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PTSD is Real, PTSD Fraud is Not – Veterans rebuttal to AP

VCS Responds to AP: PTSD is Real, PTSD Fraud is Not

Written by VCS – Republished on Veterans Today by permission from Veterans for Common Sense. Monday, 03 May 2010
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May 3, 2010 (updated May 8, 2010), Washington, DC (VCS)

On May 1, the Associated Press printed an incomplete and inaccurate article about veterans who file disability claims against the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Without citing a source, AP wrote, “The problem: The [VA claims] system is dysfunctional, an open invitation to fraud. And the VA has proposed changes that could make deception even easier.”

AP is wrong, and VCS asked AP to correct the story.

As of May 8, AP has not responded to our request for a correction.

Here are two very important facts AP overlooked.  If AP had included these two facts, then readers would understand more about VA and veterans suffering with PTSD after deploying to the brutal Iraq and Afghanistan wars, sometimes two or three times.

POSTED BY: ROBERT L. HANAFIN, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, Veterans Today News Network

Note: The P.T.S.D. lead in image used on the front page of our site is a logo for the upcoming film production by the same name Copyright LeviathanBlue Films LLC – http://www.leviathanblue.com. We have received copyright approval to use and display the logo, and we hope to be working with the producers of the movie to help promote the film. MORE TO COME. Major Hanafin.

Fact Number One – There is no Fraud Problem

There is no widespread fraud problem at VA.  Out of more than one million claims per year, less than a score are ever investigated for fraud.

Furthermore, in November 2005, VA auditors randomly selected 2,100 approved PTSD claims.  After an exhaustive investigation, VA issued a press release confirming VA found zero cases of fraud.  VA has extensive methods to prevent fraud, contrary to AP’s baseless assertion. AP should have mentioned VA’s investigation and findings.

VA’s 2005 investigation began when a reporter at the Chicago Sun Times observed VA pays different average amounts in disability benefits based on a state-by-state comparison, according to VA’s own statistics.  The true culprits for the different ratings? The Veterans Bernefits Administration (VBA), the agency within VA responsible for processing claims suffers from poor leadership, staff shortages, insufficient oversight, and a lack of consistent training, leading to poor quality decisions that are often prematurely denied.

Recent audits of VBA indicate VBA makes a mistake in one out of every four claims, a tragic and catastrophic quality failure most often harming veterans.  VA Secretary Shinseki is taking bold steps to address VBA’s systemic challenges, and he has broad support among veterans’ groups.  There is a huge difference between a VA error and an allegation of fraud against veterans, and AP appears to have confused the two.

Fact Number Two – PTSD is Very Real

AP asserted the standards for reviewing PTSD claims will be “loosened,” an assertion made without attribution. In contrast to AP’s speculation, VA’s proposed new standards will be based on scientific evidence.

VA and independent scientists overwhelmingly agree the diagnosis of PTSD is very real.  Our goal at VCS is for the scientific evidence to match VA’s rules for obtaining disability benefits and healthcare.  That’s responsible, and that’s fair.

Here’s a briefing for returning service members showing VA knows PTSD is real.  VA’s guide also offers practical information on what to expect and what to do when a service member returns home from war.

Here’s what independent scientists found.  On November 15, 2007, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) at the National Academy of Science reviewed scores of peer-reviewed and published scientific studies and validated the diagnosis of PTSD is associated with deployment to a war zone.  In their review, “Gulf War and Health, Volume 6,” IOM concluded:

The epidemiologic literature on deployed vs nondeployed veterans yielded sufficient evidence of an association between deployment to a war zone and psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other anxiety disorders, and depression; alcohol abuse; accidental death and suicide in the first few years after return from deployment; and marital and family conflict, including interpersonal violence (page 319).

AP should have reported on the IOM’s scientific findings.

The escalating suicide epidemic among active duty service members and veterans represents clear and convincing evidence of the tremendous psychological impact of war.  Repeated deployments into war zones where car bombs and roadside bombs are daily and deadly events killing and maiming our troops as well as innocent civilians underscore the exposure to enormous psychological trauma of our service members.

PTSD is not new.

According Thomas Childers, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “1.3 million American troops were hospitalized for what were referred to as ‘neuropsychiatic’ symptoms” among the 16 million total service members during the war.  That means more than eight percent of our troops were hospitalized for serious mental health problems while still serving in uniform.  Childers’ research also found “VA duly reported that the divorce rate for veterans was twice as high as for civilians.”  Unemployment for veterans was triple the civilian rate, Childers wrote.

