Sunday, September 9, 2012

It has been bothering me for quite a while that we have veterans who have been discharged with "Other than Honorable Conditions" or worse, or have gone to prison after getting out of the military. All of this appears to be due to two causes, "Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)" and "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)".

Why is this such a concern?  As a Chapter Service Officer at the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 41 office, I have seen far too many veterans with the same story.  They got out, with TBI and/or PTSD, which was either untreated, or worse their claim was denied despite objective evidence.  With the severe impacts on their lives of TBI and PTSD after multiple combat tours, these veterans are no longer able to function normally.

The result is twofold.

For those still on Active Duty, they should be given intense, inpatient and outpatient treatment for PTSD, and after EVERY explosion they face, they should be closely monitored and treated for any signs of TBI.  The signs of TBI and PTSD overlap, making them more difficult to diagnose.  Further, when they act out because of these injuries, they are sent to Courts Martial or given Other than Honorable (OTH) discharges. OTH discharges result in the veteran then being, in most cases, INELIGIBLE for medical treatment at the Veteran's Administration.  In essence, we are kicking these battle tested troopers out of the military, and them denying them treatment for their combat or other service connected injuries.

For those who are veterans, what commonly happens is that their untreated TBI and PTSD often result in them self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, and then getting into trouble while intoxicated.  They will then often face Felony charges and be sent to prison!!!  Their lives are already in serious disarray due to these two untreated conditions, and we send them to prison.  Being in prison will certainly not cure their PTSD or TBI, it will only make it worse.  Further, when the veteran gets out of prison with a Felony conviction, s/he is not able to get employment because of this.

This article from the Seattle Times highlights the problem.

We are dealing with an unprecedented scenario for our Country, because we have never had combat troops face as many as six tours in the Middle East or elsewhere. Further, many of these same troops saw combat in Bosnia, Desert Storm, etc.

I am calling on ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS and ALL PROSECUTORS at every level of government to work to change the policies towards active military and veterans who get in trouble while suffering PTSD and TBI.  I am not suggesting that these conditions should give the individual a "free pass", but there needs to be some mercy and understanding when dealing with such troopers and veterans.  If they are suffering from PTSD, then send them to their hearing with the result of mandatory inpatient treatment, funded by the Department of Defense or the VA.  Afterwards they should then be given probation for a set period of time. If they continue in treatment and stay out of trouble, then expunge the record.  If not, then they have failed themselves and deserve what they get.

It is unconscionable to destroy the lives of these people with so many combat tours, and then only make things worse by failing to recognize and treat the injuries they sustained in combat, including PTSD and TBI.

Please, write to your Congressmen, your Senators, your President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and all your local officials and prosecutors to effect change in this issue.

How long will we continue destroying lives in combat and then kicking them to the curb with no help?

This period of time in the Jewish Calendar is one for introspection and repentance.  If you have any influence or impact on officials, or have it at your hand to help some of these people, ask yourself "Am I really doing enough to right this wrong".

Shanna Tovah Umetukah Tikateivu v'Tikhateimu
May you all be written and inscribed for a Sweet New Year.