25% to 35% of wounded soldiers are addicted to drugs.
Medical officials estimate that 25% to 35% of about 10,000 ailing soldiers assigned to special wounded-care companies or battalions are addicted or dependent on drugs — particularly prescription narcotic pain relievers, according to an Army inspector general’s report made public Tuesday.
The report also found that these formations known as Warrior Transition Units — created after reports detailed poorly managed care at Walter Reed Army Hospital— have become costly way stations where ill, injured or wounded soldiers can wait more than a year for a medical discharge.
Some soldiers have become so irate about the delays in leaving the Army that doctors, nurses and other medical staff say they have been assaulted in their offices and threatened, or had their private cars damaged or tires flattened, the report says.
“I’m very concerned about folks and their personal safety,” says Army Col. Darryl Williams, commander of Warrior Transition Units, of those specific allegations. “I’m going after that really, really hard.”
Williams, however, called into question findings about high rates of drug addiction and dependency, saying these percentages were based on estimates made by case managers and nurses working with troops, and are not statistically valid.
Most case managers and nurses interviewed by investigators said 25% to 35% of soldiers in warrior units “are over-medicated, abuse prescriptions and have access to illegal drugs.”
They said most soldiers arrive in the units with narcotics provided by battlefield doctors or military hospitals. They also said a few soldiers under their care are buying narcotics out of pocket and may be mixing legal and illegal drugs.
About three out of four soldiers in the warrior units either leave the Army or active duty, the report says.
After nine years of war, the Army medical-discharge process has become a bureaucratic backlog where nearly 7,800 soldiers wait for their cases to be reviewed. That’s almost a 50% increase since 2007, according to the investigation.
The “process is complex, disjointed and hard to understand, and takes approximately seven to 24 months,” the report says. For the high-care warrior units, it means many of their soldiers wait more than a year for a medical release from the Army.
“Not only is this bad for the Army,” the report says, “it (is) also bad for the individual soldier. He or she languishes in a system that, despite the best efforts of commanders, medical providers and social workers, delays their return to civilian life.”
The warrior units were created across the Army in June 2007 in response to news media reports that the processing of wounded and ill soldiers at Walter Reed was poorly managed. The warrior units — where many ill, injured or wounded troops are temporarily assigned — have nurses, case managers and squad leaders to guide each soldier through the health care system.
About 10% of the soldiers in these units are wounded in combat. The rest are there for injuries, illness or mental health issues. The report says most people “generally” feel the units are the best place in the Army to heal.
Via USA Today