Inside Opinion

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Tag: ptsd

March
18th

VA’s delays, errors create hardships for veterans

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ delays in acting on disability claims isn’t just inconvenient. Congressional testimony Thursday indicates that at least two veterans may have died “due to delay in care.”

That would be the most extreme result of the VA’s backlog, which doesn’t appear to be decreasing. Most regional offices  are experiencing longer processing times, according to auditors and a review of VA data by McClatchy Newspapers.

The average wait to begin receiving disability compensation is now 337 days at the Seattle office – more than 11 months – up from 213 days in January 2012. It’s even worse in New York City: 641 days. The number of vets with backlogged claims is expected to be more than 1 million by the end of March – and keep growing. Read more »

June
16th

Pentagon must overcome bureaucracy on PTSD diagnoses

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

It’s welcome news that the Department of Defense is expanding its review of post-traumatic stress syndrome diagnoses. That review will now date back to the 2002 start of the war in Afghanistan and include all branches of the military, not just the Army.

If recent reversals of many diagnoses made at Madigan Army Medical Center are any indications, too many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been wrongly told that they do not suffer from the disorder, affecting their ability to get treatment and receive disability benefits.

According to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray – who has been a pit bull on the subject of veterans’ mental health care – many soldiers whose diagnoses have been reversed said they were told “they were exaggerating their symptoms, lying and accused of shirking their duties.”
Read more »

March
31st

Massacre excuses: Guilt by association for U.S. troops

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Too many cheap explanations are being tossed around for the March 11 massacre of what appears to be 17 innocent villagers in Afghanistan. As a result, untold thousands of combat veterans risk getting indirectly smeared.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Lake Tapps man who’d been deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been charged with the killings. The public knows very little about the crimes and very little about him; the Army has not been particularly forthcoming.

Into the vacuum of information has blown a whirlwind of speculation. Plus, in this case, artful comments from Bales’ defense attorney.

Much of the speculation concerns post-traumatic stress syndrome. Specifically, whether the slaughter was triggered by PTSD.

There are several problems with this notion. For starters, the Army has said nothing about whether Bales actually suffered from PTSD. His wife has said she saw no signs of it.

The estimates of soldiers who return from war with the disorder runs as high as 30 percent. That leaves a minimum of 70 percent who don’t come back with PTSD. Was Bales among the minority who do? We simply don’t know.

More to the point, soldiers and veterans who’ve had PTSD aren’t known for mass murder. The disorder can cause anguish, nightmares and flashbacks; it can trigger domestic abuse and even suicide.

But it doesn’t connect any dots for violence of the March 11 magnitude. The attempts to turn it into an explanation imply that other soldiers with the same condition are also at risk of becoming bloodthirsty berserkers.
Read more »

March
21st

JBLM’s issues need to be considered in context with Army’s

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

When the Stryker “kill team” arrests and prosecutions were in the news, Joint Base Lewis-McChord started getting labeled: “most troubled” base, “base on the brink” and even “rogue.”

Then a former JBLM soldier killed a Mount Rainier ranger. And the capper: Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a JBLM Stryker soldier from a different brigade as the “kill team” members, is accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians March 11. Nine of the victims were children, three were women.

Are these most recent examples – along with other crimes and a disturbing rate of suicide – conclusive evidence that there’s something rotten at JBLM?
Read more »

Feb.
27th

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.
Read more »

Dec.
28th

JBLM has problems, but it’s hardly ‘on the brink’ of disaster

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Is Joint Base Lewis-McChord “on the brink,” as claimed in a Los Angeles Times article and headline Monday? (The brink of what is never spelled out, but it’s safe to assume that it’s not “on the brink of something good.”)

The Times cites an article that appeared a year ago in Stars and Stripes that described JBLM as “the most troubled base in the military.” That billing was based on the courts martial of a group of Stryker soldiers for murdering civilians in Afghanistan, a much-publicized – and disputed – complaint by Oregon National Guardsmen of second-class treatment at Madigan Army Medical Center, and increased steroid use among soldiers.
Read more »