Over the weekend, Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake visited Alaska with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). While there, they met with Vietnam veteran John Guinn, who questioned the Secretary about the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans. Instead of addressing Guinn’s concerns, Peake dismissed them:
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.
On Saturday, Peake also said that many vets with PTSD may just need “a little counseling” and shouldn’t “need the PTSD label their whole lives.”
Peake’s comments are disturbing, especially in light of new numbers released by the Pentagon this week showing that the number of new PTSD cases “jumped by roughly 50 percent in 2007.” Since 2003, “roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness.”
Additionally, as Brandon Friedman at VetVoice points out, Peake’s comments are undermined by VA psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who has stressed the seriousness of PSTD:
The American Psychiatric Association has saddled us with the jargon “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) — which sounds like an ailment — even though it is evident from the definition that what we are dealing with is an injury. … We do not refer to a veteran who has had an arm blown off by a grenade as suffering from “Missing Arm Disorder.” … Combat PTSD is a war injury. Veterans with combat PTSD are war wounded, carrying the burdens of sacrifice for the rest of us as surely as the amputees, the burned, the blind, and the paralyzed carry them.
Recently, VoteVets and CREW also revealed that Peake’s agency has been discouraging staff from diagnosing soldiers and veterans with PTSD, encouraging them to instead “consider a diagnosis of ‘Adjustment Disorder.’” Peake has promised that he is committed to “absolute accuracy in a diagnosis.”