WHITFIELD: So is this good news in your view?
SULLIVAN: This is great news and it is long overdue just as President Barack Obama said. It really is.
WHITFIELD: So you and others have been pushing for this kind of change for some time. In what way do you think your push actually influenced these changes?
SULLIVAN: We actually petitioned the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue these regulations (in January 2009) based on a lot of scientific evidence. In fac,t the Institute of Medicine published this report (“Gulf War and Health, Volume 6”) more than 330 pages of scientific studies linking or associating post-traumatic stress disorder to a war zone.
WHITFIELD: So is your feeling that the way the procedure had been played out recently, it meant that a vet would have to prove their circumstance and because they had to prove their circumstance with specific instances and with war, it may have prevents many vets from getting the assistance they needed because they didn’t have the measures to have that documentation?
SULLIVAN: Yes. What this regulation is going to do is cut through the red tape. That’s very good news. It’s what veterans, especially veterans with traumatic brain injury an post traumatic stress disorder will want to know. It’s going to be easier for them to fill out the paperwork. Veterans for common sense encourages veterans with mental health symptoms to seek care at VA. We hope that with President Obama’s initiative and VA secretary’s leadership that our veterans will receive the health care and disability benefits they need and earned faster and this will be easier for V.A. employees to process the claims. There will be less red tape and less paperwork.
WHITFIELD: So Paul there’s also been some criticism already before it actually gets under way come Monday that the V.A., the Veterans Affairs would actually have to make the diagnosis that perhaps a private doctor would not be able to play a part in diagnosing someone as being a suffer of PTS.
SULLIVAN: We want to take a look at the regulations when they finally come out on Monday. That is a legitimate concern that maybe a private doctor or a military doctor could diagnose it. In the end, though, just for any medical condition, whether it be traumatic brain injury, amputation or even post-traumatic stress disorder, the Department of Veterans Affairs will want to confirm that the condition exists by examining the veterans. That is reasonable. Americans would expect that so that we don’t have cases of fraud. I think what Americans really want to know is, are our veterans going to get faster and more accurate claims decisions? The bottom line is yes.
WHITFIELD: And the bottom line you feel like more people will be getting help that they have otherwise would not have been getting?
SULLIVAN: Yes. Veterans file disability claims, of course, to receive compensation.
SULLIVAN: But they also file disability claims to get health care. If we provide our returning veterans with health care sooner, that means we can reduce costs in the long term. From broken families, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness and even suicide. This is a very good step in the right direction by President Obama based on scientific evidence.
WHITFIELD: Paul Sullivan thanks so much. Executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. Appreciate your time.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.