VA Chief Likens PTSD to "High School Football Injury"

I recently traveled to Madison, WI, to interview Rachel and Josh, two young Iraq War veterans about the health issues they've dealt with, due to poor accountability for both the private contractors who are supposed to be supporting our troops, and for the mental health needs of returning soldiers.

When I interviewed Josh about his difficulties seeking help for his PTSD, he recounted the whole horrific process with a smile on his face and a self-effacing laugh. It took me a while to realize that Josh laughed about his troubles because the seriousness of the situation was overpowering. Unfortunately, even the VA is starting to turn its back on the gravity of this problem, even as it escalates to frightening proportions.

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Apparently, VA Secretary James Peake is not troubled by the fact that one in five veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or that every day, 18 veterans commit suicide. In a statement last week, Peake first referred to the growing concern surrounding the veterans' mental health crisis as "overblown," then went on to say, "Many of the brain injuries are serious but some of them are akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered." Peake continued to belittle the devastating effects of war-induced brain injuries and mental disorders by saying, "Just because someone might need a little counseling when they get back, doesn't mean they need the PTSD label their whole lives."

Addressing the stigma of PTSD is one thing; downplaying the prevalence and devastation of this problem in order to deflect any responsibility of the VA is another. PTSD is an effect of our troops living through horrific scenes, burdened with stop-loss and extra tours of duty; left untreated, it can mark the lives of these young men and women for years and even decades. The fact that the VA's mental health services are grossly insufficient is a problem that the VA needs to address before more veterans slip through the cracks. We can come together to support veterans in their mental health needs by urging the passage of the Veteran Mental Health Act of 2008, working its way though the House. This bill will expand mental health services to veterans to address the growing problem of PTSD, substance abuse and suicide risks of homecoming troops. Join us in calling on our leaders in Congress to make this happen.

Tags: PTSD, veterans, veterans affairs, WAR IN IRAQ (all tags)

Comments

1 Comment

Peake is a good military doctor...

...but he sucks as a VA administrator.

Just another example of a Bush appointee who is way over their head.

Heckuva job, Peakey!

by Dracomicron 2008-06-04 12:30PM | 0 recs

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