Advocate editorial board opinion: 'Disorder' disease counseling should continue for veterans

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 3, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.

The nefarious malady born in war and extreme fear has had many names through the years: Soldier's Heart (Civil War), combat fatigue, shell shock, gross stress reaction, battle fatigue and post Vietnam syndrome.

Today, it is referred to as post traumatic stress disorder, but no matter what you name it, the disease is a haunting one that robs victims of sleep (flashbacks), disorients to distract people and recreates the fear they had in war or some other traumatic situation to an extreme level.

Yet, too often, some seem to compare PTSD to the flat earth theory - totally bogus.

And that is the case with Kathryn Gifford, a public affairs officer for South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio, who said this about Victoria veterans on PSTD therapy: "We're recommending that they move on."

She said the therapy is being discontinued because the veterans who are taking therapy have been in the program too long.

Sounds like people with this disease are out of luck for treatment. Would this occur with cancer, diabetes or any other disease?

Our veterans are extraordinary people. They have gone to war, put their lives on the line and seen horrible things - all in the service of our country. They deserve better. They earned our care because they paid the price. We should not sweep them under the rug. We should see to their needs for the rest of their lives.

So 70-year-old Richmond O'Neill, of Victoria, decided to do something about being cut off from his therapy. O'Neill, a Vietnam veteran, said he and other veterans who visited the Victoria County Commissioners Court, "are still fighting, and the conversation is still going on." County Judge Don Pozzi and Commissioner Gary Burns said they would look into the issue and try to help.

O'Neill is gathering testimonials from other veterans saying how much PTSD therapy has helped them. He hopes to convince those in charge at the VHCS to reverse the decision.

He also said he has contacted some "people on the federal level" and received some promising feedback.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's communication director had this to say: "Congressman Paul's office is very much aware of this issue and has sent an inquiry to the VA in San Antonio. We await a response and are very hopeful the program can be reinstated for the benefit of these veterans and constituents who have found it so helpful."

We praise Paul for his continued support of our veterans. On the other hand, we cannot imagine why our veterans are being treated inhumanly with the message "move on."

We urge the Veterans Administration to reconsider its decision.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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