PTSD: One battle after another, Part 2 the ammunition

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Photo above: The Korean War Memorial.

Part One Here. 

“…human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe”
                   ~Attributed to H.G. Wells

According to government reports, writes Bob Brewin in “IOM Report: Defense/VA Have No Clue if $9.3 Billion Worth of PTSD Treatment Works,” treating PTSD isn’t inherently an issue rooted in monetary roadblocks.

When it comes to the idea of treatment, we more or less put our money where our mouth is, but perhaps our mouths don’t produce the greatest support when they aren’t hooked up to our brains, and those in turn are not filled with the most accurate, updated information.

In Brewin’s article, he states, “The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments spent $9.3 billion to treat post-traumatic stress disorder from 2010 through 2012, but neither knows whether this staggering sum resulted in effective or adequate care, the Institute of Medicine reported today.” No one knows? Gee, most people get dirty looks from their spouse/flatmates/significant others when they sheepishly confess to blowing $20 at Happy Hour. But this is bigger — a lot bigger.

The mandatory Institute of Medicine report Brewin mentions was released in June 2014, and states that between 2010-2012, the DOD spent a little less than $790 million on PTSD treatments. The VA spent $8.5 billion, with nearly $2 billion of that going to treatment for our most recent veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict.

Interestingly, if you go to the official Department of Defense website, their ‘Top Issues’ tab includes links to information regarding: Targeted Operations Against ISIL Terrorists, Afghanistan, Warrior Care, Sexual Assault Prevention, Cyber Strategy and Defense Strategic Guidance. (Sexual Assault Prevention trumps PTSD?) Under the tab for “Warrior Care,” the emphasis is almost entirely on the physical and medical, with a few links to “support.” That wouldn’t be a notable ommission if traumatic brain injuries were admitted and addressed at least 90% of the time (which they are not) and if PTSD was not stigmatized (which it is) and regarded as an equally ‘medical’ concern.

Part of the problem is addressed in that IOM report. In essence, the VA and DOD do not have a reliable method of collecting and analyzing data regarding PTSD care, as the VA does not track much in the way of PTSD treatments other than medications and co-inciding physical conditions. Yet the IOM reported that there has been a significant increase in PTSD in our military service members in recent years.

According to the report brief:
“Between 2004 and 2012, the percentage of all active-duty service members with a diagnosis of PTSD increased from 1 to 5. The U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are associated with a notable increase in PTSD prevalence. In 2012, 13.5 percent of U.S. Army service members had PTSD, as did 10 percent of Marines, 4.5 percent of Navy personnel, and 4 percent of Air Force personnel. The same year, more than half a million veterans of all eras sought care for PTSD through VA health care services—making up 9.2 percent of all VA users. Almost 24 percent of these veterans (119,500) had served in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.”

Given these increasing numbers, why would the DOD and VA not invest in more concise data collection and assessment measures? Fortunately, there are people out there asking this question and providing ways for veterans to seek treatment not previously suggested or even discussed.

Robert Beckman, the subject of last week’s piece, is one shining example.

Looking at the data he encounters through his work, Beckman noted that it’s interesting how the FDA has yet to approve any of the over 70 therapies and over 100 prescription medications available to treat TBI. Rather, all are off-label usages, requiring a doctor to approve the use of a particular treatment for the specific medical issue. This, of course, includes HBOT—the only therapy proven to provide safe and effective healing through multiple clinical trials done within the DOD/VA.

Maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that the VA is not rushing to expand its responsibilities and accountability. Recently, VA scandals, including wrongly denied and delayed claims, information manipulation, and general mismanagement, have even garnered attention from the most moral people on earth — U.S. Senators. (Blatantly breaking from any sense of professionalism here, isn’t this like members of the Westboro Baptist Church correcting your funeral etiquette?)

In any case, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) insisted the problem was deeply imbedded in the national management, stating, “It is time for an overhaul of the entire system.”” Those are strong words, and the group of senators involved seem to be on the same page. The U.S. News & World Report and the Associated Press released statements that the senators are pushing for the Government Accountability Office (a political diet soda to your 1400 calorie happy meal) to investigate the 56 regional VA offices in the country.

What we have here is indeed a systemic problem, and those are not easily fixed. I won’t pretend to know the answers, but certainly the average citizen can begin launching their own investigation. It is only when we cease asking questions that we give up on finding the solutions.

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
Primo Levi

For more information on Robert Beckman’s work, visit: