SFTT Medical Task Force to Focus on PTSD

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Dr. Henry Grayson, Ph.D., Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task Force – Is a  psychologist practicing in New York City and Connecticut. He has a PhD from Boston University, as well as a postdoctoral certificate in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy from Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and a Theology degree from Emory University. He is the author or three books, founded both the National Institute for Psychotherapies and the Institute for Spirituality, Science and Psychotherapy, and the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy.

Dr. Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task ForceA Psychiatry professor at Michigan StateUniversity with degrees from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and the University of London. Formerly an associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health, more recently he has been involved with numerous organizations dealing with PTSD including founding Gift From Within, a non-profit PTSD foundation, and consulting at Columbine High School in Colorado. In 2003 he received a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Dr. Grant Brenner, M.D A graduate of the New Jersey Medical School and as assistant clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Beth Israel Medical Center. He is a member of Physicians for Human Rights and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Dr. Brenner is the director of trauma services at the William Alanson White Institute, a board member at the Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, and the author of Creating Spiritual and Psychological Resilience-Integrating Care in Disaster Relief Work.

Dr. Eric D. Caine, M.D. – A Psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Medical School, and a chair of the department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry. In 2001 he received the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s Leadership in Training Award for Chair of the Year.

Dr. Robert Cancro, M.D A professor and chairman of psychiatry at the New York University Medical Center. He is a graduate of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has served as the director or the Nathan Kline Research Institute, a long time consultant of the U.S. Secret Service, and the recipient of numerous awards in the field of mental health including the New York State Office of Mental Health Award and the Irving Blumberg Human Rights Award.

Lorraine Cancro, MSW – A psychotherapist with a Masters from the New York University Silver School of Social Work. She is the executive director of the Global Stress Initiative, a senior consultant at The Barn Yard Group, and formerly the director of business development and military health editor at EP Magazine.

Jaine L. Darwin, Psy.D., ABPP A graduate of Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology is a psychologist-psychoanalyst specializing in trauma and PTSD, relationship issues and depression. Dr. Darwin has run a volunteer organization SOFAR that provided services to family members of military service members and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kathalynn Davis, MSW – A psychotherapist with Masters from Columbia University, a certified Sedona Method Coach, Life Coach certified at New York University and Practitioner for International Institute for Spiritual Living.

Dr. Stephen V. Eliot, Ph.D.,  A Psychoanalyst with private practice in Westport CT.

Dr. Mark Erlich, M.D. – is a graduate of the of Profiles & Contours, a clinical assistant professor at New York Medical College and Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine, and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is also the president of the New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society.

Dr. Mitchell Flaum, Ph. D. – A clinical Psychologist with private practice in New York City.

Dr. Joseph Ganz, Ph.D.,  –  A psychotherapist and a graduate of the Stress Reduction Program from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  He is also trained in couples and family psychotherapy and is the co-founder, co-director and faculty member of The Metropolitan Center for Object Relations-New Jersey.

Dr. Stephen Gullo, Ph.D.,  –  received his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University, and for more than a decade, he was a professor and researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. He is the former chair of the National Obesity and Weight Control Education Program of the American Institute for Life Threatening Illness at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. His first book, Thin Tastes Better, was a national best seller as was his second book, The Thin Commandments.  He has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and Barbara Walters and has also made numerous appearances on Today, Good Morning America, and Hard Copy. Dr. Gullo is currently president of the Center for Health and Weight Sciences’ Center for Healthful Living in New York City.

Joan S. Kuehl, L.C.S.W. –  Is a social worker with private practice in New York City.

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D., –  A graduate of New York University, an adjunct faculty member at the Teacher’s College Columbia University and at Columbia Medical School. She has
provided “psychological first aid” after bombings in Israel, SARS in China, the tsunami in Asia, and after 9/11 in the US. She is a representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology and the International Council of Psychologists.

