This is big news- the front page. Here is the link http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
I diaried this story a month or so ago. http://www.dailykos.com/...
and ilona has been diarying the issues of PTSD of returning Afghanistan and Iraq vets as well.
A total of 215,871 veterans received PTSD benefit payments last year at a cost of $4.3 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 1999 -- a jump of more than 150 percent.
Here is the twist: most of the increase is coming not from Iraq/Afghanistan vets but from Vietnam era vets. Why are they concerned? Its the money, honey. More on the flip.
Yes there is a budget deficit and someone has to sacrifice. So why not our vets?
Facing a budget crunch, experts within and outside the Veterans Affairs Department are raising concerns about fraudulent claims, wondering whether the structure of government benefits discourages healing, and even questioning the utility and objectivity of the diagnosis itself.
"On the one hand, it is good that people are reaching out for help," said Jeff Schrade, communications director for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "At the same time, as more people reach out for help, it squeezes the budget further."
I know a little about this personally, since my spouse is a vets counselor and a Vietnam combat vet. More vets come in as they get older and struggle with the problems- debilitating nightmares and sleep problems. My husband rarely sleeps through the night and hasn't in years. He still has nightmares and some flashbacks. The Rambo image of crazy guy seeking violence is so wrong that it kept him from recognizing the problems. And finally, the last three years of working with other vets with PTSD has also affected him.
His work over the last three years has been some of the most meaningful in his life. It probably saved his life, since he was diagnosed with type II diabetes during his intake physical (blood sugar >400) and had good VA benefits during his "little bout with lymphoma" two years ago. Both of those conditions were related to his experience in Vietnam with Agent Orange as well as the lifetime dose of chloracne on his back. So, the number of vets with those problems is also increasing as they age.
So the take home lesson is, if you get help and come in for counseling and it is effective, they may want to cut your disability compensation.
Congressman Buyer of the House was interviewd recently in a story by Larry Buyers at VA Watchdog Dot Org. http://www.vawatchdog.org/...
What VA benefits stand to be cut back or eliminated? This question was asked of Rep. Buyer and he said, "I think everything should be on the table."
Buyer believes that current VA benefits were not the "intent of Congress" and feels that Congress went too far in passing legislation that authorizes current benefits and benefit levels.
Rep. Buyer has also said that the VA should serve a "core constituency" of "disabled and indigent veterans." What about the remaining millions of veterans? This clear majority of veterans are those who stand to lose if Buyer's recommendations become legislation.
Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, head of the Vets committee, has pushed through a redefinition of PTSD and benefits with the Institute of Medicine, which is a branch of the National Academy of Science. The folks at http://www.nap.edu have published several other informative studies on PTSD which are fully text searchable on-line and excellent resources. They may do a great job and ultimately come out recognizing the real issues. But the problem is the compensation for the vets, not providing them with counseling.
Chris Frueh, director of the VA clinic in Charleston, S.C., said the department's disability system encourages some veterans to exaggerate symptoms and prolong problems in order to maintain eligibility for benefits.
"We have young men and women coming back from Iraq who are having PTSD and getting the message that this is a disorder they can't be treated for, and they will have to be on disability for the rest of their lives," said Frueh, a professor of public psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. "My concern about the policies is that they create perverse incentives to stay ill. It is very tough to get better when you are trying to demonstrate how ill you are."
Shorter VA: get over it you malingerers. And also, you welfare seekers.
Yes, this is all about the VA not wanting to give disability compensation to vets who are suffering from mental illness as a result of their service in Vietnam and other wars. Conservative groups are trying to link these services to welfare, and point the fraud finger because they see different VA regions give different levels of 100% compensation. There was a big fraud review planned but political protest has made the VA back off in the last month or so.
PTSD experts summoned to Philadelphia for the two-day internal "expert panel" meeting were asked to discuss "evidence regarding validity, reliability, and feasibility" of the department's PTSD assessment and treatment practices, according to an e-mail invitation obtained by The Washington Post. The goal, the e-mail added, is "to improve clinical exams used to help determine benefit payments for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder."
There is a diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disease (DSM III) that defines PTSD pretty clearly, but this wasn't part of the issue.
"What they are trying to do is figure out a way not to diagnose vets with PTSD," said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, a veterans advocacy group. "It's like telling a patient with cancer, 'if we tell you, you don't have cancer, then you won't suffer from cancer.' "
In other words, we can cure your PTSD and get you off welfare if only we get the most modern help from psychologists.
Except lots of people with PTSD don't seek treatment for over 35 years. Like my husband. And 35 years of failing to reat a problem doesn't make it easier to treat. One of his clients told my spouse while he had the lymphoma and was bald from the chemo, that he was lucky, because people would really believe he was sick and offer him some sympathy for his suffering. I should add, for many this is not the only issue- they have some other physical wound as well as PTSD. Imagine you have a debilitating mental illness and now you are considered to be a faker and a greedy parasite on the government. These clients will not react well to this story.
There is a cost to war. We ask people to serve and then we promise to support them after their service. This administration wants a take-back.
One of the other PTSD tagged stories I reviewed http://www.dailykos.com/... commented that their story should be printed up and stuck under everyone's remaining ribbon magnets.