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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2007

Vet group blasts PTSD care

Associated Press

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. Marines returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder are reluctant to seek help for their condition and when they do, they are sometimes stigmatized by their leaders, a pair of investigators from a national veterans advocacy group found.

Steve Robinson and Andrew Pogany of Washington-based Veterans for America recently spent a week interviewing officers, enlisted Marines, their families and health professionals at the West Coast's largest Marine installation as part of a series of investigations at military bases nationwide.

"Almost every senior NCO (noncommissioned officer) and officer we spoke to expressed that almost every Marine doesn't go to seek help," Robinson said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. "It was very evident that the Marine Corps has a huge stigma with PTSD."

Robinson criticized "uneducated and vindictive leaders" who assume the "Marine has a lack of moral character or intestinal fortitude, when really we are talking about a normal reaction to the rigors of war."

The Marine Corps, which was not invited to participate in the conference call, defended its treatment of troops with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and said all Marines are screened for combat stress symptoms before and after deployments.

"We take the welfare of our Marines and sailors very seriously and offer numerous programs and resources to address all forms of combat stress," Marine spokesman Lt. Lawton King said in a statement.

The investigators met with several Marines suffering from PTSD who were being discharged for crimes they'd committed since returning from war. Pogany said the Marine Corps is "quicker to punish" the troops than it is to give them medical attention for the medical problems that may have prompted them to act up in the first place.

Robinson and Pogany came to Camp Pendleton when they learned of a planned visit by a group of congressional staff members, expected to occur in the coming weeks.

Veterans for America helped expose problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The group also has criticized conditions at Fort Carson, Colo.