Tuesday, December 27, 2005

When Supporting the Troops Ends

Support for US troops, as symbolized by the made-in-China magnet ribbons for cars, is desireable while the troops are in the field. Once they get home, eh, not so much. The latest manifestation of this on/off switch was detailed by the Washington Post

The spiraling cost of post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans has triggered a politically charged debate and ignited fears that the government is trying to limit expensive benefits for emotionally scarred troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the past five years, the number of veterans receiving compensation for the disorder commonly called PTSD has grown nearly seven times as fast as the number receiving benefits for disabilities in general, according to a report this year by the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 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.

Experts say the sharp increase does not begin to factor in the potential impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the increase is largely the result of Vietnam War vets seeking treatment decades after their combat experiences. 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.
[Emphasis added]

The Veteran's Administration has had to face budget cuts in past years while the US was waging two wars at the same time. As a result, they've had to review just where the benefits they are obligated to give wounded and disabled veterans are going, and this is not in and of itself an outrageous stance. What is disturbing, however, is the conclusion by many that the problem is that too many soldiers are engaging in fraud. The fact that Viet Nam veterans who were never treated for PTSD in the past (mainly because the disorder was never properly diagnosed when they came home, when it could have been more effectively treated)is treated as evidence of this burgeoning fraud.

The concern by Frueh and Satel about overdiagnosis and fraud -- what researchers call "false positives" -- has drawn the ire of veterans groups and many other mental health experts.

A far bigger problem is the many veterans who seek help but do not get it or who never seek help, a number of experts said. Studies have shown that large numbers of veterans with PTSD never seek treatment, possibly because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"There are periodic false positives, but there are also a lot of false negatives out there," said Terence M. Keane, one of the nation's best-known PTSD researchers, who cited a 1988 study on the numbers of veterans who do not get treatment. "Less than one-fourth of people with combat-related PTSD have used VA-related services."
[Emphasis added]

The federal government spent years denying that PTSD did not exist, just as it maintained Agent Orange-related illnesses were bogus and Gulf War Syndrom was a figment of Gulf War I vets' imagination. Now it wants to redefine a clinical diagnosis to save a few bucks.

How shabby is that?

Support the troops, indeed.

3 Comments:

Anonymous sister of ye said...

"Support the troops" means support the war-mongering leaders who are using them as cannon fodder.

Odd that it's the liberals who "lost" Vietnam and "hate our troops" now who push to get them adequate supplies and armor now and to fund programs to treat them for their physical and mental injuries. Meanwhile the conservatives who cheer them accuse them of being whiners and malingerers.

Well, maybe not so odd, that.

6:46 AM  
Blogger cabearie said...

Sister, you nailed it.

It's just like the "every pre-born child is sacred," sacred until the child is born and requires healthcare, food, and housing.

7:13 AM  
Blogger shrimplate said...

Post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of permanent changes to brain areas caused by the horrors of war.

Permanent.

Permanent.

Permanent.

5:17 PM  

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