July 1st, 2009
04:50 PM ET

Confidential DoD memo outlines problems for wounded troops

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Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

While the military has instituted dozens of programs to help troubled soldiers with post traumatic stress, brain injuries, and other problems, a number of troops at Fort Hood have privately told the nation’s top military officer they feel they are treated poorly because they are wounded, ill or injured.

In an April 19 confidential memo to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, outlined a number of problems he observed during a trip to several military locations in Texas days before. CNN obtained the memo from a military source, and both the Army and Mullen staffers confirmed its authenticity.

During the visit Mullen met privately with about 30 wounded troops at Fort Hood. “The wounded expressed concern that, at Fort Hood, they were stigmatized and treated as lesser Soldiers (sic) for being wounded, ill, or injured.” The troops had previously been treated at Brooke Army Medical Center where they said they were a higher priority for that staff, than the Army staff at Fort Hood.

“The wounded, ill, and injured also feel guilt for not being with their operational units. Unfortunately, the operational units have generally severed relationships with them,” Mullen said. Senior enlisted troops recently returned from the warzone also told Mullen “psychological health assets in theater were overwhelmed during their most recent deployment.”

Several sources confirmed the Mullen memo concerned Secretary Gates so much he asked General George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff, for a response to these concerns. A spokesman for Casey confirmed that Casey and other Army leaders continue to be aware of these general concerns and are focused on a number of programs to help soldiers.

The memo however provides a unique insight behind the scenes into what soldiers are privately saying. Mullen said the troops also told him “they believe they are being denied second opinions on their medical conditions by the military medical professionals who are treating them.”

CNN recently visited Fort Hood to observe several programs underway to treat returning soldiers and improve their resiliency to battlefield stress. Mullen has spoken about how Fort Hood as succeeded in dramatically reducing suicides and traffic accident deaths among returning troops. In the memo Mullen commends Fort Hood commanding general Lt Gen Rick Lynch for steps he has taken to provide programs to help troops.

But the memo is a private indication of some of the deep problems the military is still facing. For example, Mullen noted the three week course at Fort Hood to treat mental health symptoms can only accommodate eight soldiers at a time. Fort Hood on average has more than 50,000 troops on base at any one time.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Barbara Starr • Crime & Punishment
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Milton Smith

    If a soldier made the tide in war change then the soldier gets an award and if they need money to help them then send them back to war doing someting else. No war start one.

    July 2, 2009 at 7:40 am |
  2. JM of Hartford CT

    dito what Annie Kate wrote. i personally have the means to write that is about out all ... those who strive to make life better for more than them selves deserve more than lip service ... including nurses in the civilian world too

    July 2, 2009 at 7:16 am |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    "CONFIDENTIAL" what a deceptive title to an article because it obviously ain't "confidential" any more!
    This is what is sick in America. No one can trust any one any more.
    Gates and Mullen clearly recognise the problem don't you think you should have asked them what they planned to do before publishing confidential data. this reporting is incomplete and unfair since it was a confidential memo.
    Also I get very upset when pundits (Michael in Bagdad on todays show) outline US military strategy changes in glorious technicolor and detail. Don't you all realise this is aiding and abetting the so called enemy and terrorists to plan counter measure in advance!!
    Al Qaeda should need spies to get this kind of information.

    July 2, 2009 at 12:56 am |
  4. starr formerly known as vincent

    I grew up in the military, my Dad was a career man.

    Medical services for families were not good then 1949-1976,so i can only imagine that they have not improved much. Plus, patients have no right to sue for improper diagnosis and/or treatment.

    I thank you for this article. It's not like this issue has been under reported. Apparently, we will just have to keep publicizing the plight of these soldiers.

    Trust me when i tell you, any sign of weakness in the services IS looked upon as either cowardice or weakness!

    July 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm |
  5. Joyce S.

    I have a brother who fought in Vietnam,he came back with numerous war related health problems.He lives quietly now with his demons.I have a nephew who served in Iraq,his demons keep him up at night.This great nation needs to be prepared to help the returning soldiers.If we can purchase a war tank,surely we can supply a hospital bed.

    July 1, 2009 at 11:13 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    This needs to be rectified ASAP. Our military personnel who have been wounded, etc. need to have the best treatment they can be given and a lot of TLC. They have risked their lives for our country and for us; they are giving their all, we should not stint with what we give them in return, especially on medical treatment and support.

    July 1, 2009 at 6:31 pm |