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  1. 1. Gilleland 1Lily GillelandLester/Hamilton10th Honors LitFor May 4, 2012 Are Veterans With PTSD Being Treated Fairly For Fighting For Our Country? When veterans return home from their deployment, some bring back badges or medals;some bring back physical scars to show their bravery. However, some veterans return with amental scar, a suffering from an event that they have experienced. Post-Traumatic StressDisorder (PTSD) is what they could be diagnosed with. This is a mental disease where a soldieror veteran has been traumatized. Symptoms of PTSD are self-blame, reoccurring nightmares,flashbacks, angry or violent outbursts, having feelings or guilt, worry, sadness, and many othersymptoms. PTSD is almost always mixed with more issues such as depression and can often leadto drug abuse as an attempt to ease the symptoms (Espejo). PTSD is most common in soldiersbetween the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. Many times when these veterans return home,they are not treated kindly or fairly, and some are told to simply “move on” (Disorder DiseaseCounseling Should Continue for Veterans); others are simply denied help because the veteranswho are taking therapy have been in the therapy program too long. Veterans are not being treatedfairly for their service in the military. There are more effective ways for PTSD to be treated and
  2. 2. Gilleland 2the therapy they might or might not be receiving is not helping them, and the government is nothelping veterans receive the Healthcare insurance and benefits they deserve. There are many different forms of treatment for PTSD. One form is the programOperation Wolfhound (Caprioli). In this program dogs are trained to perform various tasks forveterans with PTSD. This includes calming the veterans during flashbacks and waking themfrom nightmares. The dogs chosen to work with veterans must meet certain standards. Theycannot be more than four years old; this is so the emotionally venerable veteran will not have tocope with the loss of their companion. The dogs must also come from parents that have beenscreened for genetic diseases and temperament problems, usually back to at least fourgenerations. This is so the dog is as healthy as possible and to be sure it is suited to take care ofthe veteran. After a dog goes through the minimum amount it can be trained and its trainerbelieves it is ready, the dog can be given to a veteran for weekly hour long training sessions.This will not only bring to the dog and the veteran closer together, but it also lets to veteran trainthe dog for their specific needs. By being able to train and take care of this animal, thisindirectly gives the veteran more control of their condition. Another program used to treat veterans diagnosed with PTSD is virtual therapy.Although videos games are commonly seen to promote violence, this could actually helpveterans with PTSD. Virtual Iraq, a video game used by therapists and researchers, puts thesoldiers back in the war in a safe controlled way (Katz). Video games treat soldiers by lettingthem face their fears by duplicating the sights and sounds of the battlefront, making it easier forsoldiers to open up to their therapists. People diagnosed with PTSD tend to ignore and attempt
  3. 3. Gilleland 3to avoid their problems. This tends to keep their trauma alive and as a result, is what hurts themthe most. By using virtual reality the veterans are put back in the moment in a controlled wayand this is what helps therapists understand their patients and helps patients explain how theyfeel. This program allows them to release their fears and when the fear is gone, the veteransbegin to look at the situation more rationally (Ziezulewicz). This type of treatment allows themto realize that the event wasn’t their fault or there was nothing they could do. This relieves themof their stress and lets the soldier get closer to closure. Unfortunately, most researchers havefound this new program and form of therapy to be inconclusive but times are changing andresearchers believe that with more time and more conclusive results virtual therapy will be a verypopular choice for treating PTSD in the future. One very effective therapy for the treatment of PTSD is Emotional Freedom Technique(EFT). While, the legitimacy of this technique or therapy is very controversial, supporters ofEFT say that the technique is based off of 5,000 years of Chinese medicine. However skepticsconsider EFT to simply be the power of suggestion. Chuck Elberti, a Vietnam veteran, wastreated using EFT; he states that the EFT was effective as a treatment but not as a “cure”. EFT isnot like other treatments were you sit on a couch and talk to a therapist or psychiatrist (Jordan).It uses certain energy points in the body and the mind’s ability to put new distance between themind and the traumatic experiences (Innes). This is done by having clients tap on “acupuncturepoints” on their body while repeating words that represent their issue. This helps them releasethe stress of their issue and recover. Patients and veterans can also be taught to use thistechnique so they can do it outside of a therapist’s or doctor’s office. Veterans find this form of
