Vietnam Veteran Takes Exception to Recent Times Article

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by A Vietnam Veteran --

I am a Vietnam Veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient. I am writing this article in rebuttal to the Los Angeles Times article written by Alan Zarembo, "As Disability Awards Grow, So Do Concerns with Veracity of PTSD Claims," published August 3, 2014. I take exception to this article and the presumptive public opinion that could be viewed as if ALL VETERANS applying for a PTSD claim were either exaggerating or outright lying.

Robert Mooring, the psychologist conducting the disability examination at a Veterans Affairs Hospital, in Tampa, FL, stated that he “suspected the veteran was exaggerating,” and further stated “hardly anyone has so many symptoms of PTSD so much of the time.” I personally have, and still do, experience paranoia in crowds, nightmares, and flashbacks from Vietnam. I also have access to multiple handguns and shotguns within my home to feel secure from someone shooting me or bringing harm to my family.

Additionally, I take exception to the negative inference linked with the term “textbook post-traumatic stress disorder.” Personally, I define his use of the term “textbook" to imply symptoms which have been practiced or rehearsed, and once mastered then executed. These symptoms, then having been displayed, equate to the “textbook symptoms” used by the psychologist.

I have PTSD from Vietnam and didn’t even know it was PTSD until now. Family, friends, and of course my spouses, would often comment to me that something was wrong with me. I would display uncontrollable anger and get physical with my spouses or anyone else whom I perceived to be a threat.

The fact that PTSD awards have grown over the last 13 years might just be due to other things not motivated by a selfish want to receive compensation. A couple of things come to mind. Ignorance, for example. You just did not know that you had been affected by the traumatic experiences resulting from combat. You never noticed the change; only those people around you did. Secondly, embarrassment. In order to openly admit that you have mental issues resulting from your military combat experiences, you have to be ready to be viewed as abnormal in more social situations that one might consider. Our society views those on the streets, people on Skid Row, the homeless, and those with the inability to work a regular job, as outcasts and exceptions to “normal,” whatever normal is.

Nowhere in the LA Times article was there any mention that the average veteran was once a young positive entity of their community. Those who entered the military service during my time were trained to do the opposite of what our own society enforces through rules and laws. KILL, with no legal retribution or lawful punishment for any of our actions. Then, after our combat experience and military service obligation ends, we are returned to that same civilized community with rules and laws with repercussions for killing or living at a perceived sub-standard level. We are expected to re-adapt to the social norms established by our society. The vast majority of our veterans return from their military obligations and blend right back in to their communities with no problem, and live productive lives.

Personally, I view this LA Times article to be combative in its content and disrespectful to many veterans. Specifically, I find it disperspectful to Vietnam veterans, who experienced public backlash and were often labeled by members of our society as “baby killers.” The Vietnam veteran was not celebrated nor received with by the public with open arms. There were no ticker tape parades nor honorable accolades acknowledging their sacrifice in serving our country.

I respectfully submit that anyone subjected to sub-standard living conditions, in a combat zone, during inclement weather conditions, under constant threat with every step taken, should be given the benefit of the doubt. When your next step very well could be your last alongside the thought of having someone you don’t know trying to take your life 24x7, it will cause some degree of stress and fear. Additionally, observing members of your combat unit being blown away or mutilated are traumatic sightings that cannot be erased, regardless of how many or how much medication or therapy is prescribed.

Why wouldn’t the same effort, time and energy be devoted to realizing and then admitting that all veterans who experienced combat should be regarded as heroes and treated as such? It is a much better option than than trying to discredit their service and sacrifices by alleging that they are exaggerating or malingering a PTSD claim.

It took 47 years for me to identify, and more importantly, admit that I was a causality of PTSD. I consider myself and any other veteran fortunate to have dedicated personnel and appropriate facilities available to assist us, by providing us with the tools to deal with PTSD. I’m hopeful that someday our PTSD veterans will be allowed to migrate back in to our communities as functional disabled veterans.

As I stated earlier in this rebuttal, I am a three Purple Heart recipient that was disrespected, dishonored and negatively labeled as a “baby killer” upon my return to society. Now, according to this article, I am also a malingering exaggerator. When will our society, local and federal government along with our media sources recognize that veterans are simply human beings that served our country and deserve the assistance available for our sacrifices on behalf of our country?

 

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