This is a follow-up to Gordon Duff’s special report 60 MINUTES RUNS FLUFF PIECE ON VETERANS WOES
Paul Sullivan posted what I believe to be the heart of the problem with the backlog of VA claims in his response to the ‘stolen valor’ question raised by CBS reporter Bryan Pitts.
This video went up on YouTube also
Veteran’s Activists Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) was on camera when CBS 60 minutes investigative reporter Byron Pitts asked what can be called the Stolen Valor question.
Listen yourselves at what Pitts asked Sulliven – something to the effect of how does the VA balance its responsibility to U.S. taxpayers with its responsiblity to America’s Veterans. [This is an outlandish assumption that most Veterans scam and defraud the U.S. taxpayer – hum!]
Paul’s response was short and to the point. The number of Veterans who scam the VA on a yearly basis could be counted on one hand. That is what we need to say to the NEOCONs of the world who have downplayed PTSD, Agent Orange and will belittle any ailment coming out of the Iraq and Afghansitan wars – on this we Veterans can depend.
Have we not heard this same refrain about responsiblity to U.S. tax payers before from the likes of B.G. Burkett and Dr. Sally Satel?
After Vietnam, ultra-conservative Veterans, and the conservative politicians that they supported, preached that both PTSD and Agent Orange, but especially PTSD, were the basis of fraudulent claims by Veterans to the VA.Hell, they challenged the very existence of PTSD that must have thrilled a Pentagon in much need of cannon fodder for the last days of Vietnam.
Readers that was what over 35 years ago yet that attitude is still going strong or Pitts would never have asked that question. Later, neo-conservatives like Burkett were joined by at lease ONE neo-conservative psychiatrist named Sally Satel.
The main emphasis of the stolen valor argument was that veterans in large numbers were defrauding the American tax payer by faking PTSD. A mental health condition they claimed was easy to fake.
However, the main thrust of Stolen Valor was on attacking FAKE VETERANS period. Yet, it has never been explained to any intelligent person exactly how a fake veteran gets into the VA system be it during Vietnam, after Vietnam, or today. Anyone vaguely familiar with the VA system knows that it is hard enough for a legitimate veteran to get into the VA.
Does the name Sally Satel ring a bell. It should if you are a PTSD advocate or researcher (regardless of your political biases and yes you have them).
She used the stolen valor arguments of B.G. Burkett right up to 2004, if not beyond, to compare young Iraq and Afghanistan Vets with Vietnam Vets when it came to PTSD. This attitude now entrenched within the VA system is why we will forever have a backlog of claims at the VA.
Taking the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) position she represents (if one doesn’t think professional MDs and Shrinks are non-partisan THINK AGAIN) Dr. Sally asked how does one explain the postwar explosion in Vietnam PTSD cases?
The frequently excuse Sally says is that the start of PTSD can be delayed for months or years. This belief, however, has no support in research studies. And consider the striking absence of delayed cases in long-range studies like that of people affected by the Oklahoma City bombing. Such studies have found that symptoms of PTSD almost always develop within days of the traumatic event and, in about two-thirds of sufferers, fade within a year.
She then goes on to attack the early pioneers of PTSD research using words and logic right out of the much biased and politically partisan Stolen Valor by B.G. Burkett. I used Burkett’s roll of toilet paper not to hack his book but to show and example of how the crap he wrote about in that book still has a conservative following given Sally Satel is still around fighting the PTSD fakers.
Sally says that it is worth noting that the concept of delayed PTSD was introduced in the early 1970’s by a group of psychiatrists led by Robert Jay Lifton, an outspoken opponent of the war. Burkett used the terminology the Lifton and other LIBERALS at the VA collaborated with Vietnam Veterans of American to defraud the American taxpayer on the degree of PTSD. In fact, Burkett went a step further in downplaying both PTSD and Agent Orange.
She notes that these liberal Psychiatrists (remember she is a NEOCON psychiatrist just as there are NEOCON doctors, nurses, and so on). These liberals decided that many former Soldiers suffered what was called post-Vietnam syndrome – marked by "alienation, depression, an inability to concentrate, insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, uprootedness and impatience with almost any job or course of study" – and that this distinguished veterans of Vietnam from those of any other war.
Sally also notes that there was little data to back up the existence of this delayed syndrome, but that PTSD stole a Vietnam Veterans valor. Say what?
