'This Week': Invisible Wounds of War

Ret. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Rep. John Carter, and The New Yorker's Richard Schmidle on veterans and PTSD.
3:00 | 04/06/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Invisible Wounds of War
insight into these issues, joining us is general peter Chiarelli. The former vice chief of staff of the army. He spent seven years on the army post. And Nicolas, a writer for the new Yorker who wrote so powerfully about post-traumatic stress. And congressman John Carter who represents this district of fort hood. I want to talk to you about this, peter, you dealt with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, suicides when you were in the army. This one has to hit hard. What does it say to you? They all hit hard. It is a horrible, horrible tragedy. An even bigger tragedy is the public at large came to the conclusion that everyone who returns from Iraq or Afghanistan who served in the military has these issues. We have to understand, the vast majority of our service men and women have been on multiple deployments, multiple deployments and return home unscathed. But can you have post-traumatic stress without seeing combat? Of course you can. We have people in the united States with post-traumatic stress. It's estimated 8% of the people in the United States will suffer from post-traumatic stress at some time. We are talking about Ivan Lopez as a shooter. Should he be viewed as a wounded warrior? I think you have to. If you want to get the stigma associated with these problems, we have to consider these wounds of war. When in fact a large majority of those we're seeing in the service have served on multiple tours. Nick, you wrote about Chris Kyle, the so-called American sniper who was killed -- allegedly -- by another veteran who was very troubled. He saw no combat. What lessons do you take from this and your time spent covering that Chris Kyle story? A couple of things. I think that -- it's impossible to know, as the general was mentioning, exactly what everyone is going through. You can't get into someone's mind and understand what factors trip them to commit whatever acts. These wars are coming to an end, and, yet, the effects of these wars on the men and women who served perhaps we'll be seeing for decades to come. And I think that's something that the American public thinks. There were no casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan in March, but it's far from over. But I want to read something from your pace, you quote Phil Carter who we saw in the piece. This is just beginning. We compared this to the one following Vietnam. As Vietnam was winding down, demand for mental health services went up, homelessness went up, that's when people were transitions, issues occurred or issues manifest. War has a long tail. What do we owe our service members? Well, I think it would be horrific to imagine that you would send a young man or woman into Iraq or Afghanistan at the worst time of combat ill-equipped for war. We would be horrified at that idea. But there's a compact between those who fought and this country. We should be horrified they are ill-equipped to transition home as they were ill-equipped to fight. Congressman, you have seen this happen twice now at fort hood. The lessons he's talking about and general Chiarelli as well, what are you seeing? I absolutely agree. We have talked about this in the past. The issue of mental health for our service members is critical. And we have two issues that come up with everything, is why, and what can we do? What can we do is we have to provide more resources both at the D.O.D. Level and at the VA level, and that transition needs to be smooth. Because if these folks -- and if -- Pete's right. You can have post-traumatic stress in any ordinary job. It depends on the level of the stress you can carry. Some can carry tons, others can carry none. But this soldier was receiving treatment. Well, that's -- that's an excellent point. And the point I -- I would like to make is the fact that we have lots of soldiers receiving treatment. And just because we get them into treatment doesn't mean that we're going to be able to take care of the problem they have. Because we just don't know enough. We don't know enough about post-traumatic stress, we don't know enough about traumatic brain injury. We need to mount a national effort to get at this problem and ensure we do our research a lot smarter than in the past. And a lot of it's self-reporting. If he didn't report any violent outbursts before, the mental health workers wouldn't know, is that correct, congressman? Correct. We started working on that issue way back in '04, convincing soldiers to report their injuries. Including their bad dreams, sleeplessness, fits of terror, whatever. They felt they showed weakness, they were strong soldiers and it kind of weakened their image. It was a real fight. And the hierarchy in the army did a real strong effort to get it done. And I think it's better, don't you, general? I think it's better. I think they're stepping up now and saying I have problems. You can't start without identifying your problem, and it can't be a trial to identify it. And just very quickly, nick, as more troops come home, do you expect more problems? Inevitably. But they don't have to all be violent. Just problems adjusting. The big issue as well is individuals falling throughout cracks. Coming back and having symptoms that don't quite register or qualify them for long-term programs, but do qualify them for attention. They don't get it. This is what happened with Chris Kyle as well. Not everyone is prone to violence. Make that point. Thank you for joining us today. A great conversation.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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