  4. 4. Gilleland 4therapy desirable because the military teaches soldiers to get over traumatic events move on.They dont teach them how to deal with what comes later. Veterans now learning about newtherapies available so that they can overcome, adapt, and essentially deal with the negativeexperiences of their deployment. Because the veterans either do not know they have PTSD, or they just simply refuse help,over half of veterans with PTSD do not seek help. Suicide hotlines have helped more than22,000 veterans and avoided more than 1,000 suicides (Katz). In response to this Secretary ofDefense Robert Gates acknowledged that the military health care system had failed the veterans .The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed a bill to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs(VA), allowing the VA to use paid advertising to promote its efforts (Katz). Only about half ofthe estimated 300,000 soldiers with mental health problems have sought treatment. Thisalarming rate shows the American public the truth about veterans and raises the visibility and theattention that is needed. This is also raising the attention of the U.S. Military. In November2007, the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill was signed by President Bush, makingit into a law, which aims to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (New Data ShowsAlarming Rates of Military Mental Health Problems). This bill contributed to the rise andattention for veterans with PTSD. Many states have begun to recognize and become aware ofPTSD and other mental illnesses brought on by the negative experiences during deployment.Gates said that members of the military should not be reluctant to report their mental problemsafter combat (Colville). This statement means that the government is trying to improve life forveterans. As stated before, more suicide hot line advertisements have been put up since surveys
  5. 5. Gilleland 5showed an alarming number of veterans who are not seeking help. However, it is unfortunatethat some veterans are not even aware that they have PTSD and do not seek the help theydesperately need to move on with their life and they tend to suffer silently. Chuck Elberti statedthat he was not even aware that he was traumatized so badly. PTSD causes such emotionaldetachment that veterans might not even be aware they have it and might not realize it until theyreach a “breaking point”. The worst outcome of someone reaching a “breaking point” is suicideand by then it is too late. With the help of his family and friends, Mr. Elberti was able to receivetreatment before it was too late for him. Many veterans might not be as fortunate. The scary part about the failure of therapies or treatments for patients with PTSD is that itcould result in veteran suicide. The number of suicides reported by the Army has risen to thehighest level since record-keeping began three decades ago (Goode). The Pentagon and theveteran’s agency have responded to this rise in suicide rates by implementing programs andincreasing efforts to understand and address the problems. They have also supported suicide-prevention programs and have hired hundreds more mental health providers. Veterans suddenlyfind themselves without a job. They no longer have a mission or purpose. They have lost theirwar unit and the support and comradery that comes with it. They are completely lost, but do notget help. This often leads to homeless veterans, loss of family, and suicide. At Fort Campbell, inKentucky, at least 14 soldiers have killed themselves this year alone (Goode). To help othersoldiers there, training and other activities were stopped for three days and replaced with suicide-prevention training. The Army also commissioned a five-year $50 million dollar study of thecauses of suicide among soldiers. The Army turned to four outside experts to lead the research.Sergeant Blaylock, stationed at Fort Campbell, tried to pick up the pieces of his life but grief and
