President Obama recently announced in his weekly radio address new rules governing the care our veterans receive for PTSD that are designed to make the claim process easier and faster.
"Our veterans and wounded warriors," Obama stated, "will be provided the care and benefits they have earned when they come home."
This measure is in response to a long standing argument that the information requested by the Veteran's Administration requiring soldiers to prove they took part in events that could lead to PTSD be proved with documentation. President Obama stated:
I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. I've met enough veterans to know that you don't have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.
Mr. President, I hear from military families' everyday as they grasp for help in dealing with these and other issues. Most recently, I learned of an active duty soldier whom you have not met. Army PFC Lindsay Bailey is just 21 years old. She has served in Iraq as a gunner and almost anyone will tell you this job provides a soldier microscopic views of the carnage of war. In addition, she once came upon a vehicle destroyed by an IED explosion and discovered friends and fellow comrades dead and dismembered.
Not long after this event, PFC Bailey began having terrible anxiety and trouble sleeping. To add to her trauma, she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier and became pregnant. When she advised her superiors of the situation, she was treated in a hostile manner and given extra and dangerous work detail while waiting to be returned to her base at Ft. Richardson, Alaska.
The torment did not end there. Upon her return to Alaska, she suffered a miscarriage and the result was an arsenal of medications prescribed to help her cope. Her mother, Robin Bailey of West Virginia, estimates there were between 10-12 different varieties of medications prescribed to her daughter. PFC Bailey eventually overdosed on these medications, and near death, was placed in an intensive care unit.
"Nobody called me to tell me what had happened to my child." Robin says. "Lindsay called after she was alert and able to make calls and that's how her Dad and I found out."
The Bailey's were then shocked to learn their daughter was not going to be given any continuing treatment. She was going to be sent back to the base after leaving intensive care because her superiors had already made plans to give her a Chapter 14 discharge. A Chapter 14 is issued for soldier misconduct when it appears "rehabilitation is impracticable." Not understanding the Army's position and receiving no answers, her mother took it a step further and contacted West Virginia's Senator Rockefeller, Representative Shelly Moore Capito and the now late Senator Byrd to request intervention and a congressional investigation. Within 2 weeks, PFC Bailey had received a diagnosis of PTSD and was on her way to a private hospital in Colorado Springs for a 40 day treatment program.
Nevertheless, as she cleared airport security in Alaska, her irate Sergeant called demanding that she be returned to the base immediately. He didn't want her taken to a civilian hospital; he wanted her sent to an Army hospital in Georgia instead. But it was too late.
PFC Bailey seems to be responding well to the treatment program in Colorado. But there is a problem: Her military orders only allow her a stay 28 days after which she is supposed to return to the base in Alaska, not to resume her duties, but to be kicked out with the Chapter 14.
PFC Bailey's parents are fighting for an extension to allow their daughter time to complete the program. Hospital personnel have made several attempts to contact the army for permission but to date they have not responded to the request.
Robin Bailey fears the army wants her daughter to leave the hospital no later than July 14 so they can issue the Chapter 14 discharge prior to PFC Bailey's completion of 2 years of military service. If that happens, the VA will never have to pay her a dime of military benefits of any kind. The completion date is July 17, 2010.
So, President Obama, will your new PTSD rules help PFC Bailey and others like her who are fighting an uphill battle for the care they deserve? Is it fair for PFC Bailey to endure everything she has endured only to end up cast aside for life? Will she have to carry around the emotional scars of her service to our nation (not to mention sexual assault) without any help from the people who sent her there?
As you have stated of the new rules, "this is a long overdue step and we won't let them down."
Time will tell.
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