U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Pentagon Vows to Improve Military Mental Health Care

May 06, 2008 01:59 PM
by Liz Colville
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates acknowledged the problems with military healthcare, saying that soldiers would now be encouraged to seek mental and physical treatment.

30-Second Summary

Speaking to soldiers at Fort Bliss, Tex., on May 1, Gates said that “things happen too slowly” in the U.S. military healthcare system, adding that members of the military should not be reluctant to report mental problems during or after combat.

Gates’ comments
came during a scheduled visit to view the expansion efforts at Fort Bliss.

As Secretary of Defense since December 2006, Gates has overseen many improvements to the military healthcare system. He initiated those reforms after a number of reports surfaced last year detailing how the soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., were forced to live in unhealthy conditions and prevented treatment because of bureaucratic red tape.

The Washington Post published a detailed report on the hospital in 2007.

Gates’ comments directly follow the closing arguments of a case in the U.S. District Court of California in which the Department of Veterans Affairs is charged with incompetently handled post-traumatic stress disorder cases in military patients.

Attorney Gordon Erspamer, who has worked for veterans’ rights for over 30 years, is leading the case, which was profiled by the San Francisco Chronicle on April 24.

Other senior officials at the Pentagon are encouraging their colleagues and other members of the military to speak openly about mental health issues and other repercussions of military service.

Headline Link: ‘Gates Admits to Mistakes in Treatment of Returning Soldiers’

Reference: National Security Questionnaire Revision

Background: Reports on military healthcare conditions

Squalor and hurdles in military rehabilitation
Mental health issues pushed aside

Key Players: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Related Topics: Encouraging dialogue and the case against Veterans Affairs


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