Veterans with PTSD and the VA

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In today’s New York Times, there was an editorial written by Nate Bethea, an Army Infantry Officer from 2007 to 2014, entitled “Sarah Palin, This is What PTSD is All About.”  (Editor’s Note: Actually, the original NYT’s article was “The Truth About PTSD,” but presumably the spin-masters at the New York Times felt that by channeling Sarah Palin they would attract more readers).

Ms. Palin raised more than a few eyebrows recently during a rally speech for Donald Trump when she invoked her son Track’s problems in a domestic violence case that she attributes to PTSD. Mr. Bethea takes exception with Ms. Palin’s position:

Mrs. Palin seemed to suggest that the policies of President Obama had somehow worsened her son’s condition. And by explaining away domestic violence as the “ramifications of PTSD,” she intimated that her son’s actions are logical consequences of what he experienced while deployed. This is, of course, a disingenuous argument from a career opportunist. However, in a roundabout way, Mrs. Palin reignited a valuable discussion of combat and its psychological effects. Her portrayal of her son’s condition seems aligned with enduring renditions of veterans as ticking time bombs, as damaged beings primed to harm.

In fact, Mr. Bethea argues that he has has benefitted from the Department of Veterans Affairs program which provided him disability coverage for “mental health care:”

In what I decided would be my final year in the military, I sought out mental health care. I received a PTSD diagnosis in June 2013 and left the military a year later; in 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs rated me at 60 percent disability. I will have access to at least some kind of mental health care for the rest of my life, for which I am immensely grateful. Many veterans who did not seek care before leaving the military (or who were expelled from it) do not have this privilege.

While Mr. Bethea’s “Opinion” is no doubt genuine and heart-felt, I keep wondering if it is more genuine than Ms. Palin’s clearly staged political posturing.

Whether it is Ms. Palin’s son Track or Mr. Bethea’s mental health issues, PTSD is a very serious problem that affects tens of thousands of military Veterans and countless civilians who have been subjected to some form of traumatic event and/or brain injury. Personally, I believe it wrong to trivialize or politicize PTSD or TBI since it deprives many suffering Veterans and civilians of the much needed therapy and answers to their own personal demons.

Frankly, I wish Mr. Bethea had not written this article since he is arguing that his way of dealing with PTSD – and the support he received from the VA – is better than the how Ms. Palin’s son Track dealt with his problems. In fact, many Veterans refuse to seek treatment for brain-related trauma because they feel it makes them look “less of a warrior” to colleagues serving on the front line. It is this type of attitude which deprives Veterans – and active duty personnel – of the support and therapy they need to deal with this serious problem.

Thumbs Down for Ms. Palin and Nate Bethea on PTSD

Many Veterans interviewed by Stand for the Troops (“SFTT”) will argue that the treatment they receive at the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) is shameful and in many cases detrimental to their ability to reclaim their lives.  A cocktail of prescription pharmaceuticals is not the solution to treating Veterans with PTSD.  Nevertheless, the VA dogmatically insists that they have the “right” answers for helping Veterans.  If so, how can one explain the 22 Veteran suicides that occur each day?

While Mr. Bethea may collect his “disability” check each month from the VA and joyfully broadcast his ability to cope with PTSD, others like Maj. Ben Richards are doing something to reclaim their lives.

Who would you rather be?  I know that most Veterans would trade their disability check in a minute to reclaim their life.  Wouldn’t you?

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