  6. 6. Gilleland 6guilt from the death of two members in his unit trailed him. That grief and guilt combined withother stresses (financial troubles, disputes with his wife over their daughter, the absencecomrades who had helped him make it through a year of war) was more than he could handle andhe reached his “breaking point.” (Goode). On December 9, 2007 he decided to end his own life.Financial troubles, guilt, and PTSD combined with other issues veterans face can eventuallyconsume their mind and without receiving true help, it can cause veterans to feel there is no otheroption other than suicide. That added in with the stress war can put on family ties is verydangerous. In some cases, veterans with PTSD are denied treatment for their mental disease.Therapy is being discontinued because the veterans who are taking therapy have been in theprogram “too long” (Disorder Disease Counseling Should Continue for Veterans). The veteranswho have served in the military are very important people, yet treatment like this is notrespectable and it is not helping veterans with PTSD at all. This shows that sick veterans arebeing swept under the rug after fighting for their country, simply because the government doesnot want to spend the money to meet their needs. Soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital were forcedto live in unhealthy conditions and were denied treatment (Colville). In response, U.S. Secretaryof Defense, Robert Gates, acknowledged the problems with military healthcare saying thatsoldiers would now be encouraged to seek mental and physical treatment. He also admitted thatthe U.S. military has made mistakes in handling the treatment and rehabilitation of returningsoldiers. Not all of the more than 1.5 million military service members who have been deployed
  7. 7. Gilleland 7overseas have received needed medical treatment and accommodations (Colville). This was alsoadmitted by Robert Gates. He initiated an overhaul of the militarys medical system after ascandal last year at Walter Reed hospital in Washington where soldiers were found living in abuilding infested with mice, mold, and cockroaches and many soldiers were unable to gettreatment because of bureaucratic red tape. In another case, a Veterans Administrationpsychologist was encouraging other staff psychologists to avoid diagnosing Veterans returningfrom Iraq with PTSD because so many veterans are seeking disability payments (Lee). This isan extreme injustice to veterans, and is considered fraud. The reason behind this crime is to“cut back” on the amount of diagnosed PTSD veteran because so many are seeking payments fortheir condition. The therapists were urged to instead diagnose patients with an adjustmentdisorder, which is very similar to PTSD, but is much milder and less permanent, usually lastingonly six months. By diagnosing these veterans with inaccurate mental diseases is a stronginjustice and could result in the death of a soldier who fought for our freedoms, which is not fairor appropriate for their service. Veterans diagnosed with PTSD are entitled to benefits, but at times the government findsways to deny veterans the compensation they deserve. Veterans diagnosed with PTSD areentitled to additional health and financial benefits (Platt). Though this has been changed, the onlyveteran eligible for PTSD benefits were ones who fought in combat arms. This shows that theVA has had a very narrow view of what a traumatic event is. In addition, veterans were requiredto recall the names of people involved with the traumatic event, as well as the time it occurred.
  8. 8. Gilleland 8This is difficult for veteran with PTSD because they are not remembering names or date, they areremembering the faces of those they lost, and the fear and guilt that is associated with it.Following their wartime service, 1,029 veterans with PTSD were denied those benefits upondischarge from the military. These veterans felt that this was a huge injustice to them, especiallysince their PTSD was so bad that they had to be discharged. They feel as though they have beenshortchanged on benefits. These veterans eventually received compensation for this injustice.For the past 13 years, Arthur Laselle, a Vietnam veteran who has served for two tours, hasapplied for PTSD benefits through the VA, yet he has been denied consistently. Though he hasbeen diagnosed with PTSD by a therapist, he is still pressed for information about the event hesuffers from. He cannot give the VA this information because it is not only too painful for himto recall, but it was also too hectic for him to remember the exact date and time of the event. Notto mention how, in addition, it is painful for him to relive these experiences every time the VAcross checks his information and asks him painful questions. This in an example of how hard itis for veterans with PTSD to receive the benefits they deserve. However, there have been changes in favor of veterans with PTSD attempting to receivebenefits. As stated before, if a veteran wanted to receive benefits for they would have to providenames, locations and times when a traumatic event occurred, something many veterans havefound impossible. Now a veteran from any military unit who has served in a war zone and canprove that they suffered from a stressful or traumatic event can apply for benefits (Rules Changefor Vets PTSD Benefits). Agreeing with these changes, U.S. President Barack Obama states, “Idont think our troops on the battlefield should have to keep notes just in case they need to apply
