Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans & Combat-Related PTSD

Since today is Veterans Day, it seems appropriate for this post to be about veterans only, to thank you for your service on the field, and honor your continued presence here at home.

At a bridal shower this past weekend I met Becky, a vet who had been a nurse in Vietnam. We spoke at length about PTSD and the lack of public knowledge and awareness. We also spoke about how universal is ‘The PTSD Experience’. And we discussed something else that really shocked me to read recently, which is this:

"the V.A. requires that a Veteran has achieved one of several service ribbons in order to get PTSD benefits i.e. the Combat Action ribbon, Combat Infantry badge, Purple Heart, Bronze Star with V to name a few. However, for those that don't merit such an award by the military’s standards they are doomed to have to reconstruct their in-war stressor to prove they witnessed a horrific sight or came under fire."

This hardly seems fair. As all of us PTSD sufferers know, a trauma can be subtle, almost invisible to the human eye in some cases. To send our men and women into battle and not offer them equal support when they get home as we should be giving them on the battlefield is a horrible way to thank them for risking their lives. To demand that they prove they have been traumatized is criminal and ridiculous.

I was encouraged this morning to hear on the news about RESET, a new program being implemented by the military to offer psychological readjustment programs to returning soldiers and their families. Does anyone have info on this? I can’t find anything concrete and would like to know more. As we’ve all experienced, during trauma we do what we must to survive, but the cost of that to us afterward can be almost (if not more) psychologically damaging than the original trauma itself. Developing a program to directly address this issue would be of great benefit to military personnel as well as their families.

Finally, combat-related PTSD is getting a little bit more exposure, and from sources that could really help sufferers. Our new president elect, Barack Obama, was the co-author of a 2007 letter to Secretary Gates requesting an accounting from the Dept. of Defense on the number of psychological injuries sustained by service members since October 2001 and how the military reports on and invests in treating these less visible psychological injuries. The letter specifically mentions PTSD. The full text may be found here:


In the past year alone there have been several reports that diagnosed military PTSD cases jumped significantly, as much as 50% – that’s over 40,000 newly diagnosed military personnel, and that’s only reported cases. Here are links to 2 articles on this topic from May 2008:



Finally, Dr. Matthew Tull wrote a brief but good recently historical overview about PTSD in the military. Click here to view:


As I read these articles I’m wondering how military personnel feel about the care they receive, and also, how they feel about the experience of PTSD itself. Do they feel differently than we civilians do? It must be so difficult to survive the theater of war and the power of the enemy, only to return home and be undone by the power of your own mind. If any vets are willing to share their thoughts, please email me anytime.

Recently, I accepted an invitation to join the creative team of a new PTSD organization: Dream Peace Foundation. Launching in January 2009, the mission of this organization is the same as mine: to spread the word that PTSD is eminently treatable. I’ll write more on Dream Peace when it actually gets off the ground. For now, I’ll just add that a large part of its focus is to reach out to vets with combat-related PTSD. I’m hoping that some of our advocacy work will eventually include breaking the barriers to all military sufferers, regardless of whether or not their stressor meets military standards.

Tomorrow I’ll be the featured guest on E. Everett McFall’s internet radio talk show, THE VETERAN’S FORUM. We'll be discussing healing PTSD. The show airs live from 3:30 – 5:30pm EST, and can be downloaded at any time via the November 12 link on Passionate Internet Radio Voices (PIVTR).

To listen live: http://www.pivtr.com/

To download later: http://www.internetvoicesradio.com/Arch-Everett.htm

We have a lot of work to do, my fellow survivors! In order for us all to get the care we need and work our way toward a trauma/PTSD-free life, it’s imperative that we begin using our suffering toward a better end. We can do this by uniting together, whether through public organizations or our personal actions within our own worlds – or both! What can you do today?

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