PTSD often lasts a lifetime,

concluded Childers.  “In the 1990s, older veterans were beginning to turn up at the VA – men who had made a successful readjustment to civilian life after the war.  Yet they still suffered from recurring nightmares, problems with close relationships, or anger”  (VFW Magazine, April 2009).

Good News on the Horizon for Veterans

After years of joint efforts by Congress and veterans’ groups, including Veterans for Common Sense, this month VA is expected to publish responsible and reasonable regulations expanding disability compensation benefits and healthcare to veterans who deployed to war and who are subsequently diagnosed with PTSD.  The new regulations are based on science, a policy improvement fully supported by VCS.  The importance of these regulations is underscored by the lasting adverse physical consequences of PTSD.

VA’s action may bring medical treatment sooner for our Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.  This may mitigate the number of broken families, unemployed veterans, and psychological suffering.  Of the two million U.S. troops deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones, VA physicians have already treated 508,000 veterans.  Of those, 144,000 recent combat veterans were diagnosed with PTSD as of September 2009, according to VA reports obtained by VCS.

In contrast, only 67,000 of the same veterans were approved for PTSD disability benefits by VBA.  The fact only half of the veterans diagnosed with PTSD receive disability payments and lifetime access to mental healthcare is a strong indicator VBA claims system is overly restrictive and not properly serving our veterans. In order to continue receiving free medical care more than five years after leaving the military, recent war veterans usually need an approved VBA disability claim.

PTSD is a very real and very serious problem increasing in scope the longer the current wars continue.

The scientific challenges understanding PTSD are similar to the many years scientists and VA took to recognize disabilities associated with Agent Orange / dioxin poisoning among Vietnam War veterans.  Science is now catching up, and many diseases are now scientifically associated with toxic exposures.

This important regulatory victory for veterans, based on decades of peer-reviewed, published scientific research, represents a bold, pro-veteran improvement by VA Secretary Erik Shinseki to open the doors for benefits and treatment to hundreds of thousands of deserving veterans suffering years or decades with PTSD who earned and who need VA assistance.

Previous Attacks on Veterans and PTSD

There have been attacks on veterans and veterans with PTSD in the recent past.  Our VCS July 2007 Congressional Testimony describes how the previous Administration fought against PTSD healthcare and benefits for our veterans.  Unfortunately, a few people are opposed to healthcare and benefits for our veterans, just as there are some people who still think the world is flat or that dinosaus walked the earth at the same time as humans.  The web site VA Watchdog wrote an op-ed about attacks on PTSD.  The Boston Review newspaper published a article on this subject as well.

The AP article was a disservice to veterans as it may perpetuate stereotypes of veterans with PTSD as frauds, when the science clearly shows they are not.  At VCS we encourage our veterans with PTSD symptoms to seek care from VA.  They may have to wait and wade through red tape, yet veterans groups and VA are working hard to fix that, too.

PTSD is Real; PTSD Fraud is Not

Most veterans return home from war and readjust well, yet a recent Stanford University study estimated up to 35 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans may develop PTSD.

We ask AP to cover the real challenges facing many of our veterans, such as unemployment, waiting for claims, timely access to care, stigma, and more.  In our view, PTSD is real, and charges of PTSD fraud are not.  AP should be reporting about success stories among veterans, about how to identify veterans at risk, and where veterans and families can get help, especially factual information from VA.

AP should correct their story and apologize for stigmatizing veterans.  We are still waiting for a reply from AP.

UPDATED MAY 8, 2010

Short URL: http://www.veteranstoday.com/?p=30458

The views expressed herein are the views of the author exclusively and not necessarily the views of VT or any other VT authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors, partners and technicians. Legal Notice

Posted by on May 9 2010, With 0 Reads, Filed under PTSD. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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19 Comments for “PTSD is Real, PTSD Fraud is Not – Veterans rebuttal to AP”

  1. Did you know after a 2 day course with a guy named Kelly Burris, you’re qualified to treat everything from Obesity to PTSD?

    http://www.warriorlifecoach.com/
    One of Burris’ pupils can… supposedly

    how is someone not investigating this??

