Entries in Military (16)


Military Still Lags in Assisting Victims of Sexual Assault

Protect Our Defenders(NEW YORK) -- For Jenny McClendon, joining the Navy meant "being there for each other, struggling, pulling together, being a team."

Growing up with a father in the Marine Corps, she always expected to serve her country in some capacity, she said, but it was the Navy that really captivated her.

"The Navy seemed exciting," McClendon told ABC News.  "The idea of going out on the high seas, it was exhilarating."

But McClendon's ideals about serving her country were upended when she attended training camp in San Diego in 1997.  Her class officer started to verbally harass her and other female cadets, she said, asking them "if their vaginas hurt," and calling McClendon "bitch" and "feminazi."

When McClendon reported the harassment to a higher-ranking officer, telling him, "This is not the Navy I signed up to serve in, this is not the America I signed up to serve," she said she was ostracized by her fellow service members.

Out at sea on a Navy ship, where McClendon said "you're pretty much trapped," she recalled how a petty officer 2nd class -- one rank above her -- would order others out of the room so that he could grope her.  The groping escalated to rape.

Fearing ostracism or reprisals if she complained, McClendon started wearing multiple layers of clothing to evade further attacks.  When she finally did report the rape to her senior chief, she said he told her, "To this command, you are a known feminist, lesbian and Democrat.  You're going to prove that you're just trying to get this guy into trouble."

McClendon's ordeal happened 16 years ago, but it's just one in a list of military sexual-abuse scandals that goes back to the Navy's 1991 Tailhook Convention, where 100 officers sexually assaulted more than 80 women.  Five years later at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground, a dozen Army officers were charged with sexually assaulting female trainees.  More recently, at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, 32 basic training instructors are under investigation for allegedly attacking at least 59 victims beginning in 2008.

According to the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, 2,420 servicewomen reported they'd been victims of sexual assault in 2011.

A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, undertaken in response to women taking new positions on the frontlines of combat, found that although the Defense Department had "taken steps" to meet the health needs of deployed servicewomen, it still fell short when it came to providing medical and mental health services to victims of sexual assault.

The GAO report found, for example, that first responders, including chaplains, victim advocates and health personnel, did not always have a clear understanding of where to take sexual assault victims for a forensic examination, which has the potential of becoming doubly problematic, as the current guidelines state that forensic evidence is only to be collected up to 72 hours after the attack.

The report also found that some health care providers became confused by medical provisions that seemed to conflict with their command obligations, especially when it came to keeping a victim's identity confidential.  As a result of this continued confusion, military women were not comfortable reporting sexual attacks.

But the ongoing Lackland investigation, and the release of the documentary The Invisible War, which examines sexual assault in the U.S. military and is up for an Academy Award, have driven policymakers to act.

Last April, days after outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saw The Invisible War, he announced changes in how sexual assault allegations would be handled within the armed forces.

The changes included elevating the authority to prosecute sexual assaults to colonels rather than leaving it to unit commanders -- such as the one who initially presided over McClendon's case -- perhaps in the hope that this would encourage more women to come forward.

According to the Defense Department's own estimates, only 14 percent of sexual assaults were reported in 2010.

Panetta also announced that a Special Victims Units would be created for each branch of the military, and a record would be retained of the outcome of disciplinary and administrative proceedings related to sexual assault, and that these records would be kept in a central place.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Unplanned Pregnancies Hurt Military Women, Mission Readiness

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Women in the military have access to some of the nation's best health care, which includes free birth control.  But a new study shows that many women are not using it and the rate of unintended pregnancy is double that of the general population.

And today, with the Department of Defense ending its longtime ban on women serving in combat roles, an unplanned pregnancy could have wider ramifications not only for a woman's health, but for her opportunities for advancement.

An estimated 10.5 percent of active duty women, ages 18 to 44, reported an unplanned pregnancy in the prior 12 months in 2008, the last year for which there are statistics, according to researchers at Ibis Reproductive Health, a nonprofit organization that supports women's sexual and reproductive rights.

That number was higher than in 2005, when the rate was 9.7 percent.

In the non-military population, about 5.2 percent of women of reproductive age report an unintended pregnancy each year, according to the study, published this week in the February issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Ibis study was based on surveys of more than 7,000 active-duty women; the statistics were obtained from the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act.  Rates were equal among those women who were deployed and those serving stateside.

