My dad is a former Marine, and Purple Heart recipient from WW2. He’s also a liberal and vocal critic of the pathetic Bush policies that have disenfranchised thousands of veterans. It was a hard pill to swallow when he heard how the Veterans Administration withheld information and benefit policy to discourage troops seeking medical attention and to hold down government costs. I don’t even want to be around when he reads about the administrations latest attempt to avoid the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Thanks to groups like Votevets.org, these shattered lives will get the help they were promised. Their web site posted this story:
“Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and VoteVets.org released an e-mail obtained from a Veterans Affairs (VA) employee directing VA staff to refrain from diagnosing soldiers and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stating that due to an increased number of ‘compensation seeking veterans,’ the staff should ‘refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out’ and they should ‘R/O [rule out] PTSD’ and consider a diagnosis of ‘Adjustment Disorder’ instead. The e-mail is available at http://www.citizensforethics.org/.”
(According to) “CREW, ‘It is outrageous that the VA is calling on its employees to deliberately misdiagnose returning veterans in an effort to cut costs.’ The RAND Corporation released a report that found that approximately 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and only about half have sought treatment.”
In a related story on PTSD, I discovered this chiller- “The Treasonous Letter,” by Michelle Gillett of Berkshire Eagle Online. She wrote:
“Laura Berg wrote the following to the editor of her local paper, the Alibi in Albuquerque, New Mexico in September, 2005: "As a VA nurse working with returning . . . vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder; now we will have hundreds of thousands of our civilian citizens with PTSD as well as far too many young soldiers, maimed physically or psychologically — or both — spreading their pain, anger and isolation through family and communities for generations. And most of this natural disaster and war tragedy has been preventable . . . We need to wake up…and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit."
“A few weeks after her letter was published, Berg's office computer with all her case files on the veterans she treats was confiscated and VA Secretary James Nicholson requested a thorough investigation of the letter-writing nurse. Berg was shaken and angry even after…the VA admitted that no evidence was found implicating the use of Berg's work computer with her letter. However, in a memo to Berg, he justified the investigation by saying ‘the agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition.’ Sedition is a plot or conspiracy to use force to overthrow the government and can result in 20 years in jail.” Even though the VA admitted it was wrong, Berg has been told that it would be preferable if she not mention she works for the VA in future correspondence with editors.”
“A few weeks ago(April 2008), Laura Berg received the new PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award, which honors a United States citizen or resident who has fought courageously to safeguard the First Amendment's right to freedom of expression as it applies to the written word. PEN Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems praised Berg's ‘determination to express her views in print and courage in the face of the most heavy-handed and overbearing official reaction."
This was a shot over the bow. It was a chilling account of intimidation.
It was also a reminder to our troops that once they put on their civilian clothes, they’re on their own. Thanks for nothing.