Apr 15, 2014

PTSD: Another Political and Media Hype

In World War I it was called Shell Shock and was identified and addressed better than previous wars in the history of wars. That term continued throughout World War II and then Korean War.
Today, it is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD as an acronym. Simply it is when a person cannot deal with what they experienced and/or what they saw.
While it is important to identify and address various levels of the problem of dealing with the stress of combat, the media, and some politicians, have made it appear that combat veterans are dangerous. The worse part of that scenario is that the people who operate our government, who send our men and women into combat are the ones who are encouraging this stereotype. In addition, it is not helping the troops who are sent somewhere in combat, because generally, human nature is to take the easiest route instead of dealing with the stress like so many veterans before them have done. It is true that we all have our level of what we can take mentally, and physically; and is why one cannot know how well one could do under conditions like being a prisoner of war, for example. The symptoms of PTSD does not occur just in the military or with veterans, civilians can fall prey to those symptoms as well.
Nicholas Kristof, pundit for New York Times, stated:
One-quarter of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, including depression, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder and more, according to the National Institutes of Health. … A parent with depression. A lover who is bipolar. A child with an eating disorder. A brother who returned from war with P.T.S.D. A sister who is suicidal.
Unfortunately, too many are making temporary depressive situations or normal recall episodes, via nightmares and something that makes one remember a bad experience; into an epidemic.
Hollywood, as usual, doesn't make things better. The film Home of the Brave is a good example. Everyone of the veterans depicted experience some level of anti-social behavior and violent actions. It is saying to the public that this is normal in a false attempt to address the stressed out combat veterans, but are really just pushing their own opinionated views on the military in general. The movie has some good points, mostly from the beginning scenes of the base in Iraq and then the soldiers of the main story line who are ambushed. It does not depict our soldiers as ruthless barbarians, although one scene shows a non-combatant being killed by being in the wrong place – no fault certainly could be blamed upon the soldier who was the instrument of that death. But it is a situation where that person involved must live with that guilt. I made it through the scene of one of the soldiers going nuts with a handgun in a public place, like we need to watch that in a film, but when the scene came when the returning military doctor grabs his handgun (both firearms were M1911 model, .45-caliber) – then as far as I was concerned the film was over. Sublimely the writer/producers of this film were included anti-gun statements – and depicting the same model that people like Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to ban from public use. Despite her insistence she understands and knows the Second Amendment, angrily saying in a congressional hearing that she was not a six-year-old, she is relentless in not only ignoring the Second Amendment, but not abiding by her oath of office.
The recent media exposé of yet another horrific multiple shooting by a deranged KKK racist at a Jewish community center in Kansas is just more for their gun control advocate. In reality, the man should not have possessed a firearm because he had been arrested and convicted of another crime. So, instead of addressing that problem, the media leads its stories to other avenues.
Kristof also addresses this in the aforementioned article:
Indeed, when the news media do cover mental health, we do so mostly in extreme situations such as a mass shooting. That leads the public to think of mental disorders as dangerous, stigmatizing those who are mentally ill and making it harder for them to find friends or get family support.
The Institute of Medicine published (2005) a paper to address the need to improve the quality of health care for mental and substance-use conditions:
The report concluded: although findings of many studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rate of violence is small.
On the other end of the spectrum, people could be incorrectly diagnosed and forced on some mental health program and then lose, forever, the right to own a firearm.
Americans commit suicide every year, and while Kristof mistakenly states that 38,000 do so every year, according to the CDC, that number was in 2010. Credibility is diminished when one claims the same number of suicides EVERY YEAR. Out of those deaths, 19,292 used firearms to commit suicide. The CDC also gives suicide by firearms the highest rate at 6.3% (2010). While CDC has had a credibility problem from time to time, we can generally accept that data. I find that FBI statistics are more reliable.
Kritsof remains focused upon the mental condition of combat veterans, specifically for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, but fails to look at the history of it. It is also obvious that he does not realize that ALL combat veterans are stressed during and with different degrees afterwards. The way pundits and the media in general describe it as though it is something new with veterans. Today, and as far back as the Vietnam War that lasted ten years, the combat deployment time is 13 months for one tour. The Civil War lasted five years and World War II lasted almost five years. Troops no longer stay until the war is done, as in Korea War and before, since the Vietnam War because they are lasting much longer.
