National American Legion commander concerned about over-medicating wounded soldiers

Michael D. Helm

The recently installed commander of the national American Legion said he’s concerned that wounded soldiers are being overly treated with drugs for post-traumatic stress disorder and brain-related injuries.

“The American Legion is concerned that the use of drugs is not working,” Michael D. Helm said Wednesday during a stop in Charleston.

“There’s other things we can do,” he said, pointing to expanding the use of group therapy and other forms of counseling that include veterans and their families.

“We can do better,” he said, pointing to drugs being a contributing factor to veterans’ homelessness and suicides.

Helm was elected national commander of the 2.4 million member American Legion in August during the 96th national convention of the nation’s largest veterans organization.

Other areas of concern he listed included the weakening of defense priorities in the post-Iraq and Afghanistan military. That includes areas such as pay, housing and benefits.

“We hope there’s a concern for all in Congress that the military remains strong,” he said.

Helm is an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War. He was with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., and earned his Ranger tab in 1972. He is a retired Postal Service rural mail carrier with more than 33 years of service.

Helm, of Norcatur, Kan., is touring parts of South Carolina this week. Stops included the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. He also addressed a lunch gathering at American Legion Post 147 on James Island.

There are seven American Legion posts throughout the Charleston region, with a membership of about 3,000, said District 2 Commander Joe Lysaght. There are about 30,000 military veterans in total in the region.

Another initiative Helm said the legion supports is getting its members to help legal aliens in the U.S. to obtain their full citizenship.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.