Health System Cheats PTSD Vets Out of Real Treatment

Psychiatric aid for veterans is available, yet it is not being carried out effectively. Soldiers who return from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) should be deemed just as important as those with a physical ailment. Staff Sgt. Brad Eifert is one example of a veteran who lacked proper treatment. 

Eifert recognized his symptoms of PTSD the moment he returned home after having spent two tours in Iraq. According to a New York Times article chronicling his ailments, Eifert was aware that his behavior was on the brink of becoming destructive, and he sought help. At a mental screening — a requirement for all soldiers both before and after deployment — he alerted the Army psychiatrist to his excessive drinking and mental unease.

“It’s normal,” was her response, and that he would get over it.

Eifert sought help once more in February 2010, after putting a gun to his head in his garage. He went to a Veterans Affairs hospital, only to be sent home after a four hour evaluation and told to take a slew of psychiatric medication. In August 2010, Eifert was detained by police, facing 10 charges, including assault with the intent to murder and five counts of felonious assault.

A lack of appropriate care for patients like Eifert leads to long-term psychological issues that remain a constant problem for veterans and their families. Medical professionals must devote significant time toward patients who exhibit symptoms of mental illness.

Eifert, like many others, went through a standard mental screening used to detect unusual behavior or symptoms due to the stresses of war. He vocalized his concerns, and yet he was told it would fade with time.

The VA health system provides opportunities for treatment of those who exhibit symptoms of PTSD, such as one-on-one mental health assessments, medication, and group therapy. However, the way it is carried out needs to be changed to end the detached method of treatment. 

Recently, the National Center for PTSDVA created a smart phone application named “PTSD Coach.” It provides information about the illness and ways for family members to deal with the symptoms of those who suffer from PTSD. However, an application on a phone is one of the most detached ways to deal with this problem among returning soldiers, and just emphasizes the impersonalization of the entire system.

Eifert is just one of many who have had to deal with the difficult repercussions of fighting a war. In theory our system should work, it simply needs to be utilized in a better way.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons