A Struggle to Survive

by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance

Topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental illness, and suicide among our returning soldiers are very real and very disturbing and cause for concern for their families. For many of these families, as well as the public in general, it seems that these problems are either being ignored or the soldiers themselves are afraid to seek help because they will be thought of as weak or diagnosed with the “stigma” of mental illness.

Recently, an older, disabled veteran with PTSD shared his thoughts about the returning soldiers who seek out the Veterans Administration for help. He has asked that he remain anonymous to protect himself and other veterans.

I am sharing this to help the Vets who are hurting; both the war veterans who have returned home and firefighters.

This subject goes a lot further in actual implements because of all the different variables as well as the levels of damage that one is hurting at. Seems to me that only veterans themselves can let the proper people know where to start in trying to help each and every one of them out no matter what and where they are coming from in their particular hurting.

I have found that there are many different classes of both the above scenarios from some trying to play into the row, others that want the benefits supplied whether they are sick or not, and others who just don’t know which way to go to get the help they require.

I believe that there should be some medical people involved to help weed out the wannabes from those who are truly sick and need the help they are requesting to get over their personal hump and to try to carry on with a better and more fruitful life than before.

I, for a fact, have found that the Veterans Administration (VA) from any State will not give the vet the full picture on how to get the help they need because if these veterans are kept in the dark the government will save a lot of money. In addition, the VA will claim they are not responsible for their lack of duty. They just down right say “we didn’t know of such programs available at that time”. Yet they have helped their friends, etc. get the help they needed.

I have found that there are a lot of vets who just play the game to see what they can get out of the VA. Many of these vets will not wear their leg braces or use their canes or crutches unless they are standing at the edge of a bridge and are panhandling. They say that they get a lot more money doing this and still have the benefits coming from the VA regularly. These guys make it worse for the people who are really the ones that require that special help only the VA can give out. This includes one-on-one counseling, meds for various REAL physical and emotional problems, and seeing a proper doctor who deals with a specific problem. This keeps going on and on and on and on……

Many of the doctors who deal with VA patients are sincerely doing their best, but a lot of the time the VA ties the doctor’s hands and then it goes no further. Some of the doctors try to get around this by sending the veteran to another doctor because that doctor has made headway in the area that the other hasn’t.

I share this with you because this veteran compares war veterans with firefighters. He does this because he has seen so many similar incidents of depression, PTSD, and the rise in emergency responders’ suicides and is concerned for their welfare. On a personal note, he and his friend (a retired, PTSD disabled firefighter) have learned that although they come from different backgrounds (war and firefighting), their mental and emotional struggles are very similar. They have learned much and have helped each other by sharing their experiences.