Dr. Robert Rawdin, D.D.S. –  A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Dentistry and New York University. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Prosthodontics and currently serves as president-elect and program chair of the Northeastern Gnathological Society. He is also a clinical assistant professor at the New York University College of Dentistry.

Dr. Stephen Ross, M.D.  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the UCLA School of Medicine. He is the director of the division of alcoholism and drug abuse at Bellevue Hospital, director of the NYU Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship, and director of the Bellevue Opioid Overdose Prevention Program.

Dr. John Setaro, M.D. – A graduate of Boston University, and a resident and fellow at Yale-New Haven Hospital, as well as an associate professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Editor’s Note: While these notable physician give freely of their time, there still remains the task of supporting our troops with “more than lip service.” The needs of our brave warriors are great and SFTT looks to your contributions to help support our Investigative, Information and Intervention campaigns. As a 501(c)(3) educational foundation, we rely on the contributions of concerned Americans to help get the proper treatment to those who need it most. Contribute what you can.

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Major Ben Richards is Not Alone

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Mr. Kristof details the sad – but all too-often heard tale – of the debilitating problems of headaches, fatigue, insomnia and fainting spells that threatened to destroy his life and that of his family caused by repeated concussions while serving in Iraq.   Unfortunately, Major Richards can’t get adequate treatment to deal with the injuries he has received serving our country. More disturbing is the fact that this growing problem is rarely addressed by either candidate running for President.   As Mr. Kristof writes  “Mental health still isn’t the priority it should be. Just about every soldier or veteran I’ve talked to finds that in practice the mental health system is clogged with demands, and soldiers and veterans are falling through the cracks. Returning soldiers aren’t adequately screened, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury are still haphazard, and there hasn’t been nearly enough effort to change the warrior culture so that getting help is smart rather than sissy.”

SFTT ‘You Are Not Alone’ Intervention for Major Ben Richards

“SFTT  is responsible for linking Major Ben Richards with Dr. Paul Harch of Harch Hyperbarics in Marrero, LA.  It all started on 10 August 2012 with the NYT article by Nicholas Kristof.  When we read that Ben had been told there was no treatment for his condition, we quickly reached out to both Ben and Dr. Paul Harch, based on our  knowledge of  Dr. Harch’s success treating Vets – and Ben entered Dr. Harch’s treatment program on 23 September 2012.  Dr. Paul Harch is providing the treatment pro-bono–he is a great American.

“SFTT’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign is all about finding and resourcing alternative and more effective treatment programs for post traumatic stress and TBI.  This is an effort to collaborate with the VA, community-based programs, and alternative treatment programs like Harch Hyperbarics.

“While Ben is undergoing the two month treatment in Louisiana, his wife and four children remain in Iowa.  Ben was medically retired, so resources are tight for living expenses, rent, utilities, and airfare to bring the family back together for Thanksgiving.  The goal is to get Ben back on his feet with the hyperbaric treatment so that he can regain his life’s momentum.”

Major General John Batiste, US Army (Retired)

Editor’s Note:  More to follow from SFTT with donation protocols to support Major Ben Richards.  For those who want to help now, consider making a donation to  Stand for the Troops, a 501(c)(3) organization to support our troops.

Excerpts from Nicholas Kristof’s “War Wounds”

Found below are extended excerpts from Mr. Kristof’s article, War Wounds, and all are encouraged to read the entire article to get the full impact of how little we seem to care for our brave heroes who have served our country so valiantly and now need our help:

“While the challenges are acute for those on active duty, they often become even greater when troops take off their uniforms and become veterans seeking services from the hugely overburdened Veterans Affairs Department. Ben and Farrah have found it immensely difficult to get reliable information from the V.A. about what benefits they can count on. Richards says that in 11 phone calls, he has heard different stories every time.

“’The V.A. is an abomination,’ he said. ‘You see that hole in the wall?’ He pointed at what looked like a rat hole. ‘That’s when I threw the phone after someone at V.A. hung up on me.’

