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SD Conference Focuses On Veterans Mental Health Issues

Barry McCaffrey, PTSD
San Diego Conference Focuses On Veterans Mental Health Issues
Guests Barry McCaffrey is a retired 4-star Army General and former US Drug Czar. Andy Eckert is CEO, of CRC Health Group.

Military veterans coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, alcohol abuse problems and high levels of stress, said Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a retired 4-star Army General and former U.S. Drug Czar.

McCaffrey is the keynote speaker at the 35th annual Foundations & Recovery Conference, which brings together mental health advocates and addiction specialists to work on those issues. The conference runs until tomorrow at the Hotel Del Coronado.

McCaffrey told KPBS that because veterans are seeing more combat tours than ever before, there is a "cumulative effect" of stress and separation from family.


"Not since World War II have we put a very small military through such a long and open-ended responsibility," he said.

In his keynote speech, McCaffrey addressed the March massacre of 17 Afghans by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

McCaffrey told KPBS lower standards allowed Bales to enter the military.

"He came in with prior misdemeanor assault charges, with alcohol-related incidents, with a civil fraud charge, then we had him on three combat tours," McCaffrey said. "I think what you're going to learn in the coming months, that was an alcohol-induced rage, murder, that he was involved in."

He added that the Marines accused of murders in Haditha were reacting to "one of their buddies had been killed," McCaffrey said. "This was something different. I think he was a mental health challenge."