The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) yep, I spelled it correctly) says that Military Families and Troops that watch or listen to less ‘bad’ news from sensationalized media programs about Iraq limit their exposure to PTSD stressors.
Say what? Let us get this straight. If my military family listens to or watches only good news (meaning positive or optimistic NOT necessarily accurate or GOOD quality news, because there is no such thing) the brilliant Shrinks and Mental Health professionals at the VA assure us that we will endure less PTSD stressors. Hum-O-Ky-dokey!.
One more time, because my military family doesn’t quite grasp this new VA finding. As long as we, hear of negative news on Iraq, see no negative news on Iraq, and touch no negative news on Iraq, we won’t need to seek Life Skills, (I mean Mental Health) treatment. I’m sorry but I just have to put that in the same category as VA PTSD rap sessions for all Vets, not just Iraq and Afghanistan..
At the NEOCON run VA, the first rule of PTSD treatment is to not talk politics (meaning anything that is negative about the war is TABOO, however anything that is negative about your part in it, go for it.) Point: I’ve seen with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears what VA PTSD raps sessions are really about. Ensuring patients continue to support the Iraq War as they seek a PTSD cure. Wo-We could make that into a hit song or at least PTSD poetry.
I tend to agree with Mark Twain when it comes to ‘the media,’ either of his day or ours. Twain most likely knew PTSD as “irritable heart” during the 19th century following the War Between the States. During WWI symptoms and stigma associated with PTSD was called Soldier’s Heart.
“A private should preserve a respectful attitude toward his superiors, and should seldom or never proceed so far as to offer suggestions to his general in the field. By the etiquette of war, it is permitted to none below the rank of newspaper correspondent to dictate to the general in the field.” Mark Twain – “The Benefit of Judicious Training,” 6/8/1881
“If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” Mark Twain on Newspapers.
“…one should be gentle with the ignorant, for they are the chosen of God.” Mark Twain – Letter to W. D. Howells, 5/12/1899
With the humor of Mark Twain in mind, that is about how serious I take it when the Department of Veterans Affairs says that Military, “Families should minimize exposure to anxiety-arousing media related to the war. News programs often emphasize fearful content and frightening images to create a “story.” Watching a lot of TV news programs, for example, can create needless distress. When children worry about war, let them know that the war is far away. Acknowledge children’s fears, and let them know that parents, teachers, and police are here to protect them.”
I personally believe that what ‘the management’ of the VA meant to say way, “Limit exposure to news media programs that are not screened, monitored, and controlled by AmericaSupportsBush.mil. If the media refuses to paint a rosy picture of Iraq, boycott it. BEWARE the doomsayers of CBS, PBS, plus any other mainstream media outlet that does not enforce the Pentagon/VA picture of the war President Bush and enough members of Congress sent you to fight and die in and ‘maybe, just MAYBE’ you will limit your exposure to PTSD stressors.” COME ON NOW PEOPLE, the following had former House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyers and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Doctor Phil (oops I mean) Sally Satel’s behind the scenes stench all over it.
EVERY American Veteran knows who Steve Buyer is, IF you are a Vet who does not know who Dr. Sally is or what the American Enterprise Institute is. The AEI for Public Policy Research is one of the oldest and most influential of the pro-business right-wing think tanks. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism, and has been extremely successful in placing its people in influential governmental positions, particularly in the Bush Administration. AEI has been described as one of the country’s main bastions of neoconservative. Dr. Sally, is the Bush administration’s EXPERT on PTSD, with ‘too many’ PTSD fraud ‘conspiracy’ theory’s [She really sounds more like a UFO expert, EXCEPT UFO experts have more credibility.] She adores B.G. Burkett, the Texas associate of the Bush mob, and she TOO OFTEN quotes FACT from Burkett’s fake Vet book, Stolen Valor. Dr. Sally looks down on Vietnam Vets unless they fit Stolen Valor’s criteria.
Only Veterans like Congressman Steve Buyer would respect Ms. Sally’s opinion. Buyer is to the Bush administration what Frank Netty was to the Capone Mob, except Buyer is the NEOCON PTSD enforcer. VETERANS could almost come to love Dr. Sally if only she were not TOO CLOSE and among such NEOCON company:
about how thrilled Our Troops were to be in Iraqinam. Seeing how obvious Frum was in his White House biased White Wash of What life for Our Troops was like in Iraq, PBS balanced the White House take on their war with a counter documentary film from VETERANS [Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan] involved in the PEACE movement.
