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Tens Of Thousands Troops Expected To Be Treated For PTSD
President Obama in his State of the Union Address announced that at this time next year 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will have returned home.
With that homecoming comes a crisis. Thousands across Central Texas are already getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
As of November 2011, more than 211,000 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were treated for PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, those numbers do not include individuals seeking help elsewhere.
"Twenty-two veterans a day committing suicide, we are in a crisis. Absolutely we are," said veteran Sean Hanna.
Hanna counsels returning soldiers at the Samaritan Center in Austin. He says the VA is booked.
"This is the warriors struggle. This is nothing new. What's new is having such a small percentage of the population serve and have those experiences," said Hanna.
Last year, the center had 30,000 interactions with veterans and their families across the state. He expects that number will grow.
Vietnam Veteran Paul Pro agrees. It took the marine 36 years to ask for help with his PTSD.
"I went through self-medication, alcohol, a marriage or two and several jobs," Pro said.
Heroes Night Out in Cedar Park was his answer. It's a non-profit with all the resources under one roof and it's veterans talking to veterans.
"It taught me to care again, it gave me purpose to care again. I didn't have a purpose. I didn't know I lost it," said Pro.
Now he's paying it forward. Last year the group had 1,000 individuals walk through their door. Pro hopes more people will reach out.
"When they say how can I help? The magic is, help one more vet," said Pro.
Several veterans groups have testified at the Texas Legislature. They are asking for the mental health budget for veterans be increased so they can provide more services.
By Christie Post