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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Opioids May Not Be Good for Treating PTSD. Really?

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If the devastating implications weren’t so gut-wrenching, many of us would be rolling in the aisles with laughter.   Unfortunately, Karen Seal of the San Francisco VA Medical Center has sadly concluded that “the use of opiate pain medications in those patients (veterans suffering from PTSD) is, frankly, risky.”  According the Austin Statesman, “a growing body of research shows that PTSD and powerful prescription drugs can be a deadly mix.

“Six months ago, a study of 141,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts concluded that combining prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone with PTSD was like pouring kerosene on a fire: Those with mental health diagnosis were nearly three times more likely to be prescribed opiates than veterans without PTSD. Worse, they were also much more likely to have poor outcomes, including overdoses.”

Almost anyone with half-a-wit could have reached the same conclusion several years ago.  In fact, SFTT has reported on many occasions that the prescription of opiates to those with PTDS symptoms has certainly exacerbated problems for veterans and may have turned these troubled warriors into junkies.  Why?   Institutional barricades have been erected to protect those complicit in providing improper treatment to tens of thousands veterans who certainly deserve better care.   Why should anybody be surprised that the government is now throwing another $100 million to help better diagnose PTSD.   Can we expect a better outcome?  If you think so, then you probably believe in the tooth fairly.

What about the 2006 study reported by the Austin Statesman quoting University of Washington pain researcher Mark Sullivan who wrote that the: “Use and abuse of opioids appears to be common in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.”   Wouldn’t it have been wiser to throw $100 million at alternative treatments for PTSD than for the VA and Defense Department to pretend they are  now doing something “right” because the pharmaceutical lobby was calling the shots all along.

I don’t mean to be cynical, but drugs are big business and the pharmaceutical companies that provide expensive, addictive and dangerous drugs have a vested interested in keeping the public and their Beltway puppets in the dark on the long term effects of these powerful drugs.  Who suffers?  The taxpayer and the brave young men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country.

If you want your voice to be heard, consider adding your voice to SFTT and help get our veterans the treatment they deserve.

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Henry Grayson: Alternative Approach to Treating PTSD

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In a revolutionary but very down-to-earth book entitled Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body, Dr. Henry Grayson, the founder of the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City, provides a “recipe” for wellness that focuses on practical concepts and techniques for using one’s mind to relieve stress, tension and, even cure disease.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, author of Seven Minutes to Natural Pain Relief writes:

“In this book, Dr. Grayson presents a radical view of health and healing based on an equally radical world view that we are all intrinsically connected rather than separate and that our belief in our separateness is a causal source of emotional and physical illness. Positing the body as the recipient of our beliefs, he shows that reading and responding to the body is a reliable path to emotional and physical healing. This is a challenging read with practical help for all willing to explore beyond the borders of traditional beliefs.”

Dr. Grayson is co-chairman of SFTT’s Medical Task Force and has provided several day-long training programs to care-givers and clinical psychologists  dealing with veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (“PTS”).  SFTT and others have reported at length that medication alone is not sufficient to deal with a problem that is approaching epidemic proportions.  OxyContin may have been the drug of choice for the VA, but it had serious consequences for veterans where the issues run far deeper that masking the symptoms with over medication.   In fact, Dr. Grayson points out the added complications of prescribing anti-depressants.

Dr. Grayson was a Protestant minister before receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University and post-doctoral certification in psychoanalysis from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. In working with troubled veterans, it has become abundantly clear that there is no “silver bullet” or single therapy to treat veterans suffering the effects of repetitive deployments on hostile battlefields. While Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body is applicable to help people of all walks of life cope with depression and serious ailments, it also provides a blueprint of how alternative treatments applied in a constructive manner can help address some of the problems faced by returning veterans.

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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 ”

QUOTE

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.

UNQUOTE

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

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Military Veterans with PTSD: A Failure of Leadership

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In the wake of a scathing report by the Inspector General which found fault with how quickly the Veterans Administration responds to the needs of veterans seeking mental-heath care, comes the inevitable hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth regarding how poorly we as a society treat our veterans.

