WASHINGTON, D.C. – A study commissioned by the VA Medical Center estimates that one third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are mentally or psychologically ill. According to the authors of the study: “Our results signal a need for improvements in the primary prevention of military service-related mental health disorders, particularly among our youngest service members . . . because they are young, they are more likely to be of lower rank and more likely to have greater combat exposure than their older active-duty counterparts.”
The creators of the study do concede those figures may be skewed due to the fact, as they say, “our results may overestimate the burden of mental health disorders because veterans with mental health disorders may be more likely to seek treatment at a VA facility than those without.”
But the fact remains that an alarming number of returning veterans are being diagnosed with mental disorders and too often being committed for psychiatric care without due process. The recent case of former US Marine Brandon Raub who was ordered to be detained for 30 days in a psychiatric ward of the Veterans Hospital highlights this issue. Raub was judged mentally unstable due to Facebook posts made to family members and was only released after an appeal gained his release.
The newest disorder being used as a reason to detain veterans is ODD or Oppositional Defiance Disorder. ODD is described as a mental disease wherein free thinkers, civil disobedience supporters, non-conformists, and those who question authority and are seen as being hostile toward the government are labeled mentally ill.
Psychiatrics claim that sufferers have “a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that persists for at least 6 months” which includes:
• Persistent stubbornness
• Resistance to directions
• Unwillingness to go along with the crowd
• Deliberately annoying others
• Testing limits by ignoring orders
Another diagnosis now common to veterans is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). After having injured the brain during battle, soldiers are identified as displaying outbursts of anger and depression while having their vital motor skills and memory impacted. Symptoms of CTE are recognized as memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
US military veterans, diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are now being tracked by the Department of Defense (DoD) because they may display personality changes that could come on without warning and effect their ability to acclimate back into American society. Researchers claim that even mild TBI can develop into CTE, which can cause veterans to possibly become a danger to themselves and others.
This growing trend of diagnosing veterans as mentally instable is troublesome for a number of reasons. In 2009, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis published a report entitled Rightwing Extremism, wherein domestic extremists were proposed to be the newest and most dangerous threat to the US since al-Qaeda.
While admitting that they did not have definitive proof that “domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.”
National media outlets have joined in with the propaganda by reporting that “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”
In May of this year, Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest ordered that the US military could not arbitrarily imprison Americans based on alleged terrorist activity in regard to the indefinite detention clause in the NDAA. Although Obama’s lawyers appealed the ruling, the decision still stands.
One has to ask why US veterans are being targeted, labeled as mentally ill, and forcibly removed from their homes. Coinciding with the growing number of mentally ill US veterans, we are also seeing the removal of their firearms and an infringement on their right to own firearms.