Veterans Aren't Having Sarah Palin's PTSD Scapegoating

"Palin is using PTSD as an excuse to shift blame away from her son's domestic violence."

01/21/2016 05:02 pm ET | Updated Jan 22, 2016

A day after Sarah Palin appeared to blame President Barack Obama for her son's domestic violence charge with comments she made about veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, those very veterans are setting her straight.

On Tuesday, the same day Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president, 26-year-old Track Palin, an Iraq veteran, was arrested on weapons and domestic violence charges following an incident with his girlfriend. The following day, Sarah Palin used her son's alleged assault as a platform to blame Obama for not supporting veterans with PTSD. 

"My son, like so many others, they come back a bit different," Palin said at a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "They come back hardened, they come back wondering if there's that respect for what it is their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military have so sacrificially given to this country." 

Addressing what she called the "woundedness" that soldiers feel coming home, Palin suggested that Obama is unable or unwilling to empathize with suffering veterans. 

"It starts from the top, the question though, that comes from our own president, where they have to look at him and wonder, 'Do you know what we have to go through?'" Palin told the crowd.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
From left: Track Palin, Willow Palin and Trig Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But veterans who know the damaging effects of PTSD quickly came down on Palin's rhetoric, making it clear that her son's domestic violence charge shouldn't be used as a platform to politicize a condition that affects more than 10 percent of the U.S. military. And even if mental health issues contributed to Track Palin's alleged assault, in which police say he punched his girlfriend in the face before threatening suicide with an AR-15 assault rifle, they don't give him a free pass from consequences.

Following Palin's comments, a current soldier described how he sought help for his own PTSD. 

"Palin is using PTSD as an excuse to shift blame away from her son's domestic violence," said Brandon Friedman, the former digital media director for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He continued, "She never mentioned the actual victim. She portrayed her son as the victim, but never talked about his girlfriend, apparently crying and hiding under a bed because he beat her."

While Friedman concedes that those suffering from PTSD are more likely to commit domestic violence, he said Palin is promoting the false idea that all veterans with mental health issues are an immediate threat to those around them.

"The fact is, veterans who have PTSD are far, far more likely to harm themselves than they are to harm others," he said.

Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide, according to a 2012 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Matt Miller, the chief policy officer for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said Palin used PTSD as a "crutch" for her son's domestic violence. Instead of politicizing the suffering of veterans, Palin could have instead sought help for him.

"Parents have the greatest opportunity to help veterans with mental issues," Miller said. "It's estimated that 80 percent of veterans who sought mental health did so because a loved one asked them to." 

As for Obama's alleged apathy on veterans' issues, Miller said that simply isn't true. Just last year, Obama signed a bipartisan bill to improve veterans' access to mental health resources. And the Veterans Affairs budget is at an all-time high.

"It's ironic that people like Sarah Palin are in the party of 'personal responsibility' but as soon as someone in her family is arrested for domestic violence, it's Obama's fault," Friedman said.

Veterans in crisis and their families are urged to call the Veterans Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.

 

CONVERSATIONS