While it is far easier to point fingers at the VA than propose meaningful solutions, it is evident that we have a serious and growing problem on our hands.  SFTT has reported earlier that government statistics suggest that

The question should not be limited to how quickly the VA responds to requests by veterans seeking mental-health care, but an overall evaluation of the effectiveness of the health-care or therapy that veterans actually receive from the VA.   Just because the VA is able to respond to a request for service within 24 hours is useful information, but shouldn’t the effectiveness of short and medium-term therapy and an evaluation of the overall rehabilitation of our veterans be the focus of any meaningful inquiry.

The magnitude of this problem in caring for veterans extends far beyond the treatment of PTSD as these statistics from John Kuhn, Acting National Directory, Supportive Services for Veteran Families (“SSVF”), suggests:

While many good-intentioned people are well aware of the problems facing our veterans and many studies have been funded to develop solutions, it is evident that the complexity of dealing with these issues has overwhelmed the capabilities of our institutional care-providers.  Yesterday, I attended a discussion hosted by the New York State Health Foundation on some of the challenges faced in providing “Community-Based Services for Veterans and Their Families.”

This fascinating discussion brought together care-providers and charitable organizations to determine how best to provide meaningful and effective services to our veterans.   The presentations and subsequent discussion suggested that there is no clear unanimity of how best to deal with the “well-being” issues faced by veterans, but that a community-based response seemed to offer the best prospects for success.    The Rochester Veterans Outreach Center was cited as an example of what can be done to mobilize local resources to help provide a community-based support structure for returning veterans.  Indeed, many other towns and cities appear to be feeling their way to develop similar programs within their own communities.

The key catalyst for change is leadership within the community to address the needs of veterans.  Those communities which appear to have the most resilient programs are those that recognized both the unique capabilities and needs of veterans and began the lengthy process of integrating the various local services, care-givers and donors to provide veterans with social services, education and employment possibilities that would probably have been overlooked in a “top-down one-size-fits-all” federally-mandated and managed program.

Clearly, essential and varied services provided by community-based and community-supported organizations seem to offer veterans and families a milieu of  services that can be tailored to the needs and aspirations of each veteran.  Unfortunately, these organizations often lack the visibility and/or capabilities to attract funding to support their initiatives.  Furthermore, there is little in place to benchmark performance and provide a meaningful framework to replicate successful programs for other communities.

Sharing success stories and evaluating available community-based services is essential to develop a framework to guide civic organizations and funding entities to support programs that have a reasonable chance of being successful.  For its part, SFTT and its newly created medical task force can help community leaders to develop programs that can attract the necessary resources to help change the lives of our brave veterans.

We are hopeful that community leaders will emerge and bootstrap similar programs to the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester.   The needs of our veterans are both varied and great and can be best met with inspired and dedicated local leadership supported by our Federal and State government institutions and charitable foundations.

Richard W. May

 

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Are Opioid Prescriptions the Right Answer for treating PTSD?

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In a series of alarming reports, the V.A. and medical profession are beginning to wonder if treating PTSD with Opioid prescription drugs is the right course of action.   Referring to V.A. records, U.S. Medicine reports that “more than 141,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with non-cancer pain. The prevalence of PTSD among that group is 32%, with 19% diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders.”

Of this group, “11% have been prescribed

U.S. Medicine goes on to report that “veterans with PTSD also were more likely to take higher opioid doses (22.7% vs. 15.9%), two or more opioids (19.8% vs. 10.7%) and concomitant sedative-hypnotic drugs (40.7% vs. 7.6%). Receiving prescription opioids was associated with adverse clinical outcomes for all veterans, but adverse effects were most pronounced in veterans with PTSD. Those outcomes included general wounds and injuries, accidents and overdoses, violent injuries and suicide attempts. While previous studies have shown that prescription opioids are more often prescribed for patients with psychiatric disorders, this trend was even more pronounced when the patient was diagnosed with PTSD.”

Lead author Karen Seal  of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the medication prescribed to veterans believes that the study results are troubling. ”The message to me is to keep redoubling our efforts to really have conversations with patients about these risks, and really provide them alternatives to just taking Vicodin or oxycodone or morphine, which has become very, very common in our society.”

