June 6, 2008 – After the Vietnam War it took some veterans decades to get their PTSD acknowledged and treated.
Medication, therapy and even religion can all help, but it’s a lifetime condition. The memories last a lifetime.
Many Vietnam-era veterans are now going through flashbacks, as Iraq War veterans come home to a VA they say is indifferent to their condition.
Both advocates and some VA employees are actively seeking evidence of that indifference, and this was one smoking gun they presented to Congress this week.
It’s an e-mail from Norma Perez, who coordinates a clinical team on PTSD for the VA in Texas, which advocates say suggests holding back on the diagnosis in order to save money.
Perez testified to Congress it was no such thing. But according to an account of the hearing in Stars & Stripes some Senators were hearing none of it.
“I’m very frustrated by the fact that whether I’m asking about veterans’ suicides or construction of a new clinic, the answer from the players at the VA bureaucracy seems to be the same: ‘It’s no big deal,’ ” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. “It’s a big deal to me.”
It’s a big deal to many VietVets as well, who seem dedicated to making sure they treat current veterans better than they say they were treated by the World War II veterans of 30 years ago.
One such veteran recently wrote me about that:
I would say that that if I had been given a full rating to begin with and some added educational/retraining benefits early on I would have been able to get away from the VA compensation. I would have even been able to put the retraining benefits into getting meaningful employment and the therapy would have helped me cope with the problems of keeping it all together.
However because of the VA’s and the government’s denial of the need for help for so many years the Combat Related-PTSD became more hardwired and the chances of me getting meaningful employment and keeping it together became less. Hence, VA disability became equivalent to retirement.
That’s what is at stake now. The sooner PTSD is dealt with, the more likely veterans will have a meaningful life post-service. The more treatment is delayed, the more VA disability becomes retirement.
It will cost a lot less in the long run to deal with PTSD now than later. Less to the heroes, less to society, and less to the government.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.