T Nation

Let's Support Our Troops, or Not!


#1

All the talk about supporting your troops and then you come across something like this. Obviously the author is not a fan of the current administration, but it does not change what is being done by the VA.

http://www.counterbias.com/437.html

Veterans Affairs Seeks to Punish Iraq War Vets

October 18 2005
Counterbias.com
Gene C. Gerard

The Veterans Affairs Department is currently reviewing approximately one-third of the cases of veterans who are receiving disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After conducting an internal study, the VA believes that they were too lenient in deciding which soldiers were eligible for PTSD benefits. Last year, the VA spent $4.3 billion on PTSD disability payments and the VA hopes to reduce these payments by revoking PTSD benefits for many veterans. This will be the final insult to soldiers who were asked to fight a war in Iraq on false premises.

Owing to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of veterans receiving compensation for PTSD has increased by almost 80 percent in the last five years. By comparison, the number of veterans receiving compensation for all other types of disabilities only increased by 12 percent. Under the guidelines of the current review, soldiers who cannot prove that a specific incident, known as a ?stressor,? was sufficient to cause PTSD, their benefits will be revoked. Given the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, it?s not surprising that many returning soldiers are suffering from mental illness.

In the July 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., the chief of psychiatry at Walter Reed Army Institute, published a preliminary study of the effects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan on military personnel. The study concluded that close to 20 percent of soldiers who served in Iraq, and approximately 12 percent of those who served in Afghanistan returned home suffering from PTSD. The study found that there is a clear correlation between combat experience and the prevalence of PTSD. The study determined that, ?Rates of PTSD were significantly higher after combat duty in Iraq.?

Approximately 86 percent of soldiers in Iraq were involved in combat, as were 31 percent in Afghanistan. On average, soldiers engaged in two firefights for each tour of duty.

The study indicated that 95 percent of soldiers had been shot at. And 56 percent of soldiers had killed an enemy combatant. An estimated 28 percent were directly responsible for the death of a civilian. Equally grim, 94 percent had seen or handled corpses or bodily remains. Additionally, 68 percent witnessed fellow soldiers being killed or seriously wounded.

Although the number of soldiers suffering from PTSD is high, Dr. Hoge?s study found that a majority of veterans are not seeking treatment. Only 40 percent of returning soldiers acknowledged that they need mental health care, and only 26 percent were actually receiving care. As such, the number of veterans approved for PTSD compensation by the VA is relatively small. Yet the VA believes that too many soldiers were approved for PTSD disability compensation and is now seeking to deny soldiers this benefit.

The lack of pre-war intelligence also likely contributed to a rise in PTSD disability claims. Studies of the Vietnam War have indicated that when soldiers can?t anticipate the nature and intensity of warfare that they ultimately encounter they are psychologically unprepared, leading to PTSD in many instances. During the early phase of the war in Iraq, many soldiers were almost certainly unprepared for what they encountered.

The Bush administration initially indicated that the war would be quick and easy. Vice President Cheney, only a few days after the invasion of Iraq, infamously stated that soldiers ??will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.? Ahmed Chalabi, a close advisor to the Bush administration prior to and immediately following the invasion said, ?American troops will be greeted with flowers and candy? by the Iraqi people, and the administration repeated this many times. President Bush flew onto a U.S. aircraft carrier in May 2003 and, while standing beneath a banner proclaiming ?Mission Accomplished,? announced that major combat operations had ended.

It?s easy to understand why the VA has seen an increase in soldiers seeking benefits due to post-traumatic stress disorder. What?s difficult to comprehend is why the very agency responsible for meeting the needs of our veterans is now turning its back on them. Perhaps it?s attributable to money. The Bush administration may be seeking to reduce compensation to soldiers for PTSD so that more money can be diverted to the on-going war in Iraq.

Or, perhaps this is simply a public relations issue. The effort to revoke PTSD benefits may be an attempt to assert that the war has not been that devastating. What is certain is that the very people asked to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, for the nation are now being punished for doing so.


#2

good post, man...i'm leaving...well, tommorrow. i'll let y'all know the deal when i get back...


#3

Alot of the troops that go over there and come back are afraid to go to mental health and get treated for anything because they are afraid it would be career ending.

I know I had a few issues to workout but my wife helped me with thouse.

Now it is sad that they are trying to deny the troops this. I know alot of guy on our fire team that had to go home because of it. And now the guys probably wont get to reenlist.

Its hard to transition from being shot at or mortared everyday. To being home with your family for some people. When you deal with the stess on the level of what it is like over there on a day to day basis it just adds up for people and then you get home and its just all suppost to go away. I dont think so.

Hell, Ive been back for 3M now and I still jump and get ready to take cover if I hear a door slam or a really loud noise.

This stuff doesnt go away overnight. And if these troops need help getting over it then that is what they should get. They shouldnt be denied anything.

Goku


#4

This is one of the reasons that soldiers need to join a veterans group when they get back. It amazes me that the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion are having trouble recruiting.....when their whole reason for existance is to protect veterans benifits.


#5

Well I am obviously biased but I think veterans, particularly combat troops, ought to be given whatever it takes to help them. It's our responsibilty for their sacrafice.

My combat experience was very short, like all Desert Strom vets, but intense. Putting your life at risk, and taking the lives of others will change you in ways that are diffcult to describe. Hard to deal with until you have done it. If I didn't have my family and friends it would have been a lot tougher. My dad saw a hell of a lot more and gave me a lot of good advice.

Goku, hang in there, 3 months is not a lot of time to purge it from your mind. Every day it gets better.

I'll second the adviuce of SJ. Joining a VFW post and talking with a few vets from WWII and Vietnam made me realize how much tougher some guys had it then me. For some reason it made it easier to put it all behind.


#6

Hedo,

I am happy to agree with you 100% on this issue.

People are giving up jobs, time with families, missing the birth of their children, being exposed to shit nobody should have deal with and risking life and limb.

If they come back with so much as a stubbed toe, they deserve whatever the hell they need to put things right. I think most people would be willing to pay taxes for this cause... as I know I would for Canadian soliders returning from Afghanistan.

When people are asked to risk making the ultimate sacrifice, it is only right that those they protected come to their aid after they return.

I know I'm not American, but most of you out there reading this are. Whether or not you agree with the reason for any particular war, get in touch with your political representatives and raise bloody hell about this, please. This is NOT an appropriate area to get overly sensitive about costs.

Vets have my respect.


#7

Vroom

Holy Shit we agree on something....must be that full moon!

Just kidding :slightly_smiling:


#8

Remember, Gulf War Syndrome and the screwin they gave those guys???


#9

I think veterans should definitely receive help from the VA when they have problems -- especially problems contracted in service.

However, this article is poorly reasoned -- at least from the info it gives. It says that the VA did a study and concluded that it was essentially over-diagnosing PTSD. Hopefully that was something independent of the number of people treated, and focused on the symptoms and causation and actual diagnoses. I would like to know more about the study and how they came to that conclusion before I pile on to the criticism - it may have been flawed, but to assume so without any investigation assumes too much.

Also, look at the NEJM study cited in the article. It says 20% of the Iraq vets adn 12% of the Afghanistan vets suffer from PTSD. The article then states that 26% of returning soldiers are getting mental health treatments (the article doesn't specify whether the 26% getting treatment or the 40% who self-diagnose as needing treatment have PTSD, but we'll assume so to give the article the benefit of the doubt). No matter how the relative numbers stack up between Iraq vets and Afghanistan vets, you would NOT get a number bigger than 20%, the bigger of the two percentages.

After the poor reasoning/math, the article is just political criticism unrelated to its poorly reasoned claims.