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Most US Soldiers Dismissed For Misconduct Suffer From Mental Illness

16 May 2017, 9:12 pm EDT By Allan Adamson Tech Times
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GAO reported that 62 percent of U.S. soldiers who were discharged from military service were diagnosed with mental health conditions such as PTSD and TBI. How do servicemen cope with these conditions?  ( Spencer Platt | Getty Images )

A new study has found that most of the soldiers who were discharged from U.S. military service because of misconduct from 2011 to 2015 suffered from mental health conditions.

62 Percent Of Discharged Soldiers Have TBI Or PTSD

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at the data of more than 91,000 service members who were discharged for misconduct and found that over the previous two years, 62 percent of them were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other conditions such as alcohol-related disorders that could be linked to misconduct.

Of these discharged servicemen, 23 percent received an "other than honorable" discharge, which means that they may be potentially ineligible to receive health benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Advocates have long raised concerns about the lack of support for former U.S. servicemen without honorable discharge papers, which new Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has said he intends to address.

GAO also found that the Navy and Air Force were not able to comply with the policies of the Defense Department regarding the screening of troops for TBI and PTSD prior to discharging soldiers.

PTSD And TBI

PTSD and TBI have become the signature wounds of soldiers who suffered from stress due to repeated deployments to war and brain injuries from exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A 2016 study conducted by U.S. military scientists revealed how shockwaves from explosives are associated with the development of mental conditions. After examining the scars in the brains of eight servicemen who survived bomb blast, the researchers found that the brain damage that the soldiers sustained most affected the parts of the brain that are linked to cognitive function, sleep, and memory.

PTSD and TBI have adverse effects on the thoughts, moods, and behavior of affected troops. The servicemen's actions can result in discipline problems that may eventually lead to discharge from the service.

The report, which was released on Tuesday, May 16, came with recommendations to the Department of Defense to address the problems. The DOD, however, did not agree to one of the five recommendations that involve inconsistencies in training policies.

"GAO is making five recommendations, including that DOD direct the Air Force and Navy to address inconsistencies in their screening and training policies and ensure that the military services monitor adherence to their screening, training, and counseling policies," GAO said.

"DOD agreed with four of GAO's recommendations, but did not agree to address inconsistencies in training policies."

Addressing Mental Health Conditions Among Soldiers

Psychotropic medications such as anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants are more commonly prescribed for people suffering from mental health problems. Some soldiers, however, resort to other treatments.

Other ways PTSD sufferers deal with their conditions include diving with sharks in giant aquariums and taking cannabis to better manage their symptoms albeit the latter has raised concern over the possibility soldiers would develop marijuana dependence. Soldiers on active duty are also urged to practice meditation to significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD.

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