With the issue of veterans’ choice and a new VA secretary in the news cycle, we must address one of the most prevalent issues facing our veterans – PTSD.
It’s not a popular topic due to the deep disagreements between groups. And it does exist but it is one of the least understood and most misdiagnosed and fraudulent issues among veterans.
There is no specific guideline or metric, so many doctors take people at their word – but what if there was a financial gain from pretending you were affected? What if doctors told you that you need to be sick in order to get their attention?
Shortly after leaving active duty in 2012 and going through the post service screening myself, I made a comment on air that I believed that 75% of soldiers who are diagnosed are either misdiagnosed, told to claim PTSD or are lying about symptoms for personal gain. While that was not a scientific analysis, it was based on my experience and research while personally navigating that very system.
What I said was wildly unpopular among the mainstream media, but shockingly many veterans agreed with me, even many receiving some of said benefits. People avoid this issue because of the negative stigma of even hinting a veteran has done wrong – but not addressing is doing even more harm to the community.
According to “PTSD United”, on a national scale, 70% of people will experience a “traumatic experience”, 20% of whom will develop some level of PTSD.
The numbers among veterans appear no different, even knowing that joining could land you in combat. But why?
In the last 14 years, PTSD claims have risen fivefold relating to all veteran generations, not just Iraq and Afghanistan. This has burdened the VA system like never before as the VA pays out $50 billion a year in disability payments alone.
Is this because of America’s longest war, being used as a catch all among veterans who have trouble readjusting to civilian life … or fraud?
Post service, about 20 veterans commit suicide every day, but 14 of the 20 suicides are from vets who never deployed to combat.
In fact, 40% of all soldiers never deploy at all. It is estimated that less than 10% of the military actually sees combat, so why are nearly 20% experiencing PTSD?
War is hell, and as a Navy SEAL, I saw my fair share in Iraq. Everyone deals with trauma differently. I have no symptoms of PTSD, but someone who experienced the same thing as I did could react differently. Of course, some servicemen and women could be subject to stressors related to service without combat, but based on the statistics, this requires a closer look at everything from diagnosis to training.
Before PTSD was properly identified, troops were labeled with a “personality disorder” and warranted early discharges for thousands. Many of these troops were separated under the premise of a pre-existing condition. But military members are subjected to testing and training that is supposed to weed out applicants that have or could develop phycological conditions.
According to figures provided by the Army, the service discharged about 1,000 soldiers a year between 2005 and 2007 under these circumstances. How could it be pre-existing since it only manifested during service? This led to the overdiagnosis of PTSD diagnosis within the VA, and it became a catch-all for anything that doctors could not explain.
Another fundamental problem is that the logic behind the diagnosis is greatly flawed. The best analogy I have heard is that of a “fish out of water.”
For years, a soldier trained for war, to kill and be tough, but when they separate from the military they are given little, if any, training to re-assimilate into a population that does not have those priorities. Asking a solider to “survive” out of military using the current transition process is comparable to expect a fish to survive out of water.
Imagine being a mechanic and switching to be an accountant with no transitional training.
When a soldier who joined at 18, deployed to a war zone, oversaw troops, equipment and had a role of significance and purpose is then detached from that lifestyle abruptly and often move geographical locations all in a short period of time, there will be difficulty. Compound that with, in many cases, no college degree or private sector experience to fall back on. Veterans often find themselves working jobs with significantly less responsibility and purpose than those they had in the military. So when a solider is having trouble adjusting back to civilian life and must take a job with far less significance, it’s easy to be frustrated and depressed. It’s likely not PTSD, it’s more likely that having less purpose is stressful.
As PTSD diagnoses grew, so did the realization that veterans would be compensated. With the aforementioned issues of career struggles, I have personal friends that will admit fraud, saying, “I still have to pay the bills.”
Robert Moering, a VA psychologist said, “Likely more than 50% are faking or exaggerating to garner benefits.”
“It’s an open secret that a large chunk of patients are flat-out malingering,” said Christopher Frueh, a University of Hawaii psychologist who spent 15 years treating PTSD in the VA system.
Veterans are sometimes coached to appear sicker than they are to receive treatment quicker (I know this from personal experience). The internet has erupted with forums on what to say to achieve a higher disability rating. I know first-hand of independent doctors who take cash under the table to write medical evaluations that will attribute to 100% disability ratings.
More concerning, once diagnosed at 100% for PTSD, most veterans stop treatment altogether, almost as if the treatment they were seeking was only to achieve the 100% rating.
Doctors in the military, VA, and the private sector have pushed veterans into the box of PTSD in part because they thought it would clear VA backlogs – but at what cost? Does that do more harm than good?
A PTSD diagnosis permanently labels service members as “disabled” and can have lifelong effects. Some states scrutinized gun ownership and employers can be hesitant to hire – this victimizes soldiers more than helps them. Our servicemen and women should be honest, but also diagnosed to have their individual needs met. They shouldn’t be thrown into an all-encompassing box after serving our country. It is time to overhaul the system.
Carl Higbie served as a US Navy SEAL. He completed two combat deployments to Iraq in 2007 and 2009 where he led his team to capture the infamous “Butcher of Fallujah.” Subsequently, he returned to take a senior training position for his remaining three years where he taught high-risk evolutions such as Close Quarters Combat and Air operations.
It was during this time that Carl released his first book “Battle on the Home Front,” which brought to light many problems, some political in nature that were plaguing our country and the military. The book led to a highly publicized battle against a politically charged machine reaching to the White House.Two years after leaving the military, Carl emerged victorious against all odds, which his new book “Enemies Foreign and Domestic” is based on.
Carl has owned three successful business’ in his tenure including his current consulting firm Ameriman LLC. He has been an integral player on dozens of campaigns including President Trump’s chief surrogate during the campaign as well as the communication director and Spokesman for Great America Super PAC.His latest book was released on May 10th 2016; “Enemies, Foreign and Domestic, A SEAL’s Story.”
He currently sits on the advisory board of “Heartbeat for Warriors” as well as “Heroes to Heroes.” Carl is quickly becoming one of the most respected authorities on politics, military and national security. His natural leadership skills coupled with his experience as a Navy SEAL make him uniquely qualified to comment on a range of issues. An intelligent and eloquent orator, he has become a fixture on both Fox News and CNN, where he is frequently called upon to provide insight on a variety of matters. Moreover, he served as a presidential appointee as the chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service and is now an advisor to the Urban Revitalization Coalition.
Higbie is the creator of the new patriotic podcast Liberty and Cocktails.