Are we entitled to our own opinion?

Are we entitled to our own opinion?

May 4, 2010 – If you haven’t read the New York Times article published on April 25, 2010, “Feeling Warehoused in Army Trauma Care Units”, written by James Dao and Dan Frosch, please take 5 minutes to read it. This blog will make a lot more sense over the next few days if we are on the same page.

After reading the article, you will likely be outraged if you are hearing for the first time of the poor care given to our Wounded Warriors. If you happen to be personally involved in this mess they call “health care” for our wounded, then you are probably jumping for joy because someone finally started talking about it loudly enough to be heard.

You see, there are a lot of people talking about this nightmare, but there are even more people trying to keep a lid on these issues. Last week, I listened to the Army’s “Roundtable Discussion” with Lt. General Eric Schoomaker, Brigadier General Gary Cheek, and a few other Army officers from Ft. Carson, Colorado, present via telephone conference call. They were addressing the issues at Ft. Carson brought up the NY Times article mentioned above. Today I will address one of many issues that raise my concerns.

I’ve spent the past year trying to help a few Wounded Warriors who have brought their issues to my attention. Having been immersed in the situation for the past twelve months, it was easy to recognize what I would call weak arguments coming from the Army as they tried to justify the “quality care” within their Warrior Transition Units (WTU). The Army claims that the New York Times carefully chose to report only on cases of unsatisfied soldiers, indicating that the story was one-sided.

Apparently, results of satisfaction surveys have stated that there is an 81% satisfaction rate with soldiers overall (nationwide) in WTU’s, and even better, a 90% satisfaction rate at the Ft. Carson WTU. LTG Schoomaker said that they had determined this by the feedback given by soldiers who have taken the surveys.

A survey can be defined as a systematic collection of data on opinions. An opinion is a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.  It is my understanding that we can agree to disagree, but we can’t force someone to share our opinion or personal view on an issue.

I find this interesting because it has been brought to my attention that often, when these surveys are taken, the Wounded Warriors do not give accurate answers. They are afraid to answer the questions honestly for fear of being identified and then punished. Though the surveys are always “anonymous”, our troops are all in unique situations with varying health conditions and injuries. They feel that the questions are asked in a way that will lead evaluators to easily identify the soldiers by their answers, leaving them exposed should they share truthful responses.

I’m under the impression that these surveys are not optional, because troops are known to fill out surveys for others who might be out at a medical appointment at the time the survey is administered. It’s just not worth the inevitable rant session by the NCO if the survey count is not equal to the troop count at the end of the day, therefore, those present fill out additional surveys for those absent.

Last fall a survey was given to a particular unit, which I will not identify due to the obvious repercussions that could fall on our troops. This “anonymous” survey was to be used as a tool to evaluate conditions within a unit caring for wounded warriors. It was quickly reviewed later that afternoon by officers and deemed unacceptable. The following day, those who took the survey were chewed out during a formation for their incorrect answers. With raised voices, these men were told that they “did it wrong” and they had better do it right this time. All were made to fill the survey out again.

I ask you to put yourself in the place of these wounded warriors. Would you feel that you had been given the privacy and anonymity promised? Would you feel more compelled to be honest and forthcoming with your answers the second time you filled out the survey? I think not. Furthermore, would you trust the system that was responsible for your care if you knew that superiors were more concerned with how they looked rather than how patients felt about treatment?

What is the purpose of evaluating program satisfaction if the evaluator doesn’t want to hear the truth? Why do the officers on staff demand a specific result? Are they scared of someone too? I’m convinced that climbing the career ladder is far more important than the health of our wounded warriors, at least to those who are not injured and not standing on the front lines.

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  2. [...] 11, 2010 – As mentioned in a previous blog entry, I am addressing issues raised in the New York Times article published on April 25, [...]

  3. [...] I have to wonder.  Did anyone really talk to the soldiers who are dealing with PTSD? Checking research sources, I noted that soldier satisfaction surveys were used. If you are interested in the effectiveness of these surveys please take some time to read “Are We Entitled to Our Own Opinion?” [...]

  4. [...] I’ve listened to Lt. Gen. Schoomaker defend the Warrior Transition Units.  He never fails to bring up the supposed 91% of soldiers who say they are satisfied with their care at the WTU.  The part he doesn’t ever mention is how the surveys are conducted.  In all likelihood, he has no idea himself.  To better understand this remark, I will refer you to one of my previous blog entries, Are We Entitled to Our Own Opinion? [...]

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