“None of this is a surprise. The V.A. says that veterans wait an average of eight months to get an initial decision on the claims they file. When service members seek to retire for medical reasons, the process takes an average of 396 days. Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, notes that the V.A. processes more claims each year than it did before, but that the number of new claims surges by an even greater amount. The upshot is that the V.A. steps up its game but still gets further behind.

“Shinseki notes some areas of progress — the number of homeless veterans seems to have fallen significantly — and he points to new systems and hiring intended to make the system function better. The number of V.A. mental health staff members has risen from 13,000 in 2005 to more than 20,000 today, he said.

“At a time when nearly half of veterans returning from battle file disability claims, it’s fair to wonder whether word hasn’t spread that service members can claim some vague mental health ailment, like post-traumatic stress disorder, and get a paycheck from the government. The V.A. approves roughly half of claims, but the difficulty of diagnosis of mental health ailments means that they may not always be the legitimate ones. We may be getting the worst of all worlds: fraudulent claims approved, while legitimate ones are unrecognized or unconscionably delayed.

“’The V.A. certainly doesn’t care,’ says Jim Strickland, who runs the V.A. Watchdog Web site. ‘The very institution that should be at the forefront of caring for vets is dead last.’ The Web site declares: ‘This country is capable of drafting you, putting you in boot camp, teaching you to kill someone, and then putting you in a war zone within six months. So why can’t they process a claim that fast?’

Editors Note:  Mr. Kristof’s article is a cry for help as countless brave veterans seek treatment for the “invisible” but no less destructive wounds of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  SFTT has assembled a distinguished panel of physicians to help evaluate alternative treatment modalities.  Your generous contributions help support SFTT’s investigative research and provide the funds to support brave heroes like Major Ben Richards.

 

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Senate Unanimously Approves National PTSD Awareness Day

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The United State Senate unanimously approved legislation authored by

QUOTE

The event is part of Senator Conrad’s continuing efforts tobring greater awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), a severe anxiety disorder often associated with having experienced the trauma of combat.

For the third year in a row the Senate passed Senator Conrad’s resolution designating June 27 as National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. The day is intended bring greater awareness about PTSD and help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”National PTSD Awareness Dayshould serve as an opportunity for all of us to listen and learn about post-traumatic stress and let all our troops — past and present — know it’s okay to come forward and ask for help,” Senator Conrad said.

The Senator is encouraging individuals and veterans’ organizations across the country to use June 27 as a day devoted to promoting greater awareness of PTSD as well as its treatment and research.

Senator Conrad developed the idea for a National PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 after learning of the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to post-traumatic stress by paying tribute to their fallen friend, Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who served in the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq.The date for National PTSD Awareness Day — June 27 — was inspired by the birthday of Staff Sgt Biel.

The Department of Defense has stated that more than 90,000 service members have been clinically diagnosed with PTSD since 2001 and the Veterans Administration (VA) has treated more than 217,000 veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq for PTSD. And many cases of PTSD remain unreported.

To learn more about post-traumatic stress and locate facilities offering assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD .

UNQUOTE

SFTT applauds Senator Conrad and his colleagues in the Senate for taking the initiative of increasing public awareness of the problems faced my many brave young men and women who suffer from PTSD.  Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that the V.A. simply lacks the resources or resolve to deal with the complexities of helping our warriors deal with PTSD.  Medication alone is not enough and thousands of brave young men are simply not getting regular and effective treatment.

SFTT is convinced that more effective and sustainable treatment and rehabilitation is likely in community-supported initiatives.  For this reason SFTT has established a medical task force to determine “best practices” in treating warriors suffering from PTSD.  The hope is that effective programs can be replicated in other communities in the United States to help there veterans reintegrate themselves into society and reclaim control over their lives.

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PTSD and the VA: A Disservice to Disabled Troops

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In an editorial opinion published in the New York Times on May 26th entitled ”

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The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have repeatedly promised to do a better job of handling the medical evaluations of wounded and disabled service members. Instead, they are doing worse.

