Yesterday, in my post “PTSD and the Purple Heart,” I commented on Tyler E. Boudreau’s New York Times column “Troubled Minds and Purple Hearts,” where he makes an eloquent case for awarding the Purple Heart or a new decoration to those veterans who have suffered psychic wounds in combat.
Since then, I have come across a couple of excellent letters to the Editor of the New York Times, on the Purple Heart issue and on providing more recognition and better care to those veterans who have received such psychic wounds.
The first letter is written by Judith Broder, a medical doctor and the founder and director of the Soldiers Project in Los Angeles, which offers free psychological treatment to military service members who have served or expect to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The second letter is written by Representative John J. Hall, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
I hope that testimonials such as these will prompt the Pentagon to rethink the Purple Heart issue and related benefits matters, and also give the