December 04, 2007

Vets being shoved aside

This is some bullshit...Apparently, the numbers of Veterans arrested for drug and alcohol abuse in Travis Count have jumped dramatically. That's the obvious issue but the underlying cause is far more disturbing.

Because of the symptoms with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other psychiatric problems developed while in combat, veterans have succumbed to alcohol or drug abuse. This is frequently an attempt to self medicate the pain. This typically results in a dishonorable discharge, which denies any veteran VA benefits. As such veterans are thrown into the civilian population, their drug and alcohol abuse continues, yet they have no way to seek treatment for the abuse and/or their severe psychiatric problems. Furthermore, it is very difficult for veterans with dishonorable discharges to gain employment. Thus the downward spiral continues with no apparent way out.

The second problem is equally bad, but much more despicable. What is happening is that veterans returning from combat deployments take the right steps to receive treatment for PTSD and other lingering mental issues. In some of these instances, the military has pressured (coerced) the service members to sign a document stating that their mental condition was pre-existing. Such veterans are then discharged, and again denied access to VA benefits (because their disability is classified as existing prior to the military). The two primary ways these service members have been so coerced are:

1) Military members are threatened with disciplinary action. Their fragile psychiatric condition makes it very difficult for them to challenge this threat. In addition, they are pressured into signing such papers, with the "promise" that once signed, they will be discharged, and not be in further trouble. (They of course cannot get in legal trouble for having a psychiatric disorder, though when so pressured, they do not realize that this is the case).

2) The second form of coercion involves a horrible play on the condition of the service member. They are told that if they do not sign the document, their discharge will take longer. The nature of their illness is often such that they see the military as a cause of their pain, and are willing to sign away their benefits so that they can be immediately discharged.

This is a real problem nationally that's leading to extremely high suicide rates among our returning troops. The sad part is that it seems to be directed from the Administration down through DoD to classify as many Vets as possible this way to cut down on benefit payments over the next 50-60 years.

This is an absolutely inexcusable situation and one which people in liberal Austin seem to be taking seriously and working to address. The only question is why Republicans think their support of the troops begins and ends with the magnetic ribbon on their car? Is it any wonder that recruitment is going so badly?

Posted by mcblogger at December 4, 2007 10:58 AM

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