  9. 9. Gilleland 9for a claim. And I have met enough veterans to know that you dont have to engage in a firefightto endure the trauma of war (Rules Change for Vets PTSD Benefits).” This statement shows thatthe government is indeed making changes that are taking care of veterans. This quote also showsthat trauma can be measured in many different ways and that it may be difficult for veterans to“prove” they were in a traumatic event. Fortunately for veterans, these efforts are a big step upfrom what the rules used to be. Efforts made by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the NationalVeterans Legal Service Program, and the government have resulted in the courts approvingretirement benefits to over 1,000 veterans with PTSD. A class action settlement between thefederal government and a group of disabled veterans will award lifetime healthcare benefits tothese veterans (Vogel). The veterans involved with this lawsuit are very pleased with thisdecision, stating, “It’s getting your dignity back” and “It’s a huge relief.” This shows thatperhaps veterans are beginning to receive the justice and benefits they deserve for their service. Not only are the rules for veteran’s benefits changing, but the timeliness of mental healthreferrals and other important transactions for receiving benefits is also being changed as well. Ittakes the VA’s system an average of four years for veterans to receive mental health benefits(Sapien). This time frame is very unprofessional is also demands immediate reform. U.S.Defense Secretary Robert Gates states, "I know that the department is not perfect and mistakeshave been, and will be made. Things happen too slowly (Morgan)." This statement shows thatthe U.S. government plans to make changes to its ways of looking over referrals. Previously,noncombat veterans had to convince claims adjudicators that they were traumatized by a specificevent with incident reports, statements from their peers or other evidence. The VA would now
  10. 10. Gilleland 10"presume that veterans are telling the truth." This is a good adjustment because veterans withPTSD are not always able to recall every detail of the traumatic event that happened. PTSDcauses veterans to go into a state of “denial” usually in the form of emotional detachment, inorder to avoid facing the guilt they have. This poses as a problem to them when they want toreceive Veteran’s Healthcare Benefits. Through research, it has been shown that there are many things not known about PTSD,especially to the American public. Though there are many different treatments, there is still nodefinitive cure for PTSD, but veterans are recovering in momentous ways. However, it havebeen shown that Unfortunately, some veterans do not even know that they have PTSD or theyare denied or diagnosed falsely for government gain but the ones who do get help can recover orat least learn how to deal with to move on with life. The government also is very difficult when itcomes to granting benefits to veterans with PTSD. Some bills are passed and changed, appealsare looked over so slowly that it takes nearly four years or more, but most of the changes madeare for the benefit of the veterans. In America, veterans are suffering and at times nothing isbeing done to help. Veterans can be helped through the love and support of their friends andfamily and with treatments and therapies aimed at treating PTSD. When a veteran has somebodybehind them to give support, they are able to accomplish much more than anyone could expect.So, are veterans getting what they deserve? Chuck Elberti, a Vietnam veteran, was asked this,and his response was this, “Did I get what I deserved? I don’t think any Vietnam veteran wastreated fairly or respectfully. It was an unpopular war and very often ordinary military peoplewould be an easy target for blame. I am very happy to see that military veterans today are
  11. 11. Gilleland 11treated much better and get the respect they deserve. But I still don’t think that as a country wedo all that we can for them.” Though this is the opinion of one man, the statement rings true.However, times are changing, and with the help of people who are willing to stand up for theveterans who once put their lives on the line for others, then in the future, Chuck Elberti, andmany other PTSD victims can proudly exclaim that they got what the deserved. Works CitedCaprioli, Jennifer. "Dogs Go the Distance." US Army (2010). Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. < displayGroupName=Viewpoints&disableHighlighting=false&prodId=OVIC&action=2&catI d=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010562263&userGroupName=cant48040&jsid=dba71f72 93440e45682d150af9870174>.Carey, Benedict. "Review of Landmark Study Finds Fewer Vietnam Veterans With Post- Traumatic Stress." New York Times [New York] 18 Aug. 2006. Review of Landmark Study Finds Fewer Vietnam Veterans With Post-Traumatic Stress. 18 Aug. 2006. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. < tressdisorder>.Coats, Christopher. "Alcohol Abuse Another Obstacle for Returning Troops." FindingDulcinea. 13 Aug. 2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.
