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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

the stinging nettle: insights you can't ignore

Brain damaged soldier? Who cares...
... not the government, that's for sure.

More than any other war in American history, the war in Iraq is sending home young men and women who suffer from closed-head trauma. IEDs, mines, urban combat, traffic accidents: all these things can lead to head trauma, and are, in increasing numbers. As a result, an entire generation of soldiers is returning home suffering from the sometime's baffling effects of head injuries.

And your government is slashing the funding for their treatment.

Sayeth the Republican Party to America's wounded vets: "Thanks for your service. Screw you." "Read More" click link below


Whether through the incompetence of Secretary Rumsfeld's Pentagon number-crunchers, or through the heartlessness of the Republican Congressional majority, it is now clear that the U.S. Military's cutting-edge brain-injury research and treatment centers could have their budget slashed by over 50% this year.

This story in today's Raleigh News & Observer details the work that is going on at Fort Bragg's innovative research center, and its companion facilities at Walter Reed and other places around the country. This work is vital to understand the nature of combat brain trauma and how to treat casualties and return them to a useful, fulfilling life:

Employees at the Bragg facility could not be interviewed for this story. But in an interview this spring for another story, E. Wayne Johnson, the program manager there, said it tests 200 to 300 healthy soldiers each month for such things as cognitive skill, reaction time, mood and military skills.

Its clinic, meanwhile, treats 30 to 60 soldiers a month, most with mild injuries.

The center's research at Bragg and elsewhere isn't just academic, Zitnay said. "It's developing new helmets, it's developing drugs we can use to treat memory loss, it's developing innovative rehabilitation strategies," he said.

The center's work, for example, can help battlefield commanders quickly determine whether a soldier who has received a blow to the head is fit for battle.

But the real kicker in the story is this paragraph:

House and Senate versions of the defense appropriation bill would chop funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center from $14 million to $7 million. The center runs 10 facilities across the country, including one at Fort Bragg that has performed research and treated soldiers' injuries since 1998.

"It's just ridiculous," said Sgt. Maj. Colin Rich, a Fort Bragg soldier who has been legally blind since he was shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan in 2002. "Whoever is cutting the budget must have a head injury themselves."

"With the bombs, the gunshot wounds and everything else, their plate is full," he said. "They need that money."

The Pentagon asked only for $7 million and didn't respond properly when congressional staffers tried to find out whether it needed more money for the program, said Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for the Senate appropriations committee.

"The Pentagon needs to get behind the things that they want," she said. "Otherwise, we'd just be kind of guessing about what they really need."

Did you get that? Jenny Manley, spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, whose official contact information can be found here, essentially says "wounded Vets be damned, if the commas aren't in the right place on form 12345547aw2, they don't get any freaking money."

Maybe Miss Manley needs to hear from us how unfair that process is. When the Senators won't listen, call the staffers:

Maj. Communications Director: Jenny Manley - (202) 224-7363
Maj. Gen. Counsel: Clayton Heil - (202) 224-7363
Maj. Staff Dir.: Bruce Evans - (202) 224-7363
Min. Communications Director: Tom Gavin - (202) 224-7363
Min. Staff Dir.: Terrence Sauvain - (202) 224-7200

But maybe Miss Manley has a point. Have you ever seen a greater sign of incompetence than failing to ask for sufficient funds to treat the men and women who return from Iraq with wounds they will keep for the rest of their lives? This is your Defense Department at work. Men are cannon-fodder. If they aren't man enough to withstand a headinjury without whining about it, then screw 'em. They're probably pansy-boy Democrats anyway. Right!?

I cannot think of a situation that more perfectly encapsulates the incompetence and atrocious priorities of the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the Republican Congress than this one.

Update Just imagine what a Senator from North Carolina, "the nation's most military-friendly state," could do to fix this. You know, if we had a real Senator from North Carolina instead of the Empty Wig.

Tell me again who hates America???
the stinging nettle: insights you can't ignore


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