The processing of disability cases is getting slower, not faster. Efforts to ensure a “seamless transition” out of the military are falling short. Men and women are languishing without treatment, struggling to readjust to civilian lives as they cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, drug addiction and other service-related afflictions. The system that should be producing reliable results is mired in delays and dissatisfaction.

A new report by the Government Accountability Office lays out the problem. In 2007, the two departments began combining their separate, complicated and cumbersome processes for disability evaluations into one system. The system is now in place worldwide, and officials from both departments promised the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee a year ago that it had become “more transparent, consistent and expeditious.”

But the accountability office found otherwise. It said processing times for disability cases had actually gone up — to an average of 394 days for active-duty troops and 420 days for National Guard members and reservists in 2011, well over the departments’ goals of 295 and 305 days. In fiscal year 2010, 32 percent of active-duty troops and 37 percent of Guard and Reserve troops completed evaluations and received benefits within established timelines. Last year, those figures fell to a dismal 19 percent and 18 percent.

What’s going on? The report says the causes are not fully understood, but it points to persistent staffing shortages, problems in collecting and reporting data, and differences among the service branches and between the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs Department in the way cases are diagnosed and tracked. The accountability office says it will make recommendations later this year as it sees whether promised improvements are taking hold, including a hiring push by the Army — a huge source of processing bottlenecks — and the V.A.

Senator Patty Murray, chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, deserves credit for focusing attention on these and other failings in a series of hearings, including one last Wednesday that examined the bureaucratic delays. She also used the hearing to bring up disturbing reports that doctors at an Army base in Washington State had repeatedly — and wrongly — rejected soldiers’ legitimate post-traumatic stress disorder claims.

Wounded and disabled service members should not be forced to wait endlessly without treatment or benefits while the government evaluates their injuries. Nor should they have to battle their own government for honest treatment. The evaluations should be accurate, not consistently wrong. Ms. Murray noted on Wednesday that there were about 27,000 military personnel in the system, three times the number in 2010. Many more are on the way. “Clearly, much work remains to be done,” she said. She is right. There is no excuse for more backsliding and delay.

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Enough “lip service” as Hack would say.  Let’s rollup our sleeves and help these brave heroes.

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The Tragic Cost of PTSD: Anyone Listening?

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Daily, SFTT receives disturbing reports of the tragic consequences of post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) among our brave warriors returning from the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq.   With a returning veteran committing suicide every 80 minutes, the ongoing tragedy has triggered the well-deserved attention of investigative journalists, but it still does not resonate in the corridors of power, much less public opinion. This is an unfolding tragedy of our own making and – make no mistake – we will be living with the terrible consequences of our indifference and apathy for many years to come.

In a solid piece of investigative reporting, Australian journalist Nick Lazaredes takes another look at PTSD to see if anything has changed since his initial report in 2007. Sadly, it hasn’t; and for thousands veterans, their families and loved ones, the nightmare of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq  continue to haunt our brave veterans.

SFTT reported earlier on some of the difficulties of treating veterans suffering from PTSD.  In fact, it would appear that many veterans abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with the trauma of PTSD.   The V.A., which is already swamped by veterans suffering from PTSD, does not appear to have the necessary resources to cope with the problem other than to prescribe drugs.  While these drugs may treat some of the symptoms of PTSD, most medical practitioners believe  that it rarely deals with the underlying trauma.  In short, we run the risk of having veterans suffering from PTSD becoming addicted to the very drugs that are used in treating them.

In fact, OxyContin often prescribed by the V.A. to deal with the symptoms of PTSD  has proven to be addictive and of questionable value in restoring our veterans to health.  Now, it has been known for sometime that OxyContin – which is manufactured by Purdue Pharma –  is an addictive drug often referred to as “Hillbilly Heroin” among other names.

OxyContin and other drugs of questionable therapeutic value are being administered by physicians to “treat” the symptoms of PTSD among our veterans.  While these drugs may be expedient at masking the symptoms of PTSD,  are we creating an even larger problem to rehabilitate our warriors?   Most of us at SFTT are convinced that this is a serious and growing problem.    SFTT feels strongly that our military and civilian leaders need to get in front of issue before it engulfs our ability to provide the proper treatment and care for our brave veterans.