  2. The ‘greatest generation” says: “All dese kids is frauds!”

    Confirmed by Rusted “Oxy” Limpturd.

  3. “Fact Number One – There is no Fraud Problem

    There is no widespread fraud problem at VA. Out of more than one million claims per year, less than a score are ever investigated for fraud.”

    Uh, ya think that might be because you all got your congressmen in your back pockets? As soon as somebody investigates fraud, you all launch one of your famous “Congressional Inquiries,” and the whole thing is squashed. It’s little wonder that VA benefits fraud isn’t more widely known.

    “Fact Number Two – PTSD is Very Real”

    Typical straw man argument. Set up the straw man and knock it down the best you can.

    The AP article never contended that PTSD isn’t real. It’s main point was that VA policies invite PTSD fraud, not that PTSD *itself* is fake.

    “To ‘attack a straw man’ is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar yet weaker proposition (the ‘straw man’), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

    What you folks *ought* to be doing is coming down on the veterans among you who are fraudulent. They’re making the whole lot of you look bad.

    One bad apple…

  4. Anyone who says PTSD is a fraud has not been to war. What effects some does not effect others.

    Today we have IED’s. In Iraq most victims from what I read are truck drivers, not from what the Army calls combat arms. Being a survivor of one of these short time events and coming home has to be extreme. How do you adjust back home?

    I am an ex Marine Vietnam grunt. What I went through was severe. For instance in one day two Marine grunt companies ceased to exist because of a day long fire fight with the NVA, and the amount of casualties. To Marines like me in Vietnam this was not an isolated experience.

    What the Russian soldier went through was pure hell. In the week during the fighting for and fall of Berlin the Russians had more killed then the US has in all it’s wars. I am sure to Americans even veterans this is hard to imagine.

    What I would like to see is how German and Russian survivors of combat experience adjusted after WW 2. I have a feeling in many cases it was easier. It was easier because in their countries they were not isolated from society because all the people knew what the pain trauma of was was all about.

    Not so in the United States. In the US war is a bumper sticker where you support the troops.

  5. The American Holocaust (Population Control): The Gov’t has an App for that
    It’s called the D T Y D – deny til you die app. Deny everything – social security, earthquakes, justice, healthcare, jobs, religion, va benefits (PTSD?), 911, agent orange, Collusion etc. Create a climate in which you either kill one another or self-destruction. Free Dumb? The National Goal (Executive Order 12871)is reduce gov’t (we the people) and gov’t spending (expenditures).

    In – God (Government of Deceivers) you trust?

    Economics over Justice equals terrorism

    Waking up Sleepers………

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/16789205/Complaint-Letter-and-Evidence-to-Department-of-Homeland-Security

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/25028878/The-Nature-of-the-Threat

    CooN by YA(YHVH)
    Allen Carlton
    National Whistleblower – http://www.scribd.com/National%20Whistleblower/
    Revelation receiver of the Peoples Righteous Kill Defense (PRKD)
    Peoples Army

  6. Join me as I try to reengage society again so that I may chase the dream of finishing college with Combat PTSD.

    VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL REPLY:

    Thanks so much for your insight Scott,

    You can do it Bro, I did.

    In fact, I went to college on the Vietnam GI Bill not knowing I had bi-polar (a cognitive disorder folks are born with). Hell had the Army known I was bi-polar I would have never gotten in.

    I take that back I enlisted under Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000 (Google it). The other Regular Army (RA) types called us the Dummy or Retard Division, because the Army went beyond lowering standards to accepting folks who were nearly off the measure on any Intelligence test and I don’t mean Genius. I was a high school drop out.

    When I returned from the war, I had an Army rubber stamped high school GED that most colleges, even those lowering their standards for admission laughed at.

    The University of Maryland, Baltimore County send me to night school to earn a GED that colleges would accept.

    Anyway, I got into U of M, and Vietnam Vets formed our own fraternities so to speak through the official VA office. One way to look at it was if we couldn’t beat the VA join the VA.

    You’d be amazed the crap GIs come up with when we unite on any college campus then or NOW.

    For my generation it was same as you:

    1. How to get our frigging VA ed checks on time. I waited sic frigging months and damn I worked for the VA. Took contacting my Congress critter in B-more to get paid.

