May 3, 2010

PTSD Continues as Veteran Bashing Grows

by Michael Leon

As the political fallout continues over Allen Breed's AP hit job published over the weekend asserting that U.S. veterans and reformist DVA elements effectively colluding to commit widespread fraud, we note that blaming veterans for illness and injury has a long tradition.

There is a wide political coalition of forces in American politics of several parties who are proficient at waving the flag and giving lip service to our veterans, while simultaneously shafting these very same veterans, even going to far as to bad mouth and dishonor them explicitly.

This obscene veteran-bashing tradition applies emphatically to Vietnam War-era veterans, many of whom U.S. Census enumerators count this year as they encounter them with non-permanent residences, living in non-sheltered areas, i.e., homeless.

To put it a different way, membership in the Republican and Democratic parties means nothing when it comes to veterans' advocacy. A Texas libertarian like Tom Dillman of the Veterans Today's community supports veterans every bit as much as our lefties here, though we agree about little else.

Veterans Today and mal contends will have more on this story in the following days.
[VT Senior Editor and General Manager's Note: Veterans Today's managing editor and staff writer, Mike Leon, broke the story on Wisconsin Navy veteran Keith Roberts and has done much of the original reporting identifying the nexus of veterans, the U.S. Attorneys Scandal and ideological antipathy toward delivering benefits to veterans generally. Leon says, "Roberts is the tip of a very deep iceberg composed of some cold characters, one of those characters is Renée L. Szybala, the Bush administration's national DVA Director of Compensation and Pension Services during the DVA targeting of Roberts." Szybala is number two at the U.S. VA Office of General Counsel (OGC) in charge of the Ethics office. Mike Bailey, Veterans Today staff writer, veteran of the Vietnam War Era, Gulf War One, U.S. Army, Infantry, SSG, and Operation Desert Storm Medical volunteer Edgewood Arsenal 1974 (Cold War Experiments), has reportedly told a VT colleague that he promised not to drop dead after hearing that Szybala is still at the VA and is number two at OGC Ethics.]

Paul Sullivan's people over at Veterans for Common Sense have a piece knocking down Allen Breed's AP article and it is printed below in its entirety.

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) was formed in August 2002 as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization by war veterans who believe that we, the people of the United States of America, are most secure when our country is free, strong, and responsibly engaged with the world. Our mission, based on the pragmatic ideals of the American patriot Thomas Paine, is to raise the unique and powerful voices of veterans so that our military, veterans, freedom, and national security are protected and enhanced, for ourselves and for future generations.

PTSD Is Real, PTSD Fraud Is Not
Written by VCS
May 3, 2010, Washington, DC (VCS) - Last weekend, 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).

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

Here are two very important facts the 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.

Fact Number One. 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 PTSD claims. After an exhaustive investigation, VA found zero cases of fraud. VA has extensive methods to prevent fraud, contrary to AP's baseless assertion.

VA’s investigation began when a reporter at the Chicago Sun Times observed that VA pays different average amounts in disability benefits based on a state-by-state comparison. The true culprit: poor leadership, staff shortages, and a lack of consistent training. VA Secretary Shinseki is taking bold steps to address these challenges, and he has broad support among veterans’ groups.

A few people opposed to healthcare and benefits for our veterans have attacked PTSD in the past. VA Watchdog wrote an op-ed about this, and Boston Review published a news article.

The AP article was a disservice to veterans as it may perpetuate stereotypes of veterans with PTSD as frauds, when the science 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 we are working hard to fix that, too.

Fact Number Two. The standards for reviewing PTSD claims won’t be “loosened” as AP asserted without attribution.

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.

Here’s what independent scientists found. In 2007 the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science reviewed scores of peer-reviewed and published scientific studies and validated PTSD. In VCS July 2007 Congressional Testimony describing how the previous Administration fought against PTSD healthcare and benefits for our veterans.

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.

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.

In our view, PTSD is real, and charges of PTSD fraud are not.

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