We would like to thank Nick Lazaredes and SBS Australia for keeping this tragic story alive.

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PTSD: The Chain of Hypocrisy

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Discussing war is never an easy topic, since most people have very strong views.   Personally – and I don’t speak for SFTT on this issue – I tend to agree with Marcus Tullius Cicero who said that “An unjust peace is better than a just war.”    Now, one can read whatever they want to into that quotation, but Cicero was the ultimate politician scheming to keep his head in the Roman Senate while far more powerful political and military leaders circled like vultures.  Some may interpret this as weakness or the lack of moral fiber, but I consider Cicero to be the ultimate pragmatist.

Regardless of one’s position on the men and women have served under dangerous and very difficult conditions with remarkable courage.  In many cases, service members have had multiple rotations in a war zone where the US has had a military presence for over 10 years.

The shocking story of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians,  has caused great distress within the ranks of active duty personnel.   We reported earlier that senior military officers have tried to calm service members claiming that the situation is “under control,”  but clearly the situation is not under control.

Staff Sergeant Bales’ attorney, John Henry Browne, claims that he questions the evidence and suggests that Sgt Bales is being using as a scapegoat by the US military.  In other words, Attorney Browne may prosecute the conduct of the military in Afghanistan to defend his client.   Whether he will succeed or not is a matter of conjecture, but clearly Attorney Browne can certainly question the obvious shortcomings of the Chain of Command.

How is possible that a warrior as troubled as Staff Sergeant Bales received the “green light” for deployment?

Who in Staff Sergeant Bales immediate chain of command is accountable for his actions?  If so, what sort of disciplinary action can be expected and how far will it go up the chain of command?

Are veterans properly screened for PTSD and other ailments prior to deployment to war zones?

Who is responsible for such testing procedures and what percentage of combatants are deemed ineligible for deployment?

Of those veterans deemed ineligible for further deployments, what percentage are remanded into the care of physicians?

Did Staff Sergeant Bales receive counseling for his apparent financial problems and anger management issues?  What sort of follow-up occurred prior to his deployment?

Will any senior officer stand up and say under oath “We let this brave warrior down?”

Will any senior officer stand up and say under oath “Our screening and counseling services are defective and we are placing young men and women in situations which can be harmful to themselves and others?”

Only time will tell how the military chain of command will react as Sgt. Bales goes to trial.    Nevertheless, I doubt very seriously whether anyone in his immediate chain of command is prepared to say “I’ve got your back!” or “I’ve let you down!”      The chain of command is about responsibility – not hypocrisy!

Richard W. May

P.S.  Please let me know if you have any idea why the Washington Times pulled their article entitled:  Troops Stressed to Breaking Point

 

 

 


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PTSD and Alienation

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Daily SFTT receives gut-wrenching stories of warriors suffering from PTSD.   For many of us, it is difficult to comprehend what goes on in the minds of these veterans and, unfortunately, we are left with the bitter after-taste of the harm they are causing to themselves and their loved ones.    We would like to lend a helpful hand, but most of don’t know where to start.   This poem from Universal Blogger is one person’s attempt to explain the alienation of PTSD.

From a Blogger named Universal

I can’t sleep, can’t feel
Anything.
Time passes in chunks now —
A month passes for me
Like someone else’s day.

Zombies don’t have rhythms;
I go wherever my trance
Takes me.
Today I panic in a store,
Where danger doesn’t lurk.

Maybe if I stay awake, there
Won’t be any nightmares tonight.
But I can’t go without rest forever.
It’s over, finished. So why am I
Sweating? Why am I still afraid?

Today I saw most of my family
For the first time in a year.
Nothing felt real; everybody was a
Stranger I am supposed to know.
“Dissociation,” I think a doctor said.