  12. 12. Gilleland 12 < Obstacle-for-Returning-Troops.html>.Colville, Liz. "Pentagon Vows to Improve Military Mental Health Care." FindingDulcinea. 6 May 2008. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. < 08/Pentagon-Vows-to-Improve-Military-Mental-Health-Care.html>.Dahlen, Dr. Barbara Van. "Depression / Blog." PBS. PBS. Web. 01 May 2012. < freedom-technique>.Dao, James. "Veterans Affairs Faces Surge of Disability Claims." New York Times [New York] 13 July 2009, New York ed., sec. A: 10. New York Times. 13 July 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2012. < rder>."EDITORIAL: Disorder Disease Counseling Should Continue for Veterans." 2012. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. < upName=News&disableHighlighting=false&prodId=OVIC&action=2&catId=&documentId =GALE%7CA282005322&userGroupName=cant48040&jsid=f75287cf0e2f2938c92b5afcc c6e8bd3>.Goode, Erica. "After Combat, Victims of an Inner War." New York Times. 1 Aug. 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.
  13. 13. Gilleland 13 < der>.Innes, Stephanie. "Tapping Method Touted to Treat PTSD." Arizona Daily Star. 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 02 May 2012. < ptsd/article_5c4540a8-2716-597c-b55d-bed4c0a38a07.html>.Jordan, Bryant. "Tapping ‘Energy’ to Deal with PTSD." 17 Aug. 22010. Web. 1 May 2012. <>.Katz, Josh. "Suicide Hotline Hearing from Thousands of Troubled Vets." FindingDulcinea. 28 July 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. < 08/Suicide-Hotline-Hearing-from-Thousands-of-Troubled-Vets.html>.Katz, Josh. "The Road to Health Is Paved with Good Nintendos." FindingDulcinea. 17 July 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. < August/The-Road-to-Health-Is-Paved-with-Good-Nintendos.html>.Lee, Christopher. "Official Urged Fewer Diagnoses of PTSD." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 16 May 2008. Web. 02 May 2012. < dyn/content/article/2008/05/15/AR2008051503533.html?hpid=topnews>.Love, Julia. "Answers about VAs New Stress-disorder Policy." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <>.
  14. 14. Gilleland 14"Mentally Ill Veterans Need More Effective Psychotherapy." Mental Illness. Ed. Roman Espejo. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2012. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. < displayGroupName=Viewpoints&disableHighlighting=false&prodId=OVIC&action=2&catI d=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010154267&userGroupName=cant48040&jsid=1539395ff d683b478edab711f81dde87>.Morgan, David. "Gates Acknowledges Mistakes in Treatment of Troops." | Reuters. 01 May 2008. Web. 01 May 2012. < mentalhealth-idUKN0150996820080501>.Platt, John. "Fitness & Well-Being." Mother Nature Network. 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 02 May 2012. < investigation-into-ptsd-treatment-denials-by-mili>.Rules Change for Vets PTSD Benefits. PBS. 12 July 2010. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. <>.Sapien, Joaquin. "Donate." ProPublica. 11 May 2011. Web. 02 May 2012. < mental-health-problems>.SCHAFFER, AMANDA. "Not a Game: Simulation to Lessen War Trauma." New York Times. 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 1 May 2012. <>.
  15. 15. Gilleland 15Staff, FindingDulcinea. "New Data Shows Alarming Rates of Military Mental Health Problems." FindingDulcinea. 18 Apr. 2008. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. < Alarming-Rates-of-Military-Mental-Health-Problems.html>.Vogel, Steve. "Vets Win PTSD Settlement." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 03 Aug. 2011. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. < eye/post/vets-win-ptsd-settlement/2011/07/29/gIQAFbKehI_blog.html>.Wallis, Claudia. "Casualty of War: Mental Health." Time. Time, 12 Mar. 2007. Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <,8599,1598474,00.html>." Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville." Ed. Kathy Hanrahan. 13 July 2010. Web. 02 May 2012. <>.Ziezulewicz, Geoff. "ARMY.MIL, The Official Homepage of the United States Army." Military Uses Virtual Therapy to Help Troops Heal Wounds. 30 June 2009. Web. 01 May 2012. < eal_wounds/>.
  16. 16. Gilleland 16