LETTER FROM IVAW TO PRESIDENT OBAMA by Victor Agosto

LETTER FROM IVAW TO PRESIDENT OBAMA by Victor Agosto

Nearly a month ago, President Obama visited Fort Hood in an effort to acknowledge the recent tragedy. During his visit, a war-resister handed this letter directly to him.

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Tue, 11/10/2009 - 7:22pm

President Obama visited Fort Hood today.

He dropped by Michael Kern's
barracks. Michael handed President Obama a letter, saying, "Sir, IVAW has
some concerns we'd like for you to address."

Obama then dropped his hand
and went on to speak to the next soldier. The secret service then took
possession of the letter.

This is that letter.

President Obama:

In your recent comments on the Fort Hood tragedy, you stated, "These are
men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk
and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis.
It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles
overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army
base on American soil."
Sir, we have been losing these brave Americans on
American soil for years, due to the mental health problems that come after
deployment, which include post-traumatic stress disorder, and often,
suicide.

You also said that,"We will continue to support the community with the
full resources of the federal government".
Sir, we appreciate that-but what we need is not more FBI or Homeland Security personnel swarming Fort
Hood. What we need is full mental healthcare for all soldiers serving in
the Army. What happened at Fort Hood has made it abundantly clear that the
military mental health system, and our soldiers, are broken.

You said, "We will make sure that we will get answers to every single
question about this terrible incident."
Sir, one of the answers is self
evident: that a strained military cannot continue without better mental
healthcare for all soldiers.

You stated that, "As Commander-in-Chief, there's no greater honor but also
no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary
men and women in uniform are properly cared for."
Sir, we urge you to
carry out your promise and ensure that our servicemembers indeed have
access to quality mental health care. The Army has only 408 psychiatrists
— military, civilian and contractors — serving about 553,000 active-duty
troops around the world. This is far too few, and the providers that exist
are often not competent professionals, as this incident shows. Military
wages cannot attract the quality psychiatrists we need to care for these
returning soldiers.

We ask that:

1. Each soldier about to be deployed and returning from deployment be
assigned a mental health provider who will reach out to them, rather than
requiring them to initiate the search for help.
2. Ensure that the stigma of seeking care for mental health issues is
removed for soldiers at all levels-from junior enlisted to senior enlisted
and officers alike.
3. Ensure that if mental health care is not available from military
facilities, soldiers can seek mental health care with civilian providers
of their choice
4. Ensure that soldiers are prevented from deploying with mental health
problems and issues.
5. Stop multiple redeployments of the same troops.
6. Ensure full background checks for all mental health providers and
periodic check ups for them to decompress from the stresses they shoulder
from the soldiers they counsel to the workload they endure.

Sir, we hope that you will make the decision not to deploy one single Fort
Hood troop without ensuring that all have had access to fair and impartial
mental health screening and treatment.

You have stated on a number of occasions, starting during your campaign,
how important our military and veterans are to this nation. The best way
to safeguard the soldiers of this nation is to provide ALL soldiers with
immediate, personal and professional mental health resources.

-Iraq Veterans Against the War