No bumps, no bruises. No broken limbs.
But my mind is shattered, along with my
Soul.
I don’t know how to tell you that, don’t
Know how to put the genie back in the bottle.

When my emotions got shut off, I didn’t get to
choose which ones I wanted to keep;
They all left; they are all gone.
And it feels like there is an invisible hand
Keeping me frozen on my bed.

I used to care about how I looked, but now
All I can think about is what I saw, what I
Experienced; nothing seems to matter beyond
That. I will do anything — anything at all —
To keep from repeating that time.

I think more now, talk less. Months of numbness
Are followed by a week of depression and tears.
I am weak, frail, imperfect.
Broken.
My identity then irrevocably altered.

Do I want help, you ask.
How are you going to help me?
You weren’t there; you don’t know
What I saw, what I did.
What was done to me.

How does one ‘undo’ a scorched mind?
Deep within me a voice mumbles ‘help;’
But you’ll never hear that. All you will
See is my distant, fixed stare and my
Clenched jaw. I can’t take the chance.

How long will it be before you
Give up on me? I know it’s coming;
I’m resigned to my fate. Resigned to a
Lot of things, actually. Here, in my bunker,
In Hell.

Just remember, “You are not Alone!”  There are many who care deeply about the fate of our brave warriors who suffer from PTSD and each of us in his or her own way is trying to reach out to connect.  Give us a chance.

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PTSD: Happy Talk from the Spin Masters

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I have never believed that one becomes wiser with age, but I do believe that watching the same sitcom over and over dulls your interest for the inevitable punch line.  Our military seems to react publicly in lock-step trying to explain the shocking story of a decorated Army Staff Sergeant who allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians.  This horrific incident has caused great distress within the ranks of active duty personnel and it is quite understandable that senior officers would try to calm service members claiming that the situation is “under control.”  While their actions are to be expected, the magnitude of this tragedy cannot be underestimated but most importantlythe situation is not under control.

Earlier, SFTT reported that ‘we’re not perfect,’  but getting better.”   Gen. Rodriguez knows this not to be the case, so why the “happy talk?”

Sadly, we have seen this picture far too many times as senior officials within our military try to blind the American public (and perhaps themselves) to a serious and growing problem within the ranks of men and women who are strung out with repetitive deployments and suffering from a host of other medical and psychological ailments.   Claiming that the situation is under control and having it under control are two different situations entirely.

Witness this incredible article entitled “Opinion: Soldier accused of shooting rampage:  Not PTSD alone”  in which a former Army doctor, Dr. Harry Croft asserts that there were other contributing factors that caused a decorated Army Staff Sergeant to murder 16 Afghan civilians.  Now I do not wish to question Dr. Croft’s credentials, but for him to assert that there were “other contributing factors” is akin to saying that if the Staff Sergeant hadn’t been carrying a loaded weapon while on guard duty, this situation wouldn’t have happened.   Maybe he was bullied in elementary school as a child or reacted negatively to a soft drink.  Indeed, there are any number of contributing factors which could have triggered this event, but I doubt very seriously whether anyone in the chain of command will step up and say I made a terrible mistake redeploying this troubled young man a fourth time to Afghanistan.

More frightening is the implication by Dr. Croft that PTSD alone is not responsible for his erratic behavior.  On the basis of 7,000 patients he claims to have treated, not one of them murdered 16 civilians.   Boy, that is a relief!  What Dr. Croft is asking us to believe  is that there were other more compelling reasons which caused this Staff Sergeant to go on this murderous rampage.   By engaging in this “happy talk” masquerading as clinical experience, Dr. Croft is essentially laying out the position that PTSD cannot be used as an excuse or primary reason for criminal behavior.

Many have long suspected that senior officials within our military are not fully convinced of the deadly consequences of PTSD if left untreated.   Dr. Croft has deftly contributed to reinforce their position. I trust he did so unwittingly, since the lives of many other brave warriors hang in the balance until we come to grips with the problems of properly treating PTSD.