Women make up 202,400 of the U.S. military's 1.4 million active duty personnel; more than 280,000 women have deployed over the last decade to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's terrific that women are getting recognition for their role in combat missions and are being considered for all types of promotions in the armed services," said lead author Kate Grindlay, senior project manager at Ibis.  "But for women to reach their potential, they must be able to access birth control for their personal health and well-being."

About 900 women had been unable to deploy in the past year due to a pregnancy, either planned or unplanned, according to the study.  The highest rates were among younger women with less education who were either married or cohabitating, researchers said.

The authors of the study say that an unwanted pregnancy not only disrupts a woman's military career, but takes a toll on military readiness because pregnant women cannot be deployed or must be evacuated from war zones.  They say the military needs to take a more "comprehensive approach" to address the problem.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Military Wives Stripping Down to Battle PTSD

Ashley Wise(NEW YORK) -- Military wives across the country are stripping down for their soldier husbands to draw attention to what they see as the rampant problem of post traumatic stress disorder.  They say they want to create awareness of the anxiety syndrome and help soldiers and families get support.

Ashley Wise of Fort Campbell, Ky., launched Battling Bare this April to provide a network of support for the soldiers struggling with PTSD after military service.  The project provides an environment for spouses, children and families to share stories and raise awareness of post traumatic battle stress.

"Nobody had an outlet to communicate," said Wise in an interview with ABC News.  "Many, many women are very good at putting on this image of perfection when it was a war zone inside their homes.  We need to make sure they're getting the help that they need."

Wise, 29, said that her husband, Robert Earl Wise, an E-6 Staff Sergeant who did three tours in Iraq, suffered a traumatic brain injury in an IED explosion in Iraq in 2004.  Though he received a purple heart, she says that he never received a brain scan.

Prior to his service in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Wise, 38, had completed eight years with the Marines.  While deployed to Somalia, he had been stabbed in the spine.  Later, while stationed overseas on his second tour, he also saw six people die, and was eventually placed on death notification detail.  His wife says that after years of combat duty, he began to withdraw.

"He has never gotten rid of the Marine Corps hard-a** mentality.  His solution was to drink Crown Royal whisky and pass out," she said.

Last October, as he and Ashley were beset with financial problems and a promotion that hadn't materialized, Robert decided to take all four of his guns and two cases of beer and check into a hotel room.  Thinking quickly, Ashley tracked him down through online transaction records when he didn't show up for a meal, and soon spoke with her despondent husband in the hotel room.

"He said, 'Life is really hard right now.'  He'd never said anything like that," she said.

Ashley decided that she needed to get him the help that he needed, and called his chain of command and got him to sober up.  Soon, he was on the road to recovery.  But in March he took a turn for the worse when Robert Bales, who was in the same company and with whom he did multiple missions during his first tour, allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians.  Ashley recalls her husband having an immediate reaction as the news of Bales' alleged rampage ran on TV.

"He quickly logged onto Facebook, and Bobby's page was down," she said.  "By the time I walked into the office he was white, in shock -- 'It's Bobby.  He's a good dad.  How could this have happened?'"

A few weeks later, when another friend ended his life, Staff Sgt. Wise took another sharp turn for the worse.

"He would sit up in the bedroom and stare at the wall.  He was edgy.  I found little bottles of coke, filled with whiskey in random places," Ashley said.

In April, she and her husband went to Military & Family Life Consultants, and the Army Substance Abuse Program, but the couple felt that they were not addressing the source of the problem -- the post traumatic stress that was causing her husband's withdrawal and drinking.

At one point Staff Sgt. Wise's condition became so bad that while having a flashback he broke Ashley's nose.  She said he tells her that he can still smell the body odor of someone he thought was an Iraqi soldier, but turned out to be his wife.

Ashley's frustration with how the Army dealt with PTSD peaked when he was charged with assault after she went to the Army's Family Advocacy Program for help.

"I was very p***ed off, so I started sharing with other wives," she said.  "'This is ridiculous,' I'd say.  April was the height of suicides at Fort Campbell.  I felt like streaking the general's lawn, or the 101st Airborne Command building, but that would end my butt in jail."

She says she was talking to a fellow military wife on her porch when the idea suddenly hit her.  She went into the garage, grabbed her husband's M4, and quickly wrote up her pledge to support her husband.  She then gave her friend a diagram of how to write it up on her back.  

