The Courier-Mail

Vet­er­ans shamed for health con­cerns

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A VET­ERAN of the war in Afghanista­n has ac­cused the army of treat­ing him like an an­i­mal and lock­ing him in a cell af­ter he ad­mit­ted to se­ri­ous men­tal health con­cerns.

Dec­o­rated for­mer In­fantry Sergeant Matthew McKeever gave a Se­nate in­quiry into men­tal health a first-hand ac­count of prob­lems faced by vet­er­ans who were la­belled “lingers” if they spoke up.

The vet­eran of two tours told sen­a­tors in Bris­bane yesterday that he killed his first en­emy fighter in Au­gust 2010 and was then forced to re­trieve the body and fin­ger­print it.

When han­dling en­emy bod­ies his own fin­gers went through the holes shot in the wrist of an en­emy fighter.

In another case he was forced to deal with dead chil­dren. “As soon as you speak up you are treated like an an­i­mal,” Mr McKeever said. “I was put in a cell … and they (army) try and push you over the limit.”

Afghanista­n vet­eran Ciaran Hem­mings, who served with the 6th Bat­tal­ion, was told that he was a waste of tax­payer dol­lars and an “oxy­gen thief” be­cause he was in­jured.

In its 50-page sub­mis­sion to the in­quiry the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs said it spent more than $180 mil­lion of its $12 bil­lion an­nual bud­get on men­tal health ser­vices.

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