Doctors who have seen combat ready to talk with vets in N.J.

    New Jersey residents returning from combat duty are eligible for free counseling from doctors who also served in the military.

    Some veterans suffer from problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and have difficulty adjusting to civilian life. The Healers and Heroes program offers an opportunity to speak in confidence with volunteer doctors who were on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Joseph Costabile, a surgeon in Cherry Hill and a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, is one of a dozen doctors offering their time to help veterans who are often reluctant to seek treatment.

    “Sometimes you really need to dig deeply to get them to say, ‘Yeah, I am having a problem.’ So this is totally confidential. It’s informal,” said Costabile. “The individuals can open up and, hopefully, we’ll be able to direct them where they need to go to get assistance.”

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    About 1,500 members of the N.J. National Guard who were deployed in the last 18 months will be accepted in the first year of the program.

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