Sunday, July 12, 2009


I was chatting online with yet another GWOT veteran whom I've never met last night. We've been corresponding for about 18 months, I'd guess. This guy is a Staff Sergeant (SSG/E-6) in the Army National Guard who served overseas shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

He's got 15 years in uniform, and went to the V.A. to get help with PTSD and mTBI (post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury) a while ago. The V.A. did what they were supposed to do, and helped this guy to see that he was having a normal reaction to an incredibly abnormal circumstance, and his issues resolved over time.

Not too long ago, during the Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) each Soldier has to complete each year, he mentioned that he'd been to the V.A. to get help.

His National Guard unit is now sending him to a medical review board in order to kick him out of the Army. He'd just gotten the paperwork from the Army on Saturday morning.

"The guys in my unit look at me as though I have the plague," he mentioned.


I am so angry I cannot see straight.

A friend of mine who's a psychiatrist at a large military medical installation here in the States where they see lots of personnel experiencing post-deployment difficulties told me that the Active Duty Army is doing a pretty good job of working to de-stigmatize a diagnosis of PTSD. "But the National Guard in many States is just way behind the power curve here, and they still effectively punish Soldiers for getting the help they deserve and need, and which can restore them to full functionality in their military mission."

Not so long ago a Lieutenant General in the Army (three stars) went public with the fact of his struggle against PTSD, an act which ought to be lauded by all concerned. But this NCO, upon being honest with his superiors about his own experience, is going to be medically discharged from the Army because his State's National Guard Bureau is living in some other century, and operating out of complete blindness and stupidity.

Instead of censuring this guy, we should be applauding him and honoring his desire to accomplish the Army's mission by ensuring that he's fully mission capable.

By this action, his State's National Guard Bureau is sending the message that it's better to pretend that nothing is wrong until such time as the Soldier either commits homicide or suicide or both.

This Soldier has fifteen good years of service, wants to continue to retirement, has had his problems resolved as the result of taking the courageous action he took to acknowledge the truth of his situation, and the National Guard is going to kick him out because of it.

Disgusting dereliction.

May God grant those jerks every good gift I could wish for myself or those I love most.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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Kanani said...

Hi Fr. Tim,
I have many years of experience in the private sector of medicine. You can read about me here. I'm not familiar with NG review boards, but know how to document things, what kinds of letters to get. May I be of quiet assistance to your friend?

Kanani said...

I've put a link to your blog on my sidebar using your flower photo as a widget.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/15/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

BillT said...

Let me guess -- either NYARNG or NJARNG.

seg said...

Tim, With all due respect, dogpile "National Guard Budget" and you will see money for the National Guard went to CONSTRUCTION for the bases to "create jobs" for the economy. Your anger is misplaced. The military can only use the money they received. They received money not for PTSD but for jobs. You will also notice the materials must be all from America which has China and Canada extremely upset. Once again money and government screws everything up. My suggestion to you: Channel your anger and instead of railing, start a PTSD support group with a qualified medical professional locally with the Catholic Church. Make the church relevant again!! Help the helpless like Jesus said and stop running to the government for help!!! Do it yourself!!!Love you lots XXXOOO

cptdrfrtim said...

Hey Steve: I'm not sure which post you're responding to, but *money* wasn't part of the situation which enraged me at all. The Soldier in question went to the *V.A.* for treatment (didn't cost the NGB any money at all), and the treatment worked. Hooray!! Now the National Guard in his State is kicking him out for having gotten help (and the help was on someone else's dime -- no money issues there). Here's my outrage: It's simply WRONG to punish military personnel for getting the help they need and deserve, and which enables them to return to duty. It would cost the National Guard *less* money to retain the guy than to have to pay all the people involved in the paperwork to medically board him out. My outrage at the situation has nothing whatsoever to do with money; it has to do with procedural stuff on which the NGB budget has absolutely no bearing. I'm confused by the comment: "Once again money and the government screws everything up." My friend *doesn't* need a PTSD group now; his issues have been resolved (by the V.A. -- which is what the V.A. is supposed to do in such cases; money and government worked in that instance, hence my outrage at the State NG for moving to separate the guy from the military!).

Unknown said...

Life is often unfair. "Thank You, God, for the seemingly bad, and thank You, God, for the seemingly good. I've had many things "unfair" occur during my recovery that nudged, sometimes shoved me into the next right place to do the next right thing in this life I have committed to doing work assigned by the H.P., often incomprehensible at first to us humans... All 12 Steps, often! Love 'n hugs to you and to him.

Mary Coady said...

"May God grant those jerks every good gift I could wish for myself or those I love most."

Tim, after I worked on a bunch of TBI articles for our former employer, I really understood that this is the signature wound of this war. I'm appalled that physicians, shrinks and brass don't get it by now. The numbers have to be staggering.

Thank you for this post and for
"May God grant those jerks every good gift I could wish for myself or those I love most." I do try to say a version of that prayer regularly, and your calling them jerks is very freeing to me. I don't have to pretend a sentiment I don't feel. I only have to behave the way Jesus taught us, and that's no easy task for the merest mortal. Thanks for the reminder, and the inspiration.


Unknown said...

You can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs.

seg said...

Sorry about that--I read the part where it said the soldiers are punished and and NG is behind the curve on getting the help that can restore them. I took that to mean they were not getting the help because of money.
I still stand by my idea that the Catholic Church can fulfill a function Im sure the VA is not accomplishing completely well.

seg said...

Just checked the VA budget because one item in your response bothered me. When you said, "someone else's dime, no money issues here" There are money issues because that is taxpayers money which so him through the tough time, so there is a money issue. Was it spent correctly? In my view yes. Is the military cutting its losses? Yes. They spent money on this guy and he is now a liability in their eyes. He is fulfills a functon, that function is now changed and in the Army's view, he is out. Is it fair? Fairness has nothing to do with it, from the military point of view he is no longer useful. And I was answering yur post by the way.

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