After snapping a photo, she immediately uploaded it to Facebook.  Within hours she was contacted by Military Minds, which helps soldiers suffering from PTSD, who suggested she increase her social media efforts and offered to promote her efforts.  A week after Battling Bare became public, its Facebook page had 1,000 fans.  Now, the page has over 35,000.

Today, Wise says that over 600 women have sent photos to Battling Bare.  It is even getting submissions from kids writing about their fathers on their arms.  The organization's website also provides a forum for military families to share their personal stories and find support.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Base Water Contamination: House Approves Bill to Help Sick Families

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Five weeks after ABC’s Nightline reported on the decades-long attempt to secure health benefits for Marines and their families sickened by contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, residents are finally getting the help they need, 30 years later.

The House of Representatives approved the Janey Ensminger Act on Tuesday. The health care provision, which is part of a larger bill addressing veterans issues, will provide health care to those who lived or worked at the North Carolina military base for at least 30 days from 1957 to 1987.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature.

Health officials believe that as many as one million people may have been exposed in what may be the site of the largest water contamination in American history. Many Marines and their families who drank water laced with cancer-causing chemicals have died and others are still getting sick today.

The Janey Ensminger Act is named for the 9-year-old girl who died of leukemia in 1985. Her father, Jerry Ensminger, a career marine who raised his family at Camp Lejeune, has worked tirelessly with other Lejeune alumni to get the word out about the contamination.

For years, there has been a bureaucratic battle over which agency should be responsible for funding the health care of those affected by the contamination: the Defense Department, which owned the base, or the Department of Veterans Affairs, which covers service-connected illness, injury and disability.

The Marine Corps, which dragged its feet in contacting and alerting those who had lived at Camp Lejeune about the water contamination and possible health consequences, said they still consider the issue important.

Capt. Kendra Motz, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, told ABC News in a statement that the Corps will support the bill if it becomes law and that they "continue to work diligently to identify and notify individuals who, in the past, may have been exposed to the chemicals in drinking water."

In addition, Motz said they are "supporting research efforts that attempt to determine whether exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune is associated with adverse health issues."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Soldiers and Vets Should Receive Purple Heart

Jupiterimages/Comstock(NEW YORK) -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) stated that Soldiers and veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) should be considered to receive the Purple Heart Medal, as reported in the Medical News Today.

Veterans often have a difficult time obtaining access to the Veterans Medical System, and most veterans under the age of 35 do not have health insurance. Furthermore,  most veterans have a problem receiving free care when mental conditions take a longer time to be develop.

According to NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick, "NAMI is drawing a line in the sand with the Department of Defense. Troops with invisible wounds are heroes. It's time to honor them. It will also strike a tremendous blow against the stigma that often discourages individuals from seeking help when they need it."

The Purple Heart is now the oldest medal given to US Servicemen.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Purple Hearts for Troops with PTSD?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- When Ron Morton returned from Vietnam in 1976, he abused drugs, attempted suicide and failed as a husband, unaware he was suffering a classic case of post-traumatic stress disorder from the near-fatal accidents he witnessed and experienced on the flight deck of the USS Ticonderoga. Today, the former Navy captain advocates making military members with post-traumatic stress and other invisible war wounds eligible for the Purple Heart.

"These are wounded people who deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts via a Purple Heart," Morton, 60, of Knoxville, Tenn., said Thursday from the national convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Seattle. "We want parity for mental illness, for combat-induced mental wounds. We want to be treated the same way as someone who has been shot in the arm or in the leg."

In a report, "Parity for Patriots," issued earlier Thursday, NAMI called mental health disorders like PTSD "signature injuries" of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, warning that the United States faces a deluge of new cases from scheduled troop draw-downs. The nation's largest grassroots mental health organization recommended that military commanders at all levels be accountable for suicide prevention and eliminating the stigma keeps some active duty troops and veterans from seeking care.

Bob Corolla, a NAMI spokesman, said the organization had delivered a copy of the report to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and author of the proposed Mental Health Access Act of 2012, which would improve care and access to care for service members and veterans.

Morton, the director of recovery and resiliency for Tennessee's Medicaid program, promotes programs that help people "recover from mental illness so they can have productive lives." He's all too aware that within military ranks, men and women remain reluctant to seek treatment because of a deeply ingrained culture of toughing it out.

