Government analysis finds Veterans with PTSD can suffer for decades before acknowledging the disorder. The year 2014 marks the 100th-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the so-called war to end all wars. And in a bit of irony, a study was released on August 8 that has found that, like the consequences of the “Great War,” the after-effects of combat stress among veterans, just like the after-effects of old wars upon conflicts years later, seems to linger for decades. The study, which was commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs, tracked veterans from as far back as the Vietnam War and found that, as old as that conflict is, veterans who served in it and experienced war-related traumas, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have, at best, only minimally recovered. In many cases, Vietnam vets with PTSD have died, often before retirement age. (1)
What makes the study particularly comprehensive is the fact that it followed service members through their adult lives, and it has served to buttress many of the arguments that were made in the wake of the VA’s first analysis on the subject of the mental injuries as a result of war, which was released in 1992. That landmark study surveyed 2,348 Vietnam veterans and ushered in the acceptance of PTSD as a potential consequence of the traumatic experience of military service during a war. (2)
The government’s acknowledgment of PTSD as a plausible downside of experiencing the traumas of war is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively recent development. While Washington’s acceptance of the condition has legitimized PTSD-linked disability claims, there remain many veterans suffering from PTSD who have yet to avail themselves of the benefits they have earned and could use to help them cope with the disorder.
According to the VA study, a vast majority of veterans with PTSD do learn to cope with the disorder, but most of those who do not — accounting for 11 percent of all Vietnam vets who were surveyed — would have to endure the deleterious effects of PTSD for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the study also found that the lives of more than 18 percent of veterans afflicted with PTSD are cut short by retirement age, a percentage that is about double that of those vets not suffering the disorder. (3) The VA’s study has shed more light on how many veterans have been impacted by PTSD and, in the case of many of them, for a long time. More research on understanding what could be the causes of long-term affliction with PTSD is welcome, but in the meantime there is an immediate need for all vets with PTSD to seek the benefits they are entitled to, regardless of when they served in the armed forces.
David W. Magann, P.A.
Source: (1), (2), (3) The New York Times 2014