By Gordon Duff
A couple of days ago, Tom Philpott, perhaps the best known writer today on Veterans issues,reported on the new publication from Congress on Veterans compensation issues.
After years of Bush administration opposition to any proposal that would benefit disabled vets and their families, our new Democratic congress is ready and willing to use their unmigated genius to our benefit. Be afraid, be very afraid.
The current range of suggestions facing potential veto despite some seeming bi-partisan support, would increase compensation issues, address Tri-care for life (totally disabled veterans get Champ-VA, not unlike Medicare, but lacking any dental or optical coverage). From what I understand, Tri-Care could be made available to Veterans with much less disabilty, as little as 20%.
However, the issue I am addressing today is PTSD. For generations, the VA has been treating the after effects of PTSD as “shell shock”, alcoholism, dementia or sitting aside while combat vets migrate into homelessness and prison. Post Traumatic Stress suddenly existed in 1982 though many VA psychiatrists have less familiarity with the disease than you could get from reading a pamphlet.
With a new war and a deluge of new PTSD patients looking for treatment and compensation, Congress has now decided to really help. Our last assistance, from the Bush administration, was the decision to “review” all permanent and total disability recipients with our with IU (individual unemployability, a legalistic system that allows payment at 100% level for people with 60% or above disabilty levels).
This review was based on the insane assumption that the government only overdiagnoses but never underdiagnoses, despite the fact that many vets spent a decade or more getting their PTSD claims through the diagnosis, re-diagnosis, appeal and “give up” process.
No figures are available, the the system, not unlike Social Security, has long been designed, despite recent reforms, to guarantee that, in most areas of the country, PTSD vets are never diagnosed and treated adequately and discouraged from applying for disability. With the majority of Vietnam Vets now and currently dead (recent studies will show an alarming number have died well before their time), it is now time for Congress to address PTSD for our Iraq War vets.
Congress, in their findings, calls PTSD a “management problem”. My assumption, and that of Veterans advocacy groups will be that by “management problem”, Congress means that Veterans who are being compensated for PTSD will need regular review toward reduction of benefits.
As one of the few vets subjected to the Bush Administration “PTSD review”, prior to the public outrage, I can assure you that a Guantanamo “waterboarding” session might be preferable. The wonderful blend of latent “anti vet bigotry” at the Bush White House combined with current fiscal management practices and Cia interrogation techniques managed to produce an evaluation process steeped in “Kubark” (Please “Google” for this enjoyable and helpful government document)methodology.
After years of Republican patriotic “hoopla” and “Mission Accomplished” photo sessions while many vets turned a blind eye to much less patriotic policies toward soldiers and veterans, our “new broom” stand ready to redress previous ills at the expense of the PTSD vets.
Packaged inside the promise of increased compensation is the threat of regular “management review”.
Imagine now, a “management review” session for a veteran receiving benefits for PTSD. You show up at a VA facility. Someone asks you, “How are you today?”
You answer, “I’m OK, and yourself?”.
Suddenly your GAF score (please “google” GAF or “Global Assessment Functioning”) goes from 35 to 70 and your income drops from the ability to feed your family to homelessness in 5 minutes.
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT IS BEING PLANNED.
As those suffering from PTSD know very well, this is a disease that does not repond to “management” and one that only gets worse, much much worse as time goes on. Vets I know who worked for years eventually become “housebound” decades after leaving service. This is common, this is the norm. Psychiatry, Congress and Veterans Affairs has always known this as much as they have always known that “not knowing” is easier and cheaper.
Now our new Democrat friends want to memorialize the practice of putting disabled vets under a microscope. The “Lourdes Syndrome” has always been part of the VA system. At a VA Comp and Pension examination, the blind so often have suddenly regained sight, limbs have miraculously regrown. This would all be funny were it not for the suicides and suffering caused through the system of administrative game playing that everyone has always been aware of but nobody says anything.
With Veterans and Retirees, as usual, at each others throat, competing for benefits and privileges and “institutionalized blind patriotism” pushing many misguided Veterans and Retirees into support of one administration that seems to despise soldiers and veterans, using them when needed and discarding them like country club party favors once the “photo-op” is done.
Now the ever so helpful Democrats want to open the public coffers as they so often do, without care or reason.
In a nation where government is a profession for failed lawyers and “frat boy” clowns, expecting anything but despise or neglect is, perhaps too much to ask.
Maybe we can stay stupid, as veterans in the past have, marching in parades, while a government run by “country club draft dodgers” lets another army come home from war to derision and neglect.
Veterans and Retirees have been divided and conquered. Watching this Bush stand in front of a VFW audience to thunderous applause while knowing that service organizations see him as the great enemy of veterans makes me ashamed as a veteran and former Marine.