"We don't think we deserve treatment for these things. We don't think we deserve acknowledgement of these things," he said.

Military officials have disputed the notion that troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder should be eligible for the Purple Heart.

"PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event; it is not a wound intentionally caused by the enemy from an 'outside force or agent,' but is a secondary effect caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event," Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez told Stars and Stripes in 2009.

Many military personnel also fear that acknowledging a problem could damage their professional reputations, he said.

He recalled a conversation a couple of years ago with a helicopter pilot who flew combat missions in Iraq and said, "I know I have symptoms of PTSD. I won't come forward. I won't seek treatment because they'll ground me."

Morton said, "Our desire now is to reduce the stigma around mental illness," and to acknowledge military heroes whose sacrifices are psychological as well as physical.

One way that some psychiatrists have proposed reducing the stigma of a PTSD diagnosis is by dropping the use of the term "disorder" and calling it post-traumatic stress, or a post-traumatic stress injury, said Dr. Amir Afkhami, assistant professor of psychiatry and global health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "The disorder is associated with a kind of weakness, which goes against the culture of strength and, 'What does not kill you makes you stronger' that pervades the military.

"If I was a policy maker, one way I would approach this issue, rather than focus on the redefinition of the diagnosis, is focusing on education, both in terms of educating troops to what PTSD is; what are the biological causes of PTSD and educating the leadership of the military to recognize the long-term importance of treatment of post-traumatic stress."

He also said the U.S. military needs to come up with "creative ways to encourage folks to stay in treatment" because PTSD, which can produce a range of symptoms of varying degrees, is a chronic condition. He also noted that because it can go into remission, those who get treatment "shouldn't see the diagnosis of PTSD as a scarlet letter" that closes doors to them if they want to stay in the military.

Dr. Afkhami welcomed the idea of honoring invisibly wounded war heroes with the Purple Heart, saying that "any reframing of our view of post-traumatic stress, including recognizing it as a war wound worthy of a Purple Heart, certainly can help the process, but it's not the solution. ...When we do give a Purple Heart for PTSD, we should have another medal for people who go through treatment, because they rendered service not only to the Army, but also to society at large."

In its 17-page report, NAMI said one in five active duty military personnel have had symptoms of PTSD, depression or other mental health conditions. An active-duty soldier dies from suicide every 36 hours and a veteran dies by his or her own hand every 80 minutes.

Suicides are on the rise within the National Guard and Reserves, even among those who haven't been called up, the NAMI report said.

Families on the home front suffer depression and post-traumatic stress at about the same rates as service members, according to estimates cited by NAMI. More than one-third of military husbands and wives have one or more mental health problems, while one-third of children suffer from depression, anxiety or acute stress reaction.

NAMI encourages current and former military members or families in distress to call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, which can transfer them to military and veteran crisis lines.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sick Families of Military Base Water Contamination May Finally Get Help, 30 Years Later

BananaStock/Thinkstock(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) -- Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina, is home to hundreds of thousands of Marines and their families. It's also the site of what may be the largest water contamination in American history.

Now, nearly three decades after poisons were discovered in their drinking water, Congress is set to vote on legislation that will provide health care to those who suffered.

From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, the Marines who lived on the base with their families drank water laced with cancer-causing chemicals. Hundreds of thousands of Lejeune residents were exposed over the 30-year stretch. Many died and others are still getting sick today.

The Marine Corps doesn't often talk about the base's water contamination history. But two men with ties to Camp Lejeune, Jerry Ensminger and Mike Partain, have worked tirelessly to get the word out to Lejeune alumni -- maybe as many as a million people -- who may have been exposed. For both men, the mission is personal.

Ensminger is a career Marine who raised his family at Lejeune. His daughter Janey died of leukemia when she was just 9 years old. She died in 1985, just shy of her 10th birthday. "She said, 'I love you.' I said, 'I know.' I whispered in her ear, and I said, 'It's time to stop fighting,'" he said.

"After I had time to sit and think about it, I did what any normal human being would do, I started wondering why," Ensminger said. "That nagging question of 'why' stayed with me through [Janey's] illness, through her death."

Ensminger said his first clue came from a local TV station's report in 1997, saying that contaminants discovered in the base's drinking water had been possibly linked to childhood cancer and birth defects, primarily leukemia.