It is becoming clear that our military leaders are now beginning to realize that these addictive drugs may, in fact, exacerbate the problems associated with PTSD rather than treat them.   In fact,  Bob Brewin of Veterans for Common Sense reports that  “the Army Surgeon General’s office is backing away from its long-standing endorsement of prescribing troops multiple highly addictive psychotropic drugs for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and early this month warned regional medical commanders against using tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium to treat PTSD.

“An  Valium, could intensify rather than reduce combat stress symptoms and lead to addiction.

“The memo, signed by Herbert Coley, civilian chief of staff of the Army Medical Command, also cautioned service clinicians against prescribing second-generation antipsychotic drugs, such as Seroquel and Risperidone, to combat PTSD. The drugs originally were developed to treat severe mental conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The memo questioned the efficacy of this drug class in PTSD treatment and cautioned against their use due to potential long-term health effects, which include heart disorders, muscle spasms and weight gain.”

This greater awareness of the risk of prescribed opioids only confirms indications that SFTT has received from its sources “upwards of 80% of veterans suffering from PTSD also have an addiction problem.”     These new revelations are truly frightening and place a far greater sense of urgency in treating PTSD properly unless we plan on turning our brave veterans into addicts rather than cure them.

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Treating Warriors with PTSD

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Last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting Warriors Salute in Rochester, NY which has an innovative and expanding program to treat veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from PTSD.   I was fortunate to attend a training seminar hosted by Dr. Henry Grayson, Ph. D., for the clinical staff of Warriors Salute.  Dr. Grayson is the eminent psychologist who founded and directed the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City and the author of Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind.    He is also a founding member of SFTT’s Medical Task Force to help address the large and growing problem of veterans suffering from PTSD.

While SFTT will report more on Dr. Grayson’s innovative approach to treating trauma, it is evident that there is no “magic bullet” to deal with the tragic consequences of veterans suffering from PTSD.  With at least 1 in 5 veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD, the ongoing cost to our society is enormous.   Unfortunately, our military court system and the V.A. are structured in such a way that many veterans suffering from PTSD may be effectively deprived of proper treatment.

In a far-reaching report summarized by Howard Altman of the Tampa Tribune, Major Evan R. Seamone, a member of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, argues that “courts-martial function as problem-generating courts when they result in punitive discharges that preclude mentally ill offenders from obtaining Veterans Affairs treatment. Such practices create a class of individuals whose untreated conditions endanger public safety and the veteran as they grow worse over time.”     In fact, Major Seamone’s 212 page report for the Military Law Journal may be accessed by clicking on this hyperlink:   The Military Court system and PTSD.

Major Seamone’s observations are clearly “on-target” when it comes to dealing with veterans suffering from PTSD.  Many – if not most – veterans who suffer from PTSD also have a substance abuse problem.   In fact, one experienced addiction specialist suggested that “upwards of 80% of veterans suffering from PTSD also have an addiction problem.”   Unfortunately, the V.A. and our military courts tend to address PTSD and substance abuse as separate issues thereby depriving large numbers of veterans with the comprehensive treatment they deserve.   Sadly, substance abuse is a common opiate for those that suffer from combat-related trauma.

Since the mid-1990, the US judicial system has recognized the need to deal with drug-related criminal activity and have established some 2,600 Drug Treatment Courts in the United States.  Drug treatment courts are specialized community courts designed to help stop the abuse of drugs, alcohol, and related criminal activity. Non-violent offenders who have been charged with simple possession of drugs are given the option to receive treatment instead of a jail sentence.   These programs have proven to be remarkably successful for reducing the level of recidivism in our prison system.

Capitalizing on the infrastructure and success of the Drug Treatment Courts, some 50 or so Veteran Courts have sprung up across the United States to deal with veterans who have committed a crime while suffering from substance abuse.  In many cases, these troubled vets have the support of other Vets (often from the Vietnam era) who “mentor” their military colleagues through the rehabilitation process.   Judge John Schwartz,  one of the early pioneers in the Vet Court system, said that “We offer hope to these troubled veterans who have served our country so valiantly.  It’s simply common sense.”

When communities reach out to help these brave warriors, our society is enriched. From our perspective, it’s simply a matter of doing the right thing!  We owe these brave young men and women big time!

Richard W. May

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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: 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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