Iraq War Veteran Waits Two Years for PTSD Benefits – Pending VA Reg Would Fix This Injustice

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From Veterans for Common Sense:

by Annie Bishop
  
– According to Veterans for Common Sense, a non-profit group based in Washington, DC, 47 percent of claims by PTSD patients are approved. That leaves thousands of veterans like Patrick who are still waiting or have been denied. –

Iraq War veteran seeking benefits for PTSD drowning in VA red tape

March 25, 2010, Spokane, Washington (KXLY-4 TV) – Studies have shown at least one in five Iraq veterans suffer from PTSD and it’s a disorder that Spokane veteran Patrick Griffus has been suffering with for years.

While Griffus has been suffering since he returned home the Veteran’s Affairs administration has refused his claims for compensation for his PTSD.

Patrick Griffus always wanted to join the Army. His grandfather jumped out of planes in the Korean War and he wanted to go Airborne too.

“I signed up to be a 92 Romeo which is a parachute rigger and what that does is any airborne operations of soldiers or supplies needing to get into the battlefield I pretty much packed the parachute and rigged up the supplies for heavy drop,” Griffus said.

Patrick enlisted during his senior year when he was 18-years-old. A few months later he deployed to Iraq.

“It was more exciting than nervous really,” he said.

The excitement faded however around his 19th birthday. While in Iraq he helped purify drinking water on base and went on a handful on convoy missions.

“I told the guys when I signed up I just said I don’t want to kill anybody ‘cause it’s just not in my blood,” he said.

Patrick was never shot at and he never fired his weapon. Even so he says the convoy missions made a lasting impact.

“When you’re on the back of a Humvee and you have kids throwing rocks at you coming 30 miles an hour this way and you’re going 60 the other way it can kill you and so you think windows getting smashed all around you and you don’t want to really, like I said open fire on kids,” he said.

Patrick says he was forced to hit kids with sticks to keep them from stealing water.

“It was rough, it was rough because you really do want to help these people, but at the same time you’ve got to have water for yourself so it’s you or them.”

Patrick only served six months in Iraq but it was enough to change him forever.

“It’s constant, the pain is constant really because you can’t really escape from it.”

Patrick now says he suffers from tremors, he can’t sleep and thinks about suicide several times a month.

“I’ve thought at times that maybe if I took my own life it would help somebody else’s, maybe if I took my own life it would help somebody who is in my situation maybe get the word out that people are having problems when they come back,” Patrick said.

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In 2008 a doctor at the Spokane VA Medical Center diagnosed Patrick with PTSD and Patrick filed a claim with the VA to get disability. A disability rating would guarantee money for living expenses and health care for himself and his fiance. His claim was denied.

“They think guilty until proven innocent kinda with the system that is set up now,” he said.

To get disability for PTSD the VA requires the veteran have a combat-related medal or fill out a stressor statement. Essentially Patrick must prove and write in detail the events that caused his PTSD. Patrick says he’s had a hard time filling out the required paperwork.

“I think its wrong I just think that it’s absolutely wrong that you are going to ask a veteran to detail his personal life changing secrets just so he can prove that he has a problem that you’ve already diagnosed him with,” Patrick said.

In a written statement the VA responded by saying “we appreciate that recalling painful memories is emotionally difficult. For this reason, it is usually best done under the care and guidance of a psychiatrist or psychologist who has the skills and training to elicit memories and help the patient cope with them.”

With the help of Adrian Wall with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Patrick filled out that paperwork earlier this month however he fears it won’t be enough. In the paperwork Patrick has to be very specific with dates, locations and witnesses. Tracking down those witnesses Patrick believes may be impossible.

“I was with people I maybe knew for 15 minutes and you’d go on a mission together and after that mission you’d go your separate ways,” he said.

Wall, who works with veterans every day, says Patrick is not alone.

“It can be extremely daunting because you have the military who has not recognized them through combat awards as a combat veteran but that doesn’t change that they were exposed to extremely traumatic events,” Wall said.

According to Veterans for Common Sense, a non-profit group based in Washington, DC 47 percent of claims by PTSD patients are approved. That leaves thousands of veterans like Patrick who are still waiting or have been denied.

It’s a problem the VA has promised to address by changing the requirements for PTSD approval. Patrick just hopes it happens soon as he wants his life back.

“It would be acknowledgement, really by the government and by my country that they got my back after I got theirs,” Patrick said.

Patrick has been going to counseling sessions at the VA Medical Center in Spokane and says that has been helping but he says he still needs his benefits.

If you are a veteran or someone you know who is a veteran is thinking about suicide call 1-800-273-TALK for help.

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