Veterans groups fighting to update the definition of combat to ease hurdles for service personnel to tap into health care benefits found an unlikely opponent in U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. The Colorado Springs Republican’s district includes five military bases — including Fort Carson, which has suffered a rash of murders and suicides attributed to untreated stress and brain disorders.
Advocates are working to change a World War II-era rule that requires military personnel to provide proof of battlefield service in order to receive Veterans Administration benefits for battle-related psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans groups argue that that standard cannot be met by contemporary war-zone service members and women — who are prohibited from serving in infantry roles — though they are still vulnerable to stress- and injury-inducing roadside bombs and mortar attacks.
At a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Lamborn said “he was concerned that changing the combat veteran definition could result in a reduction of benefits overall, and that ‘too loose’ a definition could diminish the sacrifices of those ‘who actually did engage in battle with the enemy,'” according to an Associated Press story.
That’s an awfully tough argument to make, considering the devastating effects of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans in Colorado.
A Feb. 9 story at Salon.com documented 25 deaths by suicide, overdose and murder by Fort Carson soldiers since 2004 following an Army study that the suicide rate among soldiers is the highest in three decades. In 2008, at least 128 soldiers took their own lives, with another 15 under investigation as possible suicides.
Intensive study of 10 of those cases exposed a pattern of preventable deaths, meaning a suicide or murder might have been avoided if the Army had better handled the predictable, well-known symptoms of a malady rampant among combat veterans: combat-related stress and brain injuries.