Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired vice admiral and an inactive member of Morton AMVETS Post 118, discussed combat stress Tuesday on CNN in the wake of the tragic Baghdad stress clinic shootings.
During the interview, Sestak pointed out that veterans are under constant stress in today's combat environment, and that repeated, long deployments only exacerbate the situation. He said that proper identification is paramount to treating veterans who struggle with combat stress, and that the U.S. military needs more mental health practitioners working in the field to identify potential issues.
Sestak also pointed out the absurdity of the current self-identification which DoD and VA require for troops at risk for PTSD.
"If 25 percent of veterans coming home had cancer, we would not be having self-referrals to treat cancer," he said. "We don't have a mandatory, systematic approach that includes the families...We can be doing better, and we must do better."
On Monday, Sestak hosted his annual veterans' summit in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, with leaders from the national veterans' community on hand, including representatives from AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania and National Headquarters.
During the summit's first panel on health care and benefits, veterans in the audience raised questions about the military's approach to identifying and treating combat stress issues, citing personal experiences where family members had faced overwhelming obstacles in treating combat-related mental health issues.
Sestak took these issues to heart when he returned to Washington, pointing out that we must not repeat the mistakes of the Vietnam era when veterans are coping with combat stress.
(Video: CNN video of Rep. Joe Sestak courtesy of the Office of Congressman Joe Sestak, used with permission.)