"I dropped my plate of spaghetti right there on the living room floor," Ensminger said. "That started this journey for the truth."

He was soon joined by Partain, who also had cancer -- breast cancer, which is extremely rare among men. Partain's father was stationed at the base when his mother became pregnant and gave birth to him there, but he's lived most of his life in Florida, where he's an insurance adjuster.

His life's work, though, has become a search for answers about what happened in the water and how it has affected his own health and those of thousands of others. Through his own research, Partain has documented 80 cases of male breast cancer among men who were born or served at Camp Lejeune.

The Marine Corps dragged its feet in contacting and alerting those who had lived at Lejeune about the water contamination and the possible health consequences. So Ensminger and Partain decided to team up and help get the word out. Their efforts are the focus of a 2011 documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, which was short-listed for an Oscar.

"The Marine Corps needs to get people notified," Partain says in the film. "They need to get on the TV, they need to get on the news, and they need to tell people what is wrong."

But it is already too late for some of the tiniest victims. During the years when the water was contaminated, stillborn babies were commonplace on the base, so many that the local cemetery has a section locals call Baby Heaven, lined with the graves of children who never made it to their first birthdays.

Mary Freshwater was a young mother who lived on the base back in the 1970s. She said she and the other women at Camp Lejeune suspected something was terribly wrong.

"I was very active with the Officers' Wives Club. We were at a party at one of my friend's house one night. There were five of us in different stages of pregnancy. Every one of us lost their baby to a birth defect," she said.

For Freshwater, it was an unbearable pain she suffered not once, but twice.

On Nov. 30, 1977, she gave birth to a son, Russell Alexander Thorpe, but the baby was born with an open spine. All she has left of him now is a small suit he was wearing the day he died -- just 10 minutes past midnight on New Year's Eve, 1977.

"It was really a shocker when he was born that way and then when he died, he died in my arms. He took his last breath," she said.

Freshwater said doctors encouraged her to get pregnant again and she eventually gave birth to a second son -- Charlie, who was born without a cranium, and died the same day.

Today, Freshwater is 68 years old and has been diagnosed with two different kinds of cancers, acute myeloid and acute lymphoma. She says doctors told her the diagnosis was consistent with exposure to chemicals such as benzene, which she was exposed to during her time at Camp Lejeune.

Representatives from the Marine Corps, the Secretary of the Navy and the Department of Veterans Affairs all declined to talk to ABC News about Camp Lejeune on camera.

In an email statement, one Marine Corps representative wrote that General James F. Amos, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, "considers this issue to be very important" and that "we continue our commitment to find and notify those who used the water during the time period in question."

For years, there has been a bureaucratic battle over which agency should be responsible for funding the health care of those affected by the contamination: the Defense Department, which owned the base, or the Department of Veterans Affairs, which covers service-connected illness, injury and disability. But a deal for the VA to cover those costs is now in the works, negotiated by the House and Senate Committees for Veterans Affairs.

The health care provision, which is part of a larger bill addressing veterans issues, covers those who lived or worked on Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from Jan. 1, 1957, through Dec. 31, 1987. The Senate is expected to pass the bill as early as this week, and it will head to the president's desk after the 4th of July, according to congressional staffers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Dark Side of Military-Funded Neuroscience

US Army(NEW YORK) -- By unlocking the mysteries of the mind, neuroscientists have opened the door to revolutionary technology -- technology that the American military hopes to harness.

From keeping troops more alert during exhausting missions to engineering intelligent drones, some experts argue that brain research has changed the battlefield.

"There's a tremendous amount of research going on around almost every aspect of the brain you can think of," said Jonathan Moreno, professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Mind Wars.  "How much of this is related to national security and counterintelligence?  It turns out to be quite a lot."

In an essay published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology, Moreno said neuroscientists may not consider how their work contributes to warfare.

"Technology doesn't care what it's used for," he said, explaining how the same research that could help a paralyzed person move a robotic exoskeleton could also help coordinate an attack by an unmanned weapon.  "It's our ingenuity and the way we apply the technology, which does raise an interesting problem for scientists."

"Now it's the life scientists having a hard time with this," said Moreno, adding that researchers studying infectious diseases like bird flu might not consider the dark side of their discoveries.  "Even Einstein didn't recognize the possibility of nuclear fission.  He had to be convinced by a colleague to sign a letter to [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] about the Manhattan project."

