During my morning ritual of coffee and checking for daily updates on the Department of Veterans Affairs most recent follies, I came across an article published in 2005 by the British Journal of Psychiatry. The particular search terms were a result of recent conversations I had with a number of veterans participating in the University of Texas-Dallas Brain Health Center study on post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
The British Journal of Psychiatry results were interesting but marginally confusing. The VA Operations and Research Department allowed the Brits access to the service records of 100 Vietnam veterans claiming PTSD. Their findings were astounding. Of those 100 veterans who were still receiving treatment in the early ‘90s, only 41 percent actually had combat exposure and only 7 percent received medals for valor. The other 53 percent claiming PTSD had never experienced combat and 6 percent were never deployed at all.
Those who malinger on the Social Security Disability program are shaming those who are truly in pain and allowing taxpayers to foot the bill. I understand a certain amount of political risk is associated with second guessing veterans, but recent Congressional Research Service and RAND studies found that anywhere between 1 percent and 60 percent of returning OIF/OEF service-members could qualify for PTSD because of inconsistencies in the screening process. This could potentially amount to billions of dollars paid to those who are simply looking to defraud the government to make their life a little easier.
See, this is where you start to disagree…that wee bit of misguided “responsibility to those who served” creeping into your head. I am all for compensating soldiers. But over the last few years the VA has received a 40 percent budget increase, and a 2,000 percent increase in claim backlogs. PTSD claims account for only 15 percent of the total, but result in more than 35 percent of entitlement disbursements.
The number of free-riders is telling of our society. Thank you for your service, but if you don’t have PTSD, get out of the line so someone who is hurting can receive the compensation they deserve.