Yesterday in the Cannon House Office Building, Room 334, it was standing room only as the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing titled “PTSD and Personality Disorders: Challenges for the VA.”
Chairman Bob Filner began the hearing by thanking reporter Joshua Kors – who testified on the first panel – for his Nation cover story exposing a horrifying injustice of soldiers returning from battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who are instead diagnosed with a “pre-existing” Personality Disorder that results in a discharge without benefits. It is estimated that the 22,500 soldiers discharged with personality disorders over the last six years will save the military $12.5 billion in medical treatment over their lifetimes. Filner himself said a psychiatrist had told him that higher-ups had ordered the use of this diagnosis to save money.
Featured in Kors’ story, and also testifying at the hearing, was army veteran Jonathan Town. Town described to the Committee how “after a 107mm rocket exploded 3 feet above my head, leaving me unconscious,” he was treated for a severe concussion, shrapnel wounds in his neck, and bleeding from his ear. Over the next nine months he experienced severe headaches, continued bleeding from his ear, and insomnia. When he returned to the States he struggled “to adjust to loud noises, large groups of people, and forgetting what had happened to my unit and myself while we were in Iraq….”
Town said that about six weeks after his arrival at Fort Carson, Colorado he was finally able to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told him that by accepting a Personality Disorder discharge, Town would be able to receive full benefits and his unit – which was getting ready to redeploy – would be able to get a new soldier assigned to replace him. “I told him that if this was what he thought was best for the military and my family that he could do what he needed to do,” Town said. “I never realized that everything that was said to me during that day were all lies.”
In fact, Town learned the day he left the army that the Personality Disorder was marked as “pre-existing” which meant he would not be entitled to the treatment the VA is obligated to provide for combat wounds. Adding insult – and further financial hardship – to injury, he was told he owed the Army $3000 for not fulfilling his 6 year re-enlistment.