They are also leaving out other stressful situations – like coming home and feeling so different and not able to relate to even family members, coming home to unemployment, VA red tape, and politicians reneging upon their duty to sponsor those they sent to war. Indeed, in the middle of cutting back military funding when Clinton was president, and the cost after the Gulf War, Congress sneaked a bill through that no longer separated retirement income from disability income, which means they took back what retirement income was promised by deducting the medical disability benefit from the retirement benefit. This hurt those who chose the early out program during the Clinton cut back era; where soldiers received severance pay for choosing the program and that entire amount has to be deducted before actually receiving a disability benefit check. So Uncle Sam said, “Hey, we'll give a check either by the month for twenty years and one lump sum. After 38% tax was taken out, it did not leave as much to use; and when disability benefit was approved, it was taken back.
It is pathetic when a government spends billions of dollars for foreign nations and its people, but cheats its own veterans they have sent to fight other people's wars.
It is no wonder that veterans are depressed.
Unfortunately, like the welfare system, some are taking advantage of the situation. While others who served have gone through tribulations and stress, some feel the need, either from weakness or an opportunity to collect from the system to be declared to have PTSD. That is true for other “disabilities”. For example, a female veteran receives at least 30% disability for “extreme sinus trouble” and gets herself on a train for work program.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are those that should have applied, but did not out of pride; and others who should have applied sooner.
Another way Vietnam War and Gulf War vets got shafted was the things with “syndrome” at the end of the description – Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome. It took almost ten years to recognize the symptoms were a real medical problem, for some quite severe, to recognize the Gulf War Syndrome – and then refused to include the period from mustering out to the approval in benefit evaluation. Instead, they only counted the time from approval to date. Then, because of the congressional bill that passed in 1996, any retirement or severance paid is deducted from that amount. No longer is retirement (or special program severance pay) separated from disability benefits. It always seems that the government, those that operate our government, has a tendency to cut funds where it should not be. It is the same crowd who sends people off to wars and, because of politics and its accomplice media, ensure that it is not won or won as quickly as possible.
Praise is to President Bush, GW Bush's father, who declared that if troops were to free Kuwait, they would stay until the war was over. It was over in 100 hours, although there was a long period called Operation Desert Shield before Operation Desert Storm.
Although, despicable Progressive Socialist pundits like Daily KOS rebukes the idea that some PTSD claims are either exaggerated or made up – like the veteran that killed recently at Fort Hood; the US Naval Institute disagrees, so do others and myself. As far as Kristof, he has been against US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, so he is biased, as his sources reveal.
And to fellow veterans: buck up and if you can't handle the flashbacks or whatever and deal with it on your own, visit the nearest VA medical facility. In fact, all of America should visit VA facilities and see what they are in store for when Obamacare is in full swing.
The VA medical program and institutions would be much more effective if they tied in with local hospitals and clinics (and save tax dollars). Except for psychiatry, don't believe the myth that the local doctor does not understand about war wounds – all of them must intern in emergency rooms and all are taught about traumatic wounds and their repercussions. It would also reduce the long hours in a VA medical facility that is crowded with veterans from all over the state, and it will reduce the stress of traveling so far to get the treatment promised.
To the rest of fellow Americans – ignore Hollywood films fantasizing and exaggerating social conditions and those of veterans. After all, it IS an entertainment entity, despite an occasional honest documentary film. Films like Stop-Loss and Home of the Brave does not depict the average combat veteran, even if the acting is good.
Veterans from World War II, those that are still alive, can tell veterans today that memories of combat and seeing the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps never totally go away – but has to be dealt with. The same goes for Korean and Vietnam War veterans – which they can tell you that those experiencing those traumas and flashbacks is normal and the percentage of veterans from those wars who can deal with it seem to be higher than vets of Iraq and Afghanistan. It may be that the media has pushed that image about veterans into the minds of the public, because that is what they do best, besides manipulating or ignoring facts in order to make a point or match their opinions. Ironically, it is the same media who presented so much of the negative occurrences enacted by US military giving a negative image of the overall US combat personnel. 
Voters, in this congressional election year, it is time to clean out Congress of unconstitutionalists and politicians who send Americans to war and not keep promises when they return.

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