The failure of the “Super Committee” has the Department of Veterans Affairs scrambling to figure out how to pay for and support soldiers with PTSD and brain injuries. Already strapped for cash, the VA is facing deep cuts when a mandatory $600 billion is slashed from the Department of Defense budget. The budget cuts were automatically triggered when the “Partisan 12” failed to set aside Party agenda for national security. Between the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD and associated depression sends nearly 10,000 new cases to VA Hospitals each quarter, with an estimated total of 800,000 patients expected as soldiers return home from the war.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a psychological disorder that causes nightmares, anti-social behavior, flashbacks, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, and an array of other debilitating symptoms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, diagnosis of PTSD criteria includes, but is not limited to:
“A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
(1) The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others
(2) The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior
B. The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
(1) Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
(2) Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.
(3) Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
(4) Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
(5) Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
(1) Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
(2) Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
(3) Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
(4) Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
(5) Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
(6) Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
(7) Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)
D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
(1) Difficulty falling or staying asleep
(2) Irritability or outbursts of anger
(3) Difficulty concentrating
(5) Exaggerated startle response
E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month.
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”
(Read more at http://ptsd-symptoms.org/ )
The problem with the VA’s diagnosis process however, is a great number of soldiers wait an average of 14 days or more to receive treatment, as a result, many soldiers forgo seeking treatment at all; what’s more, with definite budget cuts on the way this wait may very well become indefinite. Additionally, the military’s overall health care and retirement benefits will be affected; leaving American heroes and their families to struggle in a nation they unselfishly sacrificed and fought for. Is this the thank you American soldiers and Vets deserve? Is this how America welcomes home our heroes? If it is, it is a pitiful attempt at “Thank You”, and we all should be ashamed!
A more staggering fact is, the $600 billion cuts to the Department of Defense will put many American soldiers at a higher risk for PTSD and death by halting training activities that properly prepare them for battle, and discontinuing the purchase and production of life-saving equipment needed to keep soldiers and America safe from foes.
“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned…cuts in spending estimated at $600 billion from fiscal 2012 to 2021 would be “completely unacceptable”… [Suggesting], “If that happens, it could trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation” (David Alexander and Jim Wolf, 2011).
9/11 should have taught America a valuable lesson that WE are not untouchable, and our safety is not secured; however, cuts to defense say we have learned nothing! Military officials continue to fight the sequestration triggered by the “partisan 12”; however, President Obama said he would veto any attempt to repeal. What does this mean for the Department of Defense? According to George Little, it means “the smallest Army and Marine Corps in decades, the smallest tactical Air Force since [that branch of the service] was established, and the smallest Navy in nearly 100 years” (Cheryl Pellerin, 2011). Feel safe yet?
Well, if that little tidbit of knowledge is unsettling, the following information will not comfort either. According to a Web Memo published in February 2011 by the Heritage Foundation,
“…the army is “unable to buy four new CH-47 Chinook helicopters for the Army’s 13th Combat Aviation Brigade… army leaders have said there “would be no money to refurbish Humvee utility vehicles, and officials could be forced to shut down production lines at the Red River Army depot in Texas and the Letterkenny Army depot in Pennsylvania… The air force is considering the possibility of “grounding some of its F-15E fleet” due to funding shortfalls… A delay in the purchase of Active Electronically Scanned Array radar for F-15Es “will increase the risk that we might have to ground a portion of our F-15E fleet because the existing radar system is dependent on parts that are obsolete and not available. … Without kicking off that modernization program this year, as originally scheduled, we are significantly increasing the risk that parts on those radar will fail and be irreplaceable. That has significant operational effect” (Eaglen, 2011).
What’s next, the military laying our heroes to rest in a landfill somewhere because they either won’t or can’t pay for a proper burial service? Oh, that’s right –they are already doing that! Officials argue this practice was the standard of disposal at the time, but no one expects their loved one to be dumped in a trash pile by the very people they died for! It is bad enough when soldiers get injured and are refused funding for treatment, but it is egregious to be so ungrateful that the fallen (who will no longer “strain” military funds) can’t even get a respectful funeral service! Bin Laden received a more proper burial than these 274 + American soldiers. What the Hell kind of gratitude is that?
In conclusion, if the current administration would have given $535 Billion to the Department of Defense instead of Solyndra, America’s security might not be at risk; what’s more, PTSD and brain injury patients would receive proper treatment in an acceptable time period. Additionally, taxpayers would have been more secure in their investment. America MUST take care of the heroes that fight, die, and come home injured; furthermore, their benefits should be the last to suffer budget cuts –period! Finally, World War 3 is lingering in the minds of America’s foes; do we really want to be unprepared for battle?
(To All My Heroes: I don’t know you, but I OWE you –Thank you for your sacrifice!)
Alexander, D., Wolf, Jim. (2011, August 3). Panetta warns against sweeping
defense budget cuts. Reuters.com.
Eaglen, M. (2011, February 14). Defense cuts in FY 2011 would hurt troops.
The Heritage Foundation. No. 3153.
Pellerin, C. (2011, September 15). Additional budget cuts would devastate
military, spokesman says. American Forces Press Service.