    That’s one problem most GIs face then as now, in the Army or Marines what have you, we are brainwashed into believe YO-you don’t go to Congress to initiate a Congressional for no reason no way, even if ya knew how to. When it finally dawns on ya that the Pentagon (or your former service) can’t slam ya for it boom hit the Congress with all the ammo you’ve got.

    2. We had a network on campus of just Vets. First was getting our GI bill on time, and second was how to get an edumaction ON THE CHEAP!

    Voila, Community Colleges (2-year colleges) were just being born in the 1970s, hell George Mason in DC began in a store front as a community college back in the day. Near us was Catonsville Community College, so word quickly spread among the GIs at U of M that YO, we could finish our first two years of college on the cheap in Junior college then transfer credits. This was a brilliant idea given that what the VA paid you to go the school was nothing to live on even if you were single.

    Well nuff of MY WAR STORY, suffice it to say that my wife who works at Wright State University here in Ohio told me that the Iraq and Afghanistan Vets on her campus are having a hard time getting organized, dealing with the VA. or encouragement to stay in college as they fight PTSD or whatever else ails them.

    I plan on becoming a volunteer and mentor to help these guy and gals get on their feet as we did back in the day.

    You youngsters have begun to organize on quite a few college across the nation, but still have quite a way to go. Those of us Vietnam and Gulf War Vets able to take advantage of the Vietnam GI Bill should fall out to help you young Vets get set up and running then turn ya loose.

    Bobby Hanafin
    The Mustang Major

    • Thanks Bobby, it is tough to make people understand the mental feats that I have to accomplish within my head and have people look at me like I’m crazy. Either way it is uncomfortable to be considered a malinger when your sanity is closely escaping.

  7. I’m glad they didn’t delete you too, Texas Grunt. I’ve never been to war. I was in the military during peacetime. I got my PTSD from another job. Even after six years, I’m still having bad dreams (I don’t call them nightmares because the nightmares are worse and haven’t shown up yet). I do know three and four tours in Iraq or Afghanistan is too much. And you can’t recreate the pain and horror of war by sitting in a chair with a joystick. Where’s the heat and the dust and the smells? Where’s the loneliness, the concern for loved ones left behind. The concern for what’s going to happen to them if something happens to you. No, you can’t recreate these things and it’s impossible to get over them. It just becomes another battle to try to become whole again.

    VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL REPLY:

    Brother Gilmore, we don’t delete comments without cause or because the lingo is colorful, only if it is BULLSHIT.

    Bobby Hanafin
    The Mustang Major

  8. It is hard to believe that out of all those millions of sperm, Allen Breed swam the fastest!

    VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL RESPONSE,

    NO COMMENT!

    Except where did you get the handle Musashi – love it.

    Yep, I do know who the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is.

    Bobby Hanafin
    The Mustang Major

  9. “Support Our Troops.” Used early in the invasion and occupation of Iraq as a counter to the growing anti-war movement, this patriotic slogan has since undergone a metamorphosis. As the scores of mentally disturbed soldiers return from the battle fields to their home-towns and try to re-integrate into society, their friends and families are learning that no amount of support can ever heal the psychological wounds that soldiers suffer. I invite you to my political discussion blog: http://pltcldscsn.blogspot.com/

    VETERANS TODAY EDITORIAL REPLY,

    Will check out your website when I’m not manic Bro.

    Seriously, I want to relate better to what my younger brothers and sisters are feeling and fighting during their War at Home if I intend being an effective voluntary adviser and mentor.

    Bobby Hanafin
    The Mustang Major

  10. I agree with Texas Grunt. You can turn the VIRTUAL display on and off, get up and walk away. There is no switch, nor is there any place to go. You can run but you can’t hide. I’ve spent 39 years trying. I suppose it is possible to fool the system from time to time. It is also quite possible most of those applying for PTSD disability have suffered some type of situation in service that has haunted them and will continue to haunt them the rest of their lives. The beauracratic system we face is sometimes as bad as previous encounters on foreign soil. The major difference being, this was suppose to be “Our Country” and not a place that puts more effort into proving you to be a liar and cheat than those efforts put forth to help. I spent 26 years working for VA. I know first hand that at least two facilities have denied qualified vets a job in their workforce and placed an ex-convict with no military service in that job. I have this gut feeling about how much effort was put into investigating this travesty of justice. Much less than put forth in denying vets claims!!! We’ve got such a long way to go,

