The U.S. military is trying to improve treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. But many veterans say they're still under pressure to deny they have problems. Here, military personnel attend a presentation on PTSD at Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Brooklyn, N.Y., in December 2009.
The case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier charged with killing 17 Afghan villagers, has led the Army to review how troops are screened for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs say they have invested heavily in the treatment of PTSD to deal with a growing caseload.
But the stigma associated with the disorder continues to complicate efforts to treat it. It has also fueled serious misconceptions about its effects — such as the notion that PTSD causes acts of extreme violence.
Nineteen-year-old Army Pvt. Cody Dollman has a look in his eyes that makes you think he probably used to fight much bigger kids on the playground back home in Wichita, Kan. He says he always wanted to be a soldier — both his grandfathers served in the military — but he's the first in his family to see action overseas.
One of the guests in the congressional gallery at last week's State of the Union address was Roxana Delgado, an advocate for soldiers returning home with traumatic brain injuries. Her husband, an army sergeant who NPR profiled in June, 2010, had been dramatically affected by the concussion he received from a roadside blast in Iraq.
The Defense Department has spent close to $3 billion since 2007 to treat and study traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder — the leading injuries suffered by U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a federal investigation finds that the department's programs are so disorganized that it's difficult to figure out how the money has been spent.
In the wake of the 2007 Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, then President George W. Bush promised the “best possible care” to wounded soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Years later, the military is still struggling to treat and diagnose the most common war wound: Traumatic Brain Injury.