Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Purple Hearts from Pentagon for PTSD

An article in the The January 10, 2009 Idaho Statesman announced that the Pentagon had ruled against awarding the Purple Heart medal to military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a direct result of the wars in which they participated. The Purple Heart medal is perhaps the best know and most honored military award. It's reserved for those who have been wounded, or in some cases, even killed in warfare.

Although this decision is a tragic mistake, it is not surprising. The Pentagon has always been more proficient at causing harm than at accepting responsibility for the harm it causes. Some studies have discovered that as many as twenty percent of veterans who participated in conflict suffer from PTSD. Defense Dept. press secretary Geoff Morrell is quoted as saying, " I don't think anybody should assume that that decision is in any way reflective on how seriously we take the problem of PTSD." Actually in spite of Mr. Morrell pleas, that decision does indicate how seriously the Pentagon takes the problem of PTSD. There is no question that PTSD has been around as long as modern warfare and probably longer. In the last century PTSD was identified by other terms such as "shell shock." Medical and scientific proof of it's existence and the harm it can have on soldiers and other victims date from well into the 1900's.

Those who suffer only from PTSD, can still be as seriously injured as someone suffering from a physical injury. PTSD is a psychiatric injury, not an illness. It can be as disabling and life-threatening as any physical injury. The claim, as quoted in the article, that "there is absolutely no way to prove that someone truly is suffering from it or faking it," is a pathetic excuse. If it can be diagnosed, it can be proven.

However there is another reason the Pentagon announcement is not surprising. Although I've never been in the military, I was diagnosed with PTSD in December of 2004. The injury I suffered was the result of having to work with a psychologically abusive co-worker or "bully" for a year. We both worked in the Respiratory Care Department at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, part of the Trinity Health system headquartered in Novi, Michigan. The bullying I was targeted with went on for another twenty months, after I was diagnosed with PTSD, even though the diagnosis was made by Saint Alphonsus as occurring on the job at Saint Alphonsus! By then I was forced to leave Saint Alphonsus after 30 years employment there, because I was gradually becoming disabled by the chronic abuse.

I reported the PTSD injury to management more than two dozen times including department, human resource and senior management, the CEO, and even to Trinity Health vice-president in charge of organizational integrity. I never once received a response addressing the injury. I was never offered any protection from additional injury nor any treatment for the PTSD injury. So it's really not surprising that the Pentagon does not recognize the seriousness of PTSD. Medical centers still do not recognize PTSD or offer any treatment for PTSD to their employees. Unfortunately it's unlikely the Pentagon will take PTSD seriously as long as there are medical centers in the United States, such as those operated by Trinity Health, which do not take PTSD seriously.

Leonard Nolt


mark said...

I'm for one not surprised they don't award for PTSD injury, cause its an easy thing to fake. Just like people who fake it at work, and say they came down PTSD.

Leonard Nolt said...

Thank you for your comment, Mark. Of course PTSD can be faked, just like people who are addicted to drugs can fake being in pain. As a respiratory therapist, I've seen people fake an asthma attack. Illnesses and disabilities have been faked many times.

But suggesting and implying as you do that since some people can fake pain, no one with pain should be believed and receive pain medication; since some can fake an asthma attack, no one having an asthma attack deserves or should receive treatment; that since some can and have faked PTSD, there really is no such thing, and anyone claiming to have it is a liar, and should not be believed; is cruel, superstitious, and mean-spirited. It's also a lie.

I know you're not referring to my experience because anyone who knows me, or has done any research into what happened to me at St. Alphonsus, knows I would never lie about or fake an injury or illness. I had an excellent attendance record there for 30 years. In fact the manager at my current employer was told, when asking about me for job reference, "He never calls in sick." Does that sound like someone who would fake an illness or injury?

The PTSD injury I suffered at St. Alphonsus was first diagnosed and identified by St. Alphonsus professionals as occurring on the job at St. Alphonsus. In other words Saint Alphonsus was the first to say that I was suffering from symptoms of PTSD as a result of being bullied on the job there. Although we should try to eliminate those who are faking illness or injury from treatment, that doesn't mean no one should receive treatment for any thing, as you imply.

In fact I think it's much more likely that there are many more people suffering and/or disabled from PTSD who cannot get treatment because of superstitious, suspicious, and archaic attitudes like yours, than people faking PTSD and trying to get treatment that they don't deserve or need. My experience at St. Alphonsus confirms that belief in that even though my employer said that I was being injured on the job by a co-worker, an injury that had the potential of being permanently disabling, Saint Alphinsus refused to offer me any protection from additional injury or any treatment for the injury. That demonstrates convincingly how difficult it is for people injured or sickened on the job to get treatment from large insensitive, money-hungry corporations with massive law firms and unlimited funds to help them deny responsibility for harm done even when, as in my case, they acknowledge the on-the-job injury.

Mark, you sound like you work for Trinity Health? I've been communicating with someone who calls himself Bill and identifies himself as being in management at Trinity Health, but his comments, like yours, show no forethought, compassion, or consideration for the facts, or for employees; and no consideration for St. Alphonsus or Trinity Health's stated ethical standards. And like you, he refuses to take responsibility for his comments by not identifying himself.