It was THE IMAGE of the veteran as a walking time bomb [Rambo] that was a boon to the antiwar movement, which used it as proof that military aggression destroys minds and annihilates souls. Yes, some veterans suffered the crippling anxiety of chronic PTSD. But the broad-brush diagnosis of post-Vietnam syndrome also served political ends. Here she is referring to the conservative MYTH of how THE LIBERALS lost the Vietnam War. Note also that she and other NEOCONs use the broad brush stroke that anyone and everyone who questioned let alone opposed the Vietnam War was a liberal (from media giants such as Walter Kronkite to the mainstream media in general once it stopped selling the war right down to professional medical people who held a diverse political ideology). Today if readers be Libertarians or Independents yet still hold conservative values, she and her kind will still label you a LIBERAL if you question or oppose not only the Vietnam war, but the current wars that she sees as connected and fears THE LIBERALS will once again END and LOSE.
However she also notes there are a couple of other reasons to be skeptical of most troops claiming PTSD. For one, there is an economic incentive to claim suffering. Now more than ever she would agree with Paul Sullivan but for a different reason. The economic melt down is driving more elderly Veterans to the VA with the intention of scamming the government and ripping off the American people. If that were not a fact, once again CBS correspondent Bryan Pitts would not have asked Paul Sullivan about the incidents of Veterans defrauding the VA.
It is the Sally Satel’s and B.G. Burketts of the world, many of them unfortunately Veterans determined to leave their brothers and sisters behind that will make claims like this. Veterans have an economic incentive to file a VA claim regardless if they are disabled or not.
In her own words, Sally says that a "veteran deemed to be fully disabled [100%] by post-traumatic stress disorder can collect $2,000 to $3,000 a month, tax free. More important, perhaps, the syndrome provides a medicalized explanation for many unhappy, but not necessarily traumatized, veterans trying to make sense of their experience.[Frankly the politically biased doctor who has never seen combat nor worked closely with combat veterans experiencing PTSD fails to mention that very few veterans warrant a rating of 100% with PTSD alone. It has to be combined with other ailments]
In talking about the growing number of Vietnam Vets claiming PTSD later in life Dr. Sally notes that it is in your imagination. She claims that psychological studies have shown that Vietnam Vets tend to reconstruct the past in terms of the present – Vets often exaggerate the degree of earlier misfortune if they are feeling bad, or minimize old troubles if they are feeling good.
Some of the Vets interviewed by 60 minutes, and quite a few Vietnam Vets not interviewed would either find it impossible to prove a combat connection (even if combat stress were the major trigger of PTSD since the triggers vary as much as individual personalities).
However, her kind are proponents of denying VA claims unless there is a clear link to combat trauma.
THIS IS WHY I BELIEVE THAT IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUNGER MORE ENERGIZED VETERANS ADVOCATES TO TAKE THE VA HEAD ON IN THIS EXCUSE TO DELAY, DENY, UNTIL WE DIE ATTITUDE THAT REMAINS ENTRENCHED AT THE VA REGARDLESS WHAT VA TALKING DOGS HAVE TO TELL MAINSTREAM MEDIA!!!
Don’t take my word for it, listen to Dr. Sally, "it is vital that researchers corroborate the battlefield events that veterans cite as causes of their PTSD. Unfortunately, researchers on the 1990 PTSD readjustment study did not do the archival legwork to verify the trauma that the veterans reported. Until a better study is done, the "facts" on post-Vietnam PTSD are simply speculation.
CONNECTING THE DOTS BETWEEN VIETNAM, IRAQ, AND AFGHANISTAN
Dr. Sally (though she does not work within the VA thank God, she once did) and others still entrenched within the VA have this attitude not only about Vietnam Vets but also younger Veterans that they view as WEAK as LIBERALS.
They promote the view that "some soldiers will return from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe psychological problems, and we must do everything in our power to help them. The vast majority, however, will be able to adjust on their own – and imposing on them the questionable legacy of Vietnam won’t do them any service. As the British psychiatrist Simon Wessely has put it: "Generals are justly criticized for fighting the last war, not the present one. Psychiatrists should be aware of the same mistake."
THAT READERS (VIETNAM ERA VETS OR YOUNGER VETS) IS THE BOTTOM LINE ABOUT WHAT REALLY IS THE ROOT OF THE BACKLOG OF VA CLAIMS. EVEN IF DR. SALLY IS ONTO SOMETHING AND SHE AND B.G. BURKETT ARE FULL OF IT, THE ATTITUDE ALONE WOULD STILL HOLD UP OTHER VA CLAIMS THAT ARE NOT RELATED TO PTSD!
Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
Libertarian (Liberal, conservative, you name it)
PS: I got my 100% by knowing how to defeat the Satels and Burkett’s of the world and shake my fist at their kind should they try taking my VA benefits away from me. I earned them!!! She never will, and Burkett degrades what we’ve earned in the name of Stolen Valor!!!
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.