Einstein later wrote that signing the letter, which led to the development of the first atomic bomb, was the "one great mistake" in his life.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's science agency better known as DARPA, received roughly $240 million to fund neuroscience research in 2011.  Much of that research is "dual use," meaning it will benefit American civilians as well as military forces -- a reminder that many medical gains often originate in the trenches.

"Much of what's known about helping people with terrible burns came out of Vietnam," said Moreno.  "Amputation came largely out of the civil war.  Blood banks came out of Korea.  Every war, sadly enough, has created opportunities for advances in medicine."

Beyond supporting the development of military devices like drones, brain research is helping troops learn the art of enemy deception and interrogation.  It has also led to drugs designed to keep troops awake and alert -- a feat once achieved with coffee and cigarettes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Servicemembers at Increased Risk for Eating Disorders

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mounting evidence suggests that eating disorders are higher among servicemembers than among civilians.

While there's not enough substantial data collected to quantify the prevalence of eating disorders among servicemembers, previous research suggests female servicemembers are 4 percent more likely to develop an eating disorder than females not in the service.

An estimated 14 percent of active duty military personnel are women, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Still, a 2009 published study in Military Medicine found no difference in the prevalence of eating disorders between West Point cadets and students at civilian colleges.

A review published in 2008 looking at nearly a decade of medical data from servicemembers diagnosed with an eating disorder, suggested that the diagnosis of eating disorders among servicemembers doubled from 1998 to 2006, although the number remained relatively small.  A majority of those diagnosed were Marines.

Experts said a combination of environmental and traditional factors place soldiers, especially women, at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder than any other group of people.

Women who report feeling deployment stress may be at a higher risk for developing eating disorders and weight loss, according to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

According to Dr. Kim Dennis, medical director of Timberline Knolls, a residential eating disorder treatment center in Lemont, Ill., eating disorders among women in the military are underreported and often difficult to detect.

"I think that goes hand in hand with denial and minimization of eating disorders," said Dennis, whose facility sees a substantial amount of women in the military. "They're more recognized as having a substance disorder."

Eating disorders can range in forms including excessive physical activity, extreme dieting, anorexia, binging and bulimia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Burn Pits: 'Inconclusive' Evidence They Are Unhealthy -- While most bases in Iraq and Afghanistan at some point during the war contained open burn pits, a new report suggests there's not enough evidence to directly link respiratory problems of soldiers, to fumes emitted by the burn pits.

The report, released by the Institute of Medicine, a health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed past research collected by the U.S. Department of Defense. Insufficient data and limited research made it difficult for the IOM committee to draw hard conclusions, the report stated.

The committee called for long-term studies that would track soldiers from the time of their deployment to Joint Base Balad over many years and monitor their development of chronic diseases.

"Such a study will also help physicians and other scientists determine if the burn pits contributed to chronic diseases experienced by armed service personnel after being exposed to the burn pits," the American Thoracic Society, a nonprofit organization that has followed the issue among military service members, said a written statement.

The U.S. Department of Defense, which sponsored the report, states that it has shut down all burn pits in Iraq – replacing some with closed incinerators -- and plans to do the same in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

While the data is not so clear cut, mounting evidence suggests that a growing number already exposed to fumes from burn pits may later develop later chronic and irreparable diseases, according to Dr. Robert Miller, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Miller's study, published July in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that nearly half of 80 soldiers in Fort Campbell, Ky., who could not pass a standard two mile run because of breathing problems, were diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis. More than 80 percent of those with constrictive bronchiolitis had been exposed to dust storms, and more than 60 percent had been exposed to burn pits.

"We did not have data that said these guys were sick because of burn pits," said Miller. "We have to follow these guys very closely."

Standard tests that are used to detect respiratory diseases, such as a pulmonary function test, may not pick up the soldier's condition.

"There are a number of them that are concerned that they're written off as being normal because their pulmonary function tests are normal," said Miller. "Some are concerned they're not eligible for disability, because even though they're not deployable, their pulmonary tests are normal."

For many who are more commonly diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, not even a CT scan can detect the disease. Only a lung biopsy works, Miller said.

Miller suggested that soldiers undergo a baseline pulmonary function test pre-deployment. Soldiers should then be administered another test once they return home to compare the results for any changes, he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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