In the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, the Los Angeles Times took a look today at the state of the two military medical centers in San Diego. The verdict: The war in Iraq is taking its toll.

By any measure, the San Diego region has played a prominent role at each step of the war: troops on the ground, troops killed, joyous returns, mournful funerals, medals awarded for bravery, courts-martial for alleged abuse of Iraqi civilians.

Even President Bush’s politically controversial “Mission Accomplished” carrier landing took place off the San Diego coast.

Now, with public focus on how the wounded are being cared for in the wake of the scandal about shoddy outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., San Diego is once again on the front lines.

Officials at the Naval Medical Center San Diego and Veterans Affairs Medical Center in La Jolla expect visits from the commission assigned by Bush to examine medical care for veterans. Numbers alone would seem to dictate them.

And what will the commission likely find?

Officials at the VA and Navy centers concede that they have had to scramble to accommodate a larger number of wounded personnel than anyone anticipated 48 months ago when the Marines crossed the so-called Line of Departure into Iraq. The injuries have been more severe, with more amputations and more traumatic brain injuries.

Both centers also have had to increase counseling for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some Vietnam veterans are suffering PTSD after watching TV news accounts of Iraq.

“It really is a wave,” said psychologist Jeffrey Matloff of the VA medical center in La Jolla, who added, “I don’t think we’ve seen the big wave. That we’ll see in coming years.”


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