Though I certainly agree that shutting out the media world will cut down on family stress, especially do not encourage children to go overboard on the news. Children just cannot handle that level of stress nor have I ever known any child to be overly interested in ‘the news.’ How many scholars and teachers reading this (regardless your views on this war) can convince me that the vast majority of military brats (assuming you know any) under the age of let’s say 19, are obsessed with media coverage of anything much less war.
That reality and humor aside, look who is talking. The Republican run VA. Need I say more? However, this is more a lesson NEOCONs learned from Vietnam. [Meaning there is very few other lessons they did learn MOST having not been to Vietnam] You see the Pentagon has as Mark Twain put it both, “uninformed” and “misinformed” believing that ‘the LIBERAL media is liberally biased and that led to the U.S. government losing previous wars.’ Our government lost previous wars, not Our Troops, once the Pentagon and VA learn that lesson from Vietnam the sooner PTSD will get realistic treatment to HEAL, for there is no magic cure to send all those needed bodies back into never-ending COMBAT.
The Republican and ‘fund raising for their own VSO recruitment’ run and mismanaged VA says, “The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the longest combat operations since Vietnam. Many stressors face soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Soldiers are at risk for death or injury. They may see others hurt or killed. They may have to kill or wound others.
Other factors can add more stress to an already stressful situation. These include what service members do in the war, the politics around the war, where the war is fought, and the type of enemy they face. These factors can increase the chance of having PTSD or other mental health problems.
For many soldiers, being away from home for long periods of time can cause problems at home or work. These problems can add to the stress. This may be even truer for National Guard and reserve troops who did not expect to be away for so long.
Another cause of stress in Iraq and Afghanistan is military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs in the military. It can happen to men and women. MST can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
There is no information available on MST in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among veterans using VA health care, about:
23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.
[I believe this is more in the realm of senior ranking females harassing one of their male troops, when the VA talks about ‘male’ sexual harassment. POINT: the VA needs to be a bit clearer on what the above figures really mean. But, moreso what is the VA prepared to do about it?]
We know that frequent and intense stressors are more likely to cause mental health problems.
What does the future hold?
The ultra-conservative management of the VA system thinks that, “Based on studies of [Vietnam Vets with PTSD (hum)], “It is too soon to know the long-term outcome of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on studies from other conflicts, we can expect that most service members will have some distress but that it will not be severe or long lasting. Having some symptoms early on does not tell us much about who will remain distressed. [Do I detect a bit of B.G. Burkett’s ‘Stolen Valor’ influencing that projection, remember the PTSD was a conspiracy between Vietnam Victims of America (VVA) and ‘LIBERAL’ psychiatrists working for the VA to stiff the American tax payer, who BTW overwhelmingly did not support the Vietnam War either!]
We do know that soldiers who had more exposure to stressors and soldiers who had stronger reactions to those stressors are more likely to develop prolonged stress reactions. Service members should seek help for their mental health issues before they become long lasting.”
An Overview of the Mental Health Effects of Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq <[This makes for some half decent reading, BUT it is still full of half-truths with a Stolen Valor slant. Why do I believe that. (1) It is about as reliable a source as the Pentagon run and screened propaganda network, AmericaSupportsBush.mil., [ CAVEAT: AmericaSupportsBush.mil is an official U.S. Department of Defense website] (2) Note the stressors that even the VA defines for Iraq and Afghanistan below:]
I do appreciate the comparison of Iraq to Vietnam [wink]:
Let us start with the NEOCON Republican run VA saying, “We do know that soldiers who had more exposure to stressors and soldiers who had stronger reactions to those stressors are more likely to develop prolonged stress reactions. Service members should seek help for their mental health issues before they become long lasting.
Does that not mean that most troops deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan who experienced the following stressors most frequently are the most vulnerable to prolonged PTSD? The VA said, “The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the longest combat operations since Vietnam. Many stressors face soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Let us look at the stressors and think on this, how these stressors experienced with Iraqinam compare to the Vietnam PTSD experience, which BTW was a conspiracy, since many NEOCON Vets ‘still’ believe PTSD does not exist.
Here are the stressors as defined by the VA:
1. The risk for death or injury. [same stressor faced in Vietnam]
2. Seeing others hurt or killed. [same stressor faced in Vietnam and not limited to combat. REMFs could still be killed, but not in such massive numbers. This I believe is more so true in Iraq, even in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia a REMF could be a victim of a Terrorist Attack. These out of country casualties are still deaths or wounded troops regardless where they are located. This also was true of Vietnam where so-called combat operations where not limited to Vietnam proper, but bled into Thailand, Cambodia (or Kampuchea), Laos, and so on.
They may have to kill or wound others. [Ditto above, but why the VA does not mention, “They may have to kill or wound innocent civilians by mistake or otherwise, well again it is a NEOCON assessment.”
