Sunday, July 18, 2010

An about face re PTSD

Finally! The Military has changed the rules about PTSD- Post traumatic stress disorder. Back in the day, they called it many different names-- "railway spine, stress syndrome, shell shock, battle fatigue, and traumatic war neurosis". "Battle fatigue".... just a little too much time in the trenches amidst the bloody reality of war & it got to people. They were supposed to suck it up, pull it together & carry on. Be a man.
That is why many World War II vets refuse to even talk about what it was like. They wish they could forget. But even now, the military has downplayed PTSD-- they had to address it, after years of denying it.
They set up counseling programs-- a little deep breathing, a few stress reduction techniques, a slap on the back, & back out to active war duty.  One soldier even stated he thinks of suicide daily.... he was sent back to active duty in Iraq.
About one soldier per day commits suicide.
Many Vets make it through their tour(s) of duty to return home. They return physically, but are mentally traumatized ~ never the same. The war experience changed them forever.

Up until now, if someone claimed to have PTSD, the military required the soldier to document the one event that triggered it. I know of a soldier who was in the Navy... they just called her up & said we need you in the Army & we need you in Iraq. They did basic boot camp, but she had said she never was really told what to do when nearby explosions happened around the Green Zone. With bombs exploding all around, and the stench of a burning vehicle & tires hung in the 121 degree hot air, body parts strewn about the latest attack.... how could a person pinpoint a particular "event" that put them over the top? The moment in which witnessing war became traumatic.
How many soldier friends had to die? How many IED explosions & injuries... what was the breaking point? Soldiers are trained to not be emotional. They are supposed to be the troops that carry out orders without question.
But humanity exists under the standard military garb & the shaved heads. Their hearts & minds are still their own, even though they are temporarily owned by the military.

This week, the military changed the rules-  no longer requiring documentation of a specific event that traumatized soldiers.

USA Today reports:

"Troops are returning with invisible wounds that can be as debilitating as any physical battlefield trauma. As in every conflict in our nation's history, today's warriors are suffering emotional injuries just as they do physical ones.
The residual effects of combat manifest themselves in every combatant's life. 
At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) there is only one goal — to ensure that veterans of every generation receive the best possible health care and the benefits they have earned.
Previously, veterans filing for health care and disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were required to document in detail the causes of their symptoms. These have traditionally been called "stressors."
The rules stringently required veterans, who served in the combat branches of the military, where the likelihood of direct action against an armed enemy was highest, to provide detailed documentation of those engagements. For those not serving in the combat branches, the burden of proof was even higher. But in either case, these rules were neither fair nor sustainable.
At VA, we're now moving to treat all veterans equally. On Monday, VA begins simplifying the process by which veterans with PTSD are able to access health care and receive benefits.
Streamlining this process will help not just the veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, but generations of veterans who have previously "borne the battle" for our nation.
We're publishing a regulation Monday in the Federal Register that simplifies the process for claiming service connection for PTSD by reducing the documentation needed for veterans to validate the specifics of place, type and circumstance of incident.
  From this point forward, VA will not require corroboration of a PTSD stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, if a VA doctor confirms a diagnosis of PTSD and the stressful experience recalled by the veteran adequately supports that diagnosis.

This decision to simplify the process has been validated by an Institute of Medicine study, which concluded that service in a war zone is inherently linked to increased risk of PTSD.

In Profiles in Courage, President John F. Kennedy, himself a combat veteran, noted, "Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men ... have lived. The courage of life ... is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy."

In reality the previous process, further increased the trauma to the soldiers who had to cut through a ton of bureaucratic red tape to get the help they desperately needed. 
Many gave up, or worse, took their own lives to try to find peace. 
Soldiers can get the help they need, and this side effect of being in a war zone is now being taken seriously.  No longer just lip service, Veterans can get much needed care, for the mental wounds they suffer as a result of being involved in war. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard the Sun. morning replay of the Commonwealth
Club in San F. his morning and it was a man talking about his months in
Afghanistan. He may have been a reporter (I missed the intro) - but he
told about the constant tension, and remembering how he'd occasionally be
aware that he wasn't feeling any fear. But he said that after getting home
to the US, he just fell apart. Apparently there's a brain function that
blocks all the horror until a safer time, and then comes flooding in. And
when that happens to our troops, they get sent back again while they are
still in that state of anxiety. So inhuman.