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.