Other factors that aggravate combat stress –making a stressful situation even more difficult to handle:
3. What mommy or daddy did in the war.
4. The politics around the war. [Remember to tune out media coverage of the war unless of course it is pro-war.]
5. Where the war is fought. [This means if an area is subdued or out of control. Here again this is an attempt to downplay the role of REMFs, who I believe in Iraq stand more of a chance of getting killed or wounded that those during Vietnam.]
6. The type of enemy they face. [Here I see the closest similarity to Vietnam despite slight differences. The passion, aggression, and determination of an enemy our government and military leaders never respected due to American arrogance and racial superiority, in the case of Iraq it is religious superiority.]
The POINT is that even the VA contradicts itself about what the future holds for those with PTSD (wonder why?) “These factors can increase the chance of having PTSD or other mental health problems.” [How has the Pentagon dealt with this thus far, they called it “personality disorder,” in an attempt to ensure those troops and families watching too much non-Pentagon screened or NEOCON media [meaning liberal] media, and with their own eyes and hearts turned against this war, get nowhere near the VA. What has the VA done to right this wrong? NOTHING!]
However, the VA even stresses more stressors, “For many soldiers, being away from home for long periods of time can cause problems at home or work. These problems can add to the stress. This may be even truer for National Guard and reserve troops who did not expect to be away for so long.” [Boom the highlight difference between the tsunami of PTSD about to hit the VA shores during and after Iraqinam and Vietnam. The most significant stressor National Guard members en mass experienced during Vietnam was knocking the heads of Black Americans, liberals, and Peace Activists, that most National Guard members hated in the first place. How many trigger happy Ohio National Guard members involved in the Kent State shootings (Four Dead in Ohio) do you think have PTSD as a result? RIGHT]
The VA finally says that it gives a rat’s butt about Female Veterans.
Here is another glaring difference between Iraqinam and Vietnam that can be compared due to the shear number and increase of women to join the Armed Forces after the Vietnam drawdown. The VA notes that, “Another cause of stress in Iraq and Afghanistan is military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs in the military. It can happen to men and women. MST can occur during peacetime, training, or war.
There is no information available on MST in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among veterans using VA health care, about:
23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military. “
Written ABOVE touches on some of my feelings about this supposedly new disgrace that reflects our sick society. However, feedback I get from those this touches most is that the VA only puts icing on the cake in other words is sugar coating due to the high number of females filing complaints. They throw the insignificant number of males in there as comparison to downplay the assault on women in the military that began when women entered the military in any way, shape or form. How many Generals and Admirals do you think have been canned for messing with or harassing their secretaries who were not in uniform?
The insurmountable and number of stressors that the VA points out make what the VA says about, “It is too soon to know the long-term outcome of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on studies from other conflicts, we can expect that most service members will have some distress but that it will not be severe or long lasting.”
The VA ‘waited long enough’ to think about the long-term outcome of serving in Iraqistan [I mean Iraiqnam], and their findings are irrational and do not jive with even their assessment of the numerous stressors involved compared to Vietnam. For one, more women are serving in combat zones [REMF or not] than Vietnam. However, their combat operations role is played down for public opinion concerns, who wants to seriously send their daughter into combat like a man? I don’t say that to be sexist, but as a Father. The role women play in Iraqinam is far more dangerous than that played during Vietnam due to the shear numbers of women involved. Just like Vietnam, the role women do play and die in combat is downplayed to prevent American public exposure. It falls into the same Pentagon/VA catatory as do not watch TV news and you are less likely to get PTSD – Give me a friggin BREAK.
What studies of other conflicts, and what other conflicts is the VA talking about specifically? The only study I read between the lines is that done by B.G. Burkett in Stolen Valor. For even the Republican run VA to say that, we can expect that most service members will have some distress but that it will not be severe or long lasting,” then rattle off a shopping list of stressors our troops (and families) to endure and be exposed to goes beyond ludicrous to down right criminal. The management and real clout behind the VA system [we see ‘only their logos’ are allowed in a VA Hospitals’ lobby despite mismanagement of fund raising that supposedly goes to our Vets and Troops.] Extract foot from your mouths and resign.
We the people may have pushed Steve Buyer into the minority party, but we evidently did not hide him far enough in the background to not infest the VA. Guess the only way to do that is ensure he never gets re-elected, if only we could get the VFW, and American Legion in his home state TO STOP sending him back to Congress.
Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I’ve posted on Veterans Today, I’ve had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner.
My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me.
Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000.
I’ve been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I’m now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house.
I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.