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Old 05-29-2008, 05:02 PM
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VA: PTSD and TBI "Overblown"; Like "Football" Injuries
by: Brandon Friedman
Tue May 27, 2008 at 13:15:36 PM EDT
VA Secretary James Peake continued to show little respect for the service of America's newest veterans yesterday by dismissing concerns about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking alongside Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in a remote Alaskan village, Peake first used the word "overblown" when discussing PTSD and TBI and then made a "football" comparison.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

A Vietnam veteran in Bethel, John Guinn, told Stevens and Peake he was worried about what's going to happen to the village soldiers back from the Middle East.
He said everyone is proud of them now. But what happens in a few years when these men, highly trained in combat, can't find jobs, start drinking and going a little crazy, he asked. There aren't people in tiny villages trained to deal with mental health issues, he said.

"It's going to cause a commotion in their village," Guinn said. "I'm scared."

VA secretary Peake suggested some of the concern about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has been overblown.

Many of the brain injuries are serious but some of them are akin to what anyone who played football in their youth might have suffered, Peake told Guinn.

Guinn wasn't entirely satisfied with the answers. He said it's a real issue for returning soldiers as well as their families, and he doesn't think job training is enough.

Frankly, Peake's casually dismissive attitude sucks. Being hunted by other humans every day for 15 months, watching your friend bleed to death, and having your brain flattened like a pancake from a thousand-pound detonation are not comparable to football injuries.

It's also quite clear that this was neither a mis-speak nor a quote taken out of context, as this was the second day in a row that Peake has belittled the combat injuries sustained by those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Saturday, Peake suggested that PTSD was being "overdiagnosed." He then continued:

"Just because someone might need a little counseling when they get back, doesn't mean they need the PTSD label their whole lives."
Might need a little counseling? This fundamental lack of understanding of both combat injuries and their treatment is inexcusable coming from the individual charged with leading the VA. In this context, however, it's no wonder that the VA is under Congressional scrutiny for downplaying the extraordinarily high number of suicides among veterans. Likewise, it comes as no surprise that VA officials have recently been caught instructing caregivers to diagnose returning troops with "Adjustment Disorder" instead of PTSD in order to save money. This is clearly a pattern that reflects an overarching strategy on the part of the VA to disregard the injuries of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Unfortunately, thus far, the Bush-appointed VA leadership has been allowed to perpetuate these myths about PTSD and TBI in their ongoing campaign to dismiss these injuries in the name of cost-cutting. This lack of respect--and lack of support--for those who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan is alarming and demands immediate attention.

Brandon Friedman :: VA: PTSD and TBI "Overblown"; Like "Football" Injuries
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