KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Military Trauma Transition Units Breed Culture Of Drug Abuse, Depression

The New York Times reports on a Warrior Transition Battalion unit in Colorado used by the military to transition injured veterans back into the military or their home lives. "Created in the wake of the scandal in 2007 over serious shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Units were intended to be sheltering way stations where injured soldiers could recuperate and return to duty or gently process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with about 465 soldiers at Fort Carson's unit … but many soldiers from Fort Carson's unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse."

"[I]nterviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson's transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units ... have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. There were also reports that ... the strict Army punishment system that is maintained at the units can be hurtful to the soldiers who are undergoing treatment at the facility. "Those senior officers acknowledged that addiction to medications was a problem, but denied that Army doctors relied too heavily on drugs. And they strongly defended disciplining wounded soldiers when they violated rules. Punishment is meted out judiciously, they said, mainly to ensure that soldiers stick to treatment plans and stay safe" (Dao & Frosch, 4/25).

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