War's Wounds May Last - NBC 7 San Diego

War's Wounds May Last

Chairman of Joint Chiefs calls for more help for vets



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    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen prepares to testify during his reappointment hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

    "They are alone." said Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Wednesday when talking about veterans.

    Mullen said he is frustrated at the amount of help being given to war veterans. He said he's worried about a new generation of homeless veterans like seen after the Vietnam war.

    "Shame on us if we don't figure it out this time around to make sure that doesn't happen," Mullen said.

    Officials with the local Department of Veterans Affairs said there are an estimated 2,000 homeless vets in San Diego and that the need for help is increasing.

    "The need is now greater than when we started," said Phil Landis, the CEO of Veterans Village near Old Town, which started in 1981.

    The facility celebrated the opening of its two newest buildings on Wednesday. The additions have more than doubled Veterans Village's capacity.  Currently, there 157 homeless vets are living at the village, and there's a waiting list.

    "The nation is doing more for their veterans than they have ever done before," Landis said.  "That said, there is a lot more to be done."

    Landis said there's no way to know right now how bad the problem could get from the current war, and he said we may not know for 10-15 years.

    "Normally, it takes time for people to fall through the safety nets," he said.

    Mullen also talked about the thousands of soldiers and Marines leaving the military who are or may eventually suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

    "I think it's going to be coming in waves over time," said Dr. Jeffrey Matloff, a psychiatrist who provides care to veterans in San Diego. "We're seeing, certainly, a far greater proportion of people come in from the current conflicts than we have in any earlier ones."

    Matloff said that may be because of additional screening and a focus on early detection.

    Contrary to Mullen, Matloff said he is impressed by the efforts made by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  He said there is far more being done than after Vietnam and that there is 30 years of research available to care providers not available back then.

    "It's never going to be enough, but that doesn't mean we're not doing the best we can do now," said Matloff.