It was only a matter of time. The VA is in a war over benefits for the increasing numbers of veterans getting compensation for PTSD, according to a report today in the WaPo. That number, 215,871, increased seven times as fast as other disabilities, causing an increase of 150% from 1999. In addition to the new Afghanistan and Iraq vets applying, some from the Gulf War and Viet Nam wars are now more aware of the disorder and are coming forward for treatment. The increase is threatening to expose another, more volatile problem.
Having worked with vets who have PTSD, I view it as the worst casualty of war. One of the most overlooked reasons to keep war a LAST resort. Well before the ’04 election, the Iraq PTSD numbers were looking grim. As bad as ‘Nam. One contributing factor is the frequency that a soldier is involved in a conflict. Due to extended deployments and redepolyments, more troops are spending enough time in combat to increase their risk of PTSD.
No surprise to some of us that they are showing up for treatment in high numbers. Or that the Neocons would come up with the equivalent of the “Welfare Queens” myth:
“Psychiatrist Sally Satel, who is affiliated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said an underground network advises veterans where to go for the best chance of being declared disabled. ” (If the AEI has support for that, WaPo did not publish it.)
The concern over the costs of treatment and disability may not be as high as another, more troubling idea:
“One VA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because politics is not supposed to enter the debate. “If we show that PTSD is prevalent and severe, that becomes one more little reason we should stop waging war.”
I would call it a reality check, not ‘one more little reason’ to keep us from using armed conflict as frequently as we do. I also propose another way to cut down the increasing costs of benefits. The retirement pay that Congress gets has been cited as more than generous. I feel sure it is more than the $2300 a month a 100% PTSD disability will get a Vet.
The debate at least brings the problem out for more consideration. More funding for research and treatment might even restore many disabled vets the capacity to function independently. They might need some help with job training.
Is this too much to repay the people who have risked life, limb and sanity to defend our country?