Newspaper Editorial: Overblown? VA Secretary James Peake Should Think Twice About Stigmatizing PTSD

Anchorage Daily News (Alaska)

My 30, 2008 – Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake suggested during a visit to Quinhagak that concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, are overblown.

He likened some of the head injuries to nothing more than any high school football player may have suffered when he got his bell rung during a game.

According to research published in the Journal of Athletic Training, from 1984 to 1999, 69 football players died of catastrophic head injuries, 63 in high school, six in college.

The point here is that likening the shock of an IED or the concussive blast of a car bomb to a football injury both trivializes the hazards of battle and ignores the hazards of football.

The brain doesn’t care if it’s rattled by a vicious hit on a pass route over the middle or a homemade bomb in Baghdad. Both can be deadly or disabling. Or not.

But the point that Secretary Peake should be making is that any combat vet experiencing any problems that might be related to a head injury should be checked out. Let’s be sure there’s no lasting damage. If there’s not, fine. If there is, let’s start treating it — and make sure prompt treatment is there for any vet who seeks it.

Let’s be clear: Most of the 1.6 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are not suffering from PTSD or TBI. But a Rand Corp. survey suggests that several hundred thousand may be.

Overblown? Not to any vet who’s dealing with either PTSD or TBI. The VA chief needs to be a bell-clear advocate for those men or women.

BOTTOM LINE: James Peake should be urging vets to get checked out, not suggesting a concussion can be shrugged off.

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