather than focusing on the Spanish troops about to overwhelm them. Then the Spaniards defeated the English again in sea battles throughout the next decade, even killing England’s best sailors– Drake and other buccaneers– in sea clashes, again in part because the sailors were diverted into looking for plunder rather than staying vigilant against the dangerous (and improved) Spanish warships. Basically, the Royal Navy was defeated repeatedly against Spain as it was seldom taken down in other wars, with the result that by the early 1600’s, Spain had defeated the English entirely and was basically able to colonize well up into North America, while England could even begin to colonize until well into the 1600’s, with major consequences for today.

    This sort of thing happened also in a number of other wars in which an adversary defeated the British in various conflicts, as well as to US troops fighting in Vietnam, and once again, it emphasizes the point that you can’t screw over your soldiers like this. In fact, the British (along with the Americans) are busy screwing over their soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well, screwing them out of pay and medical care after the war. It’s one of the reasons that the British and the Americans will soon be defeated in the first two major wars of the 21st century.

    Again, it makes me feel far less “American” when the authorities in my country are so royally screwing over the soldiers who’ve given so much.

    An awful lot of my old buddies and contacts from college years have emigrated from the USA out of economic frustration, getting language software or taking courses in German, Italian, French or whatever, and getting set up in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Portugal, Italy or wherever. I’ve run into dozens of people formery from Australia, Britain and even Canada who’ve done the same thing. I used to think this was crazy. But after reading Joshua Kors’s appalling story, I think those emigrants may have been prescient.

  2. Ms. Place says:

    These reports make me sick. If the jokers who are sending our brave soldiers to fight abroad had sent their kith and kin over as well, this would be an entirely different story. Name more than 2 legislators or Bush cohorts who have placed their genetic material in jeopardy, and I’ll eat a straw hat plain without condiments.

    But my weak stomach is safe because these jokers haven’t. The war is just rhetoric to them. Or a means of making a profit for their Halliburton friends.

    Our soldiers deserve the best care we can give them, and all we’re doing is sweeping them under the rug. Shame on us. Shame on us all.

  3. george says:

    I have been sending out this information to columnists around the country for the last 2 years, trying to get someone’s attention. After the Walter Reed scandal i sent it out again to the columnists at Washington Post and other papers, plus internet web site, no response. I have just read the article in the Nation online about how the military is using personality disorders instead of treating PTSD. Again i am sending this out, hoping to be heard. I must remain anonymous due to my job, and fears of retaliation. I have witnessed first hand the things i describe below. THis is much bigger than the Walter Reed scandal. THe dark side of this war for these young soldiers–used up and discarded.

    I work in mental health at a large Marine base in California. When the current Iraq war started I was curious to see how the returning veterans of this conflict would be assessed and/or treated for any combat stress issues. I had heard from my father, a Vietnam veteran, how the Vietnam veterans suffered the symptoms-skyrocketing drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, great difficulties accessing intimacy, difficulties succeeding in work, great numbers of suicide, before their condition-PTSD-was even diagnosed.
    I was shocked to see there was no preparation for returning veterans—no support groups set up, no diagnostic preparations, no attention to staffing levels of mental health professionals—psychologists, psychiatrists. After all that experience, so painfully earned by the Vietnam veterans, and it was being ignored. I began to see that the veterans from the first tour in Iraq, were showing up in greater numbers for alcohol screenings at substance abuse counseling center. I also began to hear of much greater numbers showing up in domestic violence and anger management cases at the family advocacy centers. The incidents of positive tests on random drug tests increased. The Marine Corp’s usual zero tolerance concerning illegal drug use began to change as these positive drug tests increased.
    The demands for more troops increased, and they began to stop discharging all the ones who tested positive. They began taking them back to Iraq for another tour, then giving them other than honorable discharges IF they made it back. And if they were recommended treatment for alcohol abuse, they would instead take them to Iraq. As you can see the SYMPTOMS-illegal drug use, domestic violence, alcohol abuse were addressed but not the ptsd itself. Yes, there is a post deployment form each soldier is required to fill out, usually before their leave the war area, concerning their mental, physical, emotional health. What the soldiers say is they are concerned with getting home, PERIOD, having fun, seeing family. So they do not want to put any answers on that form that will delay this. Plus the effects of the tour of duty do not show up usually for a couple of months. So they come home, go on 30 days leave, come back to base and then the consequences begin to happen.
    Now as the second and now third tours have come and gone, the above situations have continued to increase dramatically—all the consequences that increased with the first tour, increased more with the second and now the third tour. And still no treatment for the ptsd conditions. No one monitoring these above conditions, no preparation made for staffing, assessment, treatment to address these conditions. It shows dramatically what the priorities are-and it is not mental health. And the consequences keep getting worse for these returning vets-domestic violence charges, alcohol related charges. They served honorably, were given medals and are now being discarded, having their careers ruined. It is getting harder to cover this up with the numbers increasing. And this does not count the soldiers who do not have an incident that brings them into family advocacy, mental health, or substance abuse.
    In 2005 a more soldier-friendly psychologist, who was being proactive, putting together the components of a treatment program for returning vets, was transferred by her superiors, and a psychiatrist rotated to another base, one psychiatrist was on duty for a base of 12,000 soldiers, woefully understaffed to meet the conditions of a base of constantly returning soldiers from war. He was alone for months before another psychologist was brought in.
    This Naval psychiatrist in charge of mental health has stated publicly around the hospital, that he does not believe in ptsd. He states that his father survived IWO JIMA as a Marine without any problems and so can these soldiers. This doctor is very quick to give a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, personality disorders—borderline, sociopath, etc, which will preclude the soldier getting any disability, and/or any treatment when he gets out, plus it gives the military the right to discharge him with a less than honorable discharge. If the client drinks at all, which most do to self medicate the trauma symptoms, the doctor will send them to substance abuse center for care, but will not address the ptsd symptoms. I have heard that the Naval psychologist is just as adamant about this approach. It is said that he gets angry if a family counselor mentions their client’s ptsd symptoms, tries to coerce them to stop doing this, or change their recommendations. Some family counselors are referring clients to civilian professionals for care to get around this. The soldier will have to pay for it out of pocket though, and many times cannot afford it.
    The budget situation on this base is in crisis. Six billion dollars a month being spent in Iraq and there is a mantra at staff meetings—‘there is no money in budget, stop spending, the base is $2 million in the red’. One area of mental health( substance abuse counseling/treatment) had a staffing of 6-(3) active duty military professionals and (3) civilians when the war first started. The active duty professionals were told they were being transferred to their original MOS (job descriptions) due to staffing shortages. The civilian management had 18 months to replace these professionals. It was 2 years before the other 3 professionals were hired, which meant the staffing level of 3 was expected to do the duties of 6. Of course the soldiers suffered, as the quality of care suffered. I have watched this all go on in shock that a government that speaks loudly of the solders’ sacrifice and the debt owed to them, but when it comes to the soldier collecting this debt upon return, it comes up empty. It is sad and infuriating and I finally felt like I had to say something.
    What the Vietnam vets did not get then, the Iraq vets are not getting now at this base.

