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Warrior Transition units: We must do better

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Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011

The Army's treatment of more than 9,300 wounded soldiers in its 38 Warrior Transition units -- and its attitude toward solving those units' manifest problems -- are a disgrace.

Warrior Transition units, set up for soldiers wounded during repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, are bedeviled by a lack of psychological care and overreliance on medication for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, brain injuries and substance abuse.

Overseen by staff that's undertrained, overstretched and overstressed, these units also have become dumping grounds for soldiers that commanders don't want in combat -- cancer patients, accident victims, drug addicts, potential suicides and troublemakers.

That's what a nine-month Trib investigation found -- much the same as what Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Noel Koch, tasked with alleviating suffering in these units, reported to top brass. For doing so, Mr. Koch was told he could be fired or resign. He quit. Yet now, the Army's inspector general has echoed both his findings and the Trib's.

The Army's failings in treating soldiers whose wounds, visible and not, alter their lives forever constitute the worst sort of dereliction of its most sacred duty -- its duty to those who wear its uniform.

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