Purple Heart for PTSD?
With growing recognition of the toll post-traumatic stress disorder has taken on U.S. forces, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Defense Department may consider awarding Purple Heart medals to combat veterans afflicted with it.
â€œItâ€™s an interesting idea,â€ Gates said when asked about the concept during a May 2 media availability at Red River Army Depot, Texas. â€œI think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at.â€
Gatesâ€™ comment followed his visit the previous day to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he toured the postâ€™s Recovery and Resilience Center, which is using a holistic approach to treating troops with PTSD.
John E. Fortunato, who conceived of and runs the center, told reporters that awarding the Purple Heart to PTSD sufferers would go a long way toward chipping away at prejudices surrounding the disease. Because PTSD affects structures in the brain, itâ€™s a physical disorder, â€œno different from shrapnel,â€ Fortunato said. â€œThis is an injury.â€
The Army classifies PTSD as an illness, not an injury, so troops with PTSD donâ€™t qualify for the Purple Heart. That distinction is limited to troops killed or wounded in a conflict.
â€œI would love to see that changed, because these guys have paid at least as high a price, some of them, as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with a shrapnel wound,â€ Fortunato said.
Not recognizing those with PTSD with a Purple Heart â€œsays that this is the wound that isnâ€™t worthy,â€ Fortunato said. â€œAnd it is.â€
Fortunato said heâ€™d also like to see a regulation prohibiting harassment of troops with PTSD, similar to regulations banning racial or sexual harassment. â€œUntil there are sanctions that make a superior pay a price for harassing a soldier with mental health problems, I donâ€™t know that it will change that much.â€
Soldiers still get laughed at for seeking mental-health services or told that it will ruin their careers, he said. Some in the force view people with PTSD as weak, believing that if those with the disease â€œjust sucked it up and soldiered on, [they would] could get over this,â€ Fortunato said.
â€œThe Army is making a lot of strides toward changing that, but itâ€™s a slow go, because it has to happen at the grassroots level,â€ he said. â€œLike any other prejudice, itâ€™s hard to die.â€
During his visit to Fort Bliss, Gates announced a new policy in which combat veterans no longer have to acknowledge on their federal security clearance forms that they have received mental health care for combat stress. Gates said he hoped the policy would eliminate troopsâ€™ concerns that seeking mentalhealth care can cause them to be denied a security clearance and threaten their careers. He also expressed hope it would take the stigma away from seeking treatment.
Gates called on senior noncommissioned officers to encourage their soldiers who need it to get care, and to let them know that doing so is a sign of strength, not weakness.
â€œAll of you have a special role in encouraging troops to seek help for the unseen scars of war — to let them know that doing so is a sign of strength and maturity,â€ Gates told soldiers attending the Army Sergeants Major Academy, at Fort Bliss. â€œI urge you all to talk with those below you to find out where we can continue to improve.
â€œThose who have sacrificed for our nation deserve the best care they can get,â€ he continued. â€œAs I have said before, there is no higher priority for the Department of Defense, after the war itself, than caring for our wounded warriors.â€
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Table of contents for PTSD
- Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
- PTSD, Mild TBI Chain Teaching Begins at Pentagon
- Treatments for PTSD
- Who Is Major Gamal Awad – Surprising Answers
- Victory Clinic Combats Stress, Anxiety
- Dealing With Brain Injuries
- Battlemind training
- A Woman on a Mission
- Helping Soldiers Cope With PTSD
- Purple Heart for PTSD?
- Little Miracles in Treating Combat Stress
- Americaâ€™s Heroes at Work
- SEALs Spearhead Resiliency Program
- Elmendorf Medics Treat TBI Victims
- Combatting Stress in Iraq
- More on Army Suicide Prevention
- New PTSD Program at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
- Soldier conquors suicide thoughts
- Marines go to the dogs
- Progress in the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Fort Hood massacre survivors cope in Iraq
- National Naval Medical Center’s psychological health – traumatic brain injury team
- One Airman’s PTSD Story
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Medicine, Military. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.