  4. Big Fella says:

    What you say, George, rings true. When I seperated out of the service in 1968 the only thing I wanted was to go home, the navy doctor who gave me my seperation physical wanted to keep me, to address a health issue, I talked him out of that, because I just wanted to get home. I should have let him keep me, and fix me.

    Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld thought they could do the whole Iraq thing on the cheap, which was their SOP even before 9/11. Downsize the military, and don’t raise taxes, they have fooled the American public. We now have a military that is depleted human resource wise and materiel wise, our flanks are exposed, and our children and grandchildren will be paying for it, since no taxes were raised to fund the war, the government just issued more debt. So not only will our children and grandchildren pay the price monetarily, but they may pay the price of having a much less effective military.

    Then of course, our people who volunteered to be cannon fodder in this war for the fat cats in the administration will suffer the rest of their lives. Never fully recompensed, never taken care of as per their “contract” with the country. You are correct, the present administration and “management” of the Executive branch have failed to learn from the Vietnam experience, and those who fail to learn, are doomed to repeat their mistakes. In terms of some military doctor claiming that my father’s generation had nothing like PTSD after World War II is a crock of shit. Plenty of people from that generation suffered, mostly in silence because there was simply no awareness, the “medical science” had not progressed to where these things became more recognizable and treatments were devised.

    Well medical science has moved forward, those who are “the decision makers” continue to keep their heads buried in the sand, most likely because they are only interested in finding oil.

  5. Colin says:

    Similarly, I was discharged from the Navy for a personality disorder because it was the quickest way for them to get me out before a deployment. Now, 5 months later, I receive a letter saying I owe the government $36,000. I can’t pay this, nor do I think I ought to. How can I fight this? If anyone has any recommendations, please email me at

  6. Dusty says:

    This story is maddening on every level. That hundreds of Federal Contractors can rape the American Taxpayer but our own military soldiers get nothing chaps my ass like you wouldn’t believe.

    The newest figures for the ‘cost’ of the war are 10 times that of original estimates..well no kidding..look who is running the show?

    The ‘costs’ of course don’t include the billions that will be needed to fix the injured..whether they are mentally or physically wounded.

  7. Big Fella says:

    Casualties that are swept under the carpet are just the cost of doing business for an economy that feeds off of disaster capitalism. And better than in the corporate accounting world, where a “write-off” actualy costs a company some money, writing off of spent, injured military personnel does not cost Bushliburton’s army anything.

    That Fat Cats get fatter and the majority of us get the shaft in any number of ways, after all, we are only here to consume goods and pay taxes, so that the Fat Cats can increase profits and avoid taxes.

    Giving the shaft to our men and women that volunteered their lives in service to the rest of us, giving the shaft to the people who are true patriots, is despicable, criminal, immoral and in-human.

  8. Pingback: BFD Blog! » The Shafting Of Our Career Soldiers: Continues Unabated

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