  11. ROBERT VNVET 11thcav

    Texas Grunt, welcome home brother… I’m glad they didn’t delete your post.. Man, you told it like it is… The AP owes us all that have been in combat more than just a few worthless words… That PUNK that wrote that article about PTSD being a fraud needs to be Bitch Slapped…. It’s obvious that he and his girlfriend don’t know crap about life, let alone anything about being in a combat sisuation.. Like I wrote in one of my last posts, even at 60 yrs old I’d love to take both of them to the sandbox for just a month and than see what comes out of their mouths…

    IF ANYONE IS A FRAUD IT’S THE AP AND THE WRITERS THEY PUBLISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Thank you Major Hannifan, good post by you AND VCS. My personal experiences might be trivial compared to many Vets, yet, they would be nearly impossible to duplicate. I consider myself more than competent at virtual reality and simulation. However, there is no “program” that can simulate or emulate 1) the actual experiene and accompanying feelings of seeing flame come out of an enemy’s gun barrel (fortunately slightly off line) and actually seeing a bullet blur passing over my right shoulder/ear area — no less the mental results of my response (try diving and rolling an unsuspected way with a joystick — then the experience of returning deadly fire and watching another human flop helplessly 2) try simulating looking down at a buddy with the whole back of his gone, sightless eyes flopping desperately in front of the pink emptiness, the stink of defacation and urine. I could go on, but you got the point, at least some readers do. The older I get the more vivid these and other memories become. Recreating them virtually or with talk sessions only increases the headaches because it refreshes everything. Enhances it. Makes it more vivid. Makes the dreams more devastating, my night sweats increase, my heart race. And I’m just an average grunt who witnessed death and destruction up close and personal over 50 times; avoided it myself two major hospitalized times … I’m not talking any more about this. It is so depressing. The end of the rope is getting ever closer — I’ll have to face it all soon.
    _______
    And what is so stupid, is I did it all for these unreliable, untrustworthy people who call themselves the modern Americans. PTSD or whatever you want to call it, is real. SO REAL. You wimps of the world, you so-called jounalists, you so-called debunking researchers have no idea.

    Texas Grunt.

    • Bob, you can delete the above post if you want. I should never have let the wimps peek into my private hell. I apologize on Mother’s Day. Other than that, screw them all. And don’t screw with anymore Vets. We’ll come back and haunt you until the end of your days, and beyond. Trust me, it’s doable.

  13. To Paul Sullivan at Veterans for Common Sense, hope this helps.

    Note that we did not change anything in your media release.

    While researching background on this, we noticed that PTSD has become so significant in the Army and Air Force that these services have contracted with virtual reality (war game) companies to come up with a treatment for PTSD that allows our troops to relive the traumatic experience.

    Regardless if one agrees or disagrees with the effectiveness of this approach otherthan convincing troops with PTSD that they are ready for their next combat deployment(s), the fact that the Army and Air Force is experimenting with virtual reality as a therapy speak volumes about our military services concerns that YES PTSD IS A REAL PROBLEM!

    Not only does PTSD impact Veterans of all ages, it has to be dealt with and coped with by our warriors desiring to stay on active duty.

    I’ve spoken with Air Force mental health folks at Wright-Patterson AFB, and they believe that this immersion into the trauma to include the sites, sounds, and even smell of combat is effective when of course combined with other more traditional therapies.

    I have my doubts, because I’m into war games (strategy) and the sort of experiment the Army and Air Force is running on Airmen and Soldiers exhibiting the symptoms of PTSD are scenarios one can find in any War Game purchase in the BX or PX.

    The only difference I’ve been told is that Mental Health professionals and technicians working virtual reality computer programs can tailor and recreate the exact traumatic experience that is bothering an active duty troop with PTSD.

    How does one simulate working a checkpoint having a car fail to stop opening fire and killed innocent men, women, and children who failed to stop whatever the reason.

    Seems to me that selective scenarios can simulate only those incidents that may return you to duty and ready you for the next deployment.

    The bottom line and it says so in the Army or Air Force Mental Health Clinic any trooper or retiree visits. The main mission of the military Mental Health Clinic is Force Readiness that is to ensure a fighting force is ready for their next deployment(s).

    Emphasis tends to be on convincing one they do not have PTSD, while at the same time being able to show (and I highlight SHOW) Congress and the American people that our services really care about the mental health of our troops.

    Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired

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