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Traumatic Cycle

by Sudhama ranganathan Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009 at 4:50 AM

Once called "battle fatigue" and "shell shock" Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recognized as a clinical condition in 1980, has been a part of warfare for those serving in armed forces for as long as anyone can figure. People who suffer from the disease often experience vivid flashbacks so real some act out what they re-experience. Other symptoms may be feeling distant from others, severe depression, feeling unable to be happy. Having trouble falling asleep and suffering uncontrollable outbursts of anger may also accompany the disease.

Traumatic Cycle...
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Comprehensive statistics with relation to American wars go back as far as World War 2. It is estimated one out of every twenty WW2 vets suffered symptoms of PTSD. As with physical injuries those on the front lines and who have experienced the most intense battles are said to have suffered the worst. As recently as 2004 25,000 WW2 vets were still receiving compensation for symptoms related to PTSD.

Fast forward to the Iraq War and psychological trauma is no less a part of armed conflict. In 2005 government statistics showed 20% of US veterans of the Iraq War are said to be suffering from PTSD. It is estimated that Marines and Army personnel reported suffering from PTSD four times as much as Navy personnel due to direct combat experience. 1 of 6 Marines admitted to having PTSD symptoms and it is estimated 6 of 10 were not coming forward due to fears of stigmatization.

Numbers from the years 2004 through 2005 revealed veterans were twice as likely to attempt suicide than non veterans. In 2006 according to the Army's figures the suicide rate for servicemen was at 17.3 per 100,000 troops. Their figures also show that in 2007 121 soldiers committed suicide.

Much of this problem can be attributed to multiple tours of duty in Iraq. One in four troops on their third or fourth deployment show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress not to mention all the physical injuries. Since the beginning of the war 53,000 troops have been deployed three or four times. According to the numbers the incidences of PTSD become higher and higher the more deployments service members go through.

Stop-loss, a practice wherein soldiers are held in the ranks past the time their enlistment contracts are up, has been utilized in the current dual wars we currently experience. Since the start of military operations in 2001 an estimated 185,000 troops have been stop-lossed. This in addition to multiple deployments and IED's used by enemy combatants no doubt added to the high incidences of mental and physical injuries suffered by servicemen and women during this war. Thus both for mental and physical injuries the need for those serving in the current wars are in dire need of all the help they can get.

Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Bush administration's estimate of PTSD cases was 8,000 cases. This number is far lower than the 20% of troops now believed to be suffering from it. Along with the "intelligence failures" President Bush recently to referred this adds to the total lack of solid planning in the lead up to the war.

Among the efforts by the White House to revise the history of their time in office statements have surfaced asserting record resources for veterans, increased services for mental health care and dramatically reformed services for vets. This is well known to be false and that the administration completely mishandled care for wounded vets.

For instance, Bush appointee Jim Nicholson, as Secretary of the Veteran's Administration, made several efforts to make it harder for veterans to get help and access resources. Among these are proposed cuts to staff numbers and to the Board of Veterans Appeals. More proposed cuts included funding of nursing homes for vets. Nicholson also attempted to block efforts to make it easy for vets to file claims.

Only half of veterans already diagnosed with PTSD have had their claims approved. Perhaps this has to do with the between 99 to 237 days it currently takes to get a claim filed with the VA. Among the "unprecedented resources" the administration claims to have allocated for veteran's care was a whopping 0.5% budget increase for the VA in 2006 although the VA asked for 13%.

While cutting corners on help for vets Nicholson handed out .8 million in bonuses to executives at the VA. In 2007 Bush actually threatened to veto legislation aimed at increasing funding for the VA. He backed down on this threat after increased funding overwhelmingly passed Congress and landed on his desk.

The White House also touted funding for the VA doubling under his administration but failed to mention the doubling of the number of vets seeking help. With an increased need in spending per vet the truth is there are less funds allocated per individual than before the war. This not to mention claims found shredded in trash bins, and lawsuits brought by suicidal vets who were refused emergency care shows the level of attention the administration truly paid to vets.

This displays the actual level of care vets with PTSD and other injuries received under the current administration. Half of all vets with PTSD still have no aid in seeking peace of mind. In their haste to revise the history of their tenure President Bush and his now outgoing administration seem to have left out such details.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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