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PTSD: The Emperor has no clothes

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My dad, a retired Air Force officer, used to tell me as a kid that “If you don’t have anything smart to say, keep your mouth shut.”  Now I don’t always follow this advice, but I do think that society would be better served if we kept disingenuous chatter to a minimum.  Sadly, it would seem that our leaders – both civilian and in the military – are unable to keep their mouths shut when they have little to contribute to intelligent debate.  The TV show that comes to mind is “Lie to Me.”

In a stupefying assertion that is either delusional or simply a lie, Gen. David M. Rodriguez the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, reportedly said that “he’s confident in the Army’s ability to screen and treat these signature medical conditions (“PTSD” and “TBI”) from the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan – ‘we’re not perfect,’  but getting better.”

Gen. Rodriguez also stated that “Lewis-McChord is similar to other U.S. military bases in the proportion of soldiers who have seen heavy combat, served on multiple deployments and suffered conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Nevertheless, he failed to have comparative numbers readily available.  As the video clip below suggests, he asserts that those on the base should not be concerned about their safety.

Now I have no idea if Lewis-McChord has a higher incidence of “problems” than other bases in the US, but apparently neither does Gen. Rodriguez.  Why engage in meaningless “happy talk” when most everyone realizes we have a problem of  epidemic proportions of young men and women suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD?

The tragedy is not that 1 in 5 brave warriors suffers from PTSD, but the silly assertion by Gen. Rodriguez that he’s “confident in the Army’s ability to screen and treat these signature medical conditions (“PTSD” and “TBI”).”   I am sorry Gen. Rodriguez, but you must have been one of the mindless sycophants standing on the sideline applauding a naked Emperor if you believe that spin text.

Stand for the Troops (“SFTT”) knows of no competent authority that believes that we are anywhere close to being able to effectively treat PTSD on a large scale.  As long as our military leaders remain in denial, our brave service members will not receive the treatment they deserve.  Effective leadership is saying, “Houston, we have a problem!”

The tragic massacre in Afghanistan is a wake-up call to take action.  Let’s not sweep it under the rug and let thousands of brave warriors continue to deal with the debilitating effects of PTSD on their own.   The choice is rather simple:  Deal with causes now or deal with the tragic effects later.   It’s a huge task, but it should start with a small child along the parade route saying in a loud voice, “The Emperor has no clothes.”

Richard W. May

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PTSD: A Question of Diagnosis

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The recent decision by the US Army to sack PTSD screeners at the Madigan Army Medical Center for questionable diagnoses raises more questions that it actually answers.

As reported by Hal Benton in the Seattle Times, “the Army Medical Command has identified some 285 Madigan Army Medical Center patients whose diagnoses of they went through a screening process for possible medical retirements, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.”

The issue here is not to determine whether there has been any conspiracy to defraud military personnel suffering from PTSD of their rightful medical benefits, but to illustrate the complexity in dealing PTSD fairly and, in a manner, that addresses a critical and growing problem among our military veterans.

Investigations into “conspiracy theories” occupies a lot of political energy that would best be directed at helping veterans suffering from PTSD fit back into our American way of life we all take for granted.

Certainly, a “conspiracy” to withhold rightful benefits is too distasteful to consider.  Equally difficult to contemplate is the concern within the medical community that the VA and other medical centers do not have the necessary tools or resources  to diagnose PTSD, much less treat it.   In fact, there is great concern that – given limited budgets and experienced medical practitioners and focused programs to treat PTSD – we are simply over-medicating our veterans and not really treating the core problem.

If true, then this is certainly a far greater conspiracy than the disciplinary action taken at the Madigan Army Military Center.   SFTT does not question the integrity or the intent of those who deal with patients suffering from PTSD.  This widespread and disabling disorder has grave consequences to those afflicted with PTSD, their loved ones and our communities.    Military and political leaders are acutely aware of the problem, but we seem to lack focus and resolve in providing our brave warriors with the necessary long-term treatment needed to give them hope.

 

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