Inside Opinion

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Tag: disability


What do Zarelli’s veteran’s benefits have to do with it?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

State Sen. Joe Zarelli has been taking some cheap shots over the past few days over what should be a non-issue: the benefits he receives as a partially disabled Navy veteran.
Here’s the line of attack, broken down into its weird logic:

• Zarelli is the ranking Republican on the Senate’s budget committee. Because the Senate’s budget process has fallen under the control of its Republican minority and three fiscally conservative Democrats, Zarelli has become the chamber’s chief budget writer.

• Zarelli favors eliminating two programs for Washingtonians whose impairments – mental and physical, sometimes complicated by addiction – make it difficult or impossible for them to hold down jobs. This would save $100 million – part of his plan to balance the state budget and make it sustainable in years to come.

• Zarelli is on disability but wants to kick others off disability.

• Ergo, Zarelli is a hypocrite.

As an argument, this line of attack doesn’t make it very far.

The two kinds of disabilities involved aren’t merely apples and oranges; they’re apples and zebras.

By its nature, service in the military involves physical risks. Zarelli took those risks when he joined the Navy and came out with a back injury. His case was presumably reviewed closely; he was judged 40 percent disabled and is receiving the corresponding monthly disability payment.

This is an on-the-job injury; he earned his compensation through his military service. The programs he is targeting for the most part bestow unearned benefits; they are a form of public assistance. We say that despite supporting those programs ourselves; we think the $100 million is well spent keeping unemployable people out of the jails and emergency rooms.
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Did Madigan’s PTSD team break faith with soldiers?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The United States has a history of losing interest in its combat veterans after they’ve lost their military usefulness. Shame on all of us if that has happened at Madigan Army Medical Center.

The Army has been investigating the practices of a psychiatric team charged with confirming diagnoses of service-related post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers. The question is whether doctors were dispassionately looking at symptoms or trying to save the Pentagon money by minimizing disability claims.

Someone deserves credit for taking this seriously. Both the commander of Madigan and the leader of the PTSD review team have been temporarily relieved of command. Twelve soldiers who had their PTSD diagnoses reversed at Madigan have since been re-examined by Walter Reed, where doctors concluded that six of them indeed suffered from the disorder.

That 50 percent error rate looks bad, to say the least. The Army is now seeking to review the cases of all soldiers who had their PTSD diagnoses thrown out at Madigan in the last four years.

For combat veterans, the stakes are big. A severe case of PTSD is a crippling condition; the diagnosis can lead to medical retirement, an immediate pension and a lifetime of medical care.
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