Letting Down PTSD Veterans

soldiers

Today I read a story in Time magazine about a Marine Sergeant David Linley. As the author of the piece Mark Thompson said, “When his nation called, he answered. But when he came home hurting, his country let him down.” Mr. Linley during an attack of PTSD engaged in a shootout with police, not wounding any of them, but obviously self medicated with alcohol and re-living a wartime episode. He is presently in prison in Illinois.

Reading about Mr. Linley brought to mind the many stories I have read and heard first hand of returning soldiers not finding the help they need to deal with PTSD or other mental ills. In Mr. Linley’s case, he sees a psychiatrist about every six months for 30 minutes and that is supposedly because he’s not behaving poorly.

John Maki who heads the Chicago based John Howard Association of Illinois dedicated to improving the state’s prisons, says in the article, “There’s a real lack of capacity to deliver any meaningful mental health care, especially specialized care like PTSD treatment for veterans.”

And this is not just in the Illinois prison system but throughout our country. Veterans are returning wounded mentally and they are not receiving the treatment they need. For those incarcerated, mental health treatment is spotty at best. Psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, a retired Army brigadier general says, “These cases are much too common. We are throwing these guys away.”

Our veterans are returning to families they do not know. The families are dealing with a person who is not the same. Episodes happen that cannot be explained. Care is difficult to come by and the stigma of owning up to PTSD is strong.

What has been your experience with PTSD and a loved one? Has the government been there for you? Have you endured frustration beyond belief? What have you learned? What do we need to teach others about PTSD? What can people do to help? I’m at a loss for what to do, what to say.

– Bernadette

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2 Responses

  1. I just wrote a short story concerning PTSD on my blog. As a Vet PTSD is a concerning issue but as a human being it is just as concerning. Our Veteran community suffers from it but there are millions of civilian across America who deal with PTSD from past experiences that range from a car accident to assault. PTSD is a community issues that reaches all walks of life and we need to let people know this is a REAL Issue. Keep on getting the word out and I will do the same. Let people know that we need to talk about, write write out and share our issues/feeling/emotions with those that care. Let those that suffer from PTSD know that there are others that really do care!

  2. After I got out of the Navy, I wanted to continue treating my fellow Veterans, so I went to work for the VA. As a combat Veteran myself, and former Navy Psychiatrist, I’m something of a PTSD expert.

    Over 30% of the Veterans who came to me for treatment in the VA were addicted to medications that were prescribed to them. These Vets were struggling through their days intoxicated on pills, which they were taking as prescribed.

    I began transitioning them to non-addictive alternatives. I was having great success until I started noticing my medication orders changing in the computer or being deleted without my knowledge. I discovered that the VA pharmacists had been changing my orders without my permission or declining my orders without notifying me. When I protested to my supervisor, she said “You need to just let the pharmacists tell us what we are allowed to prescribe.”

    It really all came down to cost: the medications I was prescribing cost 40 cents/pill and Xanax costs 10 cents/pill. The VA also would not allow me to provide the gold standard psychotherapies for PTSD (i.e., Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy) because they want their Psychiatrists only to do medication management. Medication does not cure PTSD, but therapy can, and I can do both. I took my concerns up two more levels in my chain of command but with no luck.

    I had a choice to either be forced into doing harm to my patients by perpetuating dependence on cheap, addictive medications, or I could resign and go into private practice. It decided to go into private practice. My practice is only 3 months old, but I already feel like I’m making a difference again, and it has been great.

    There is a great organization call the Camaraderie Foundation (www.camaraderiefoundation.com) that is exactly what Veterans need if the want care in the private sector, but cannot afford it. They are only in Florida right now, but are looking to go national eventually. I would like to see the country get behind them to make this possible.

    Another thing people can do to help is contact their local USO, and get involved with greeting these heroes when they step off the plane coming home from deployment. There was a group of USO people who met us at the airport coming home from Iraq. They were such a welcome sight, and I will never forget the impact it had on my people and myself.

    I know it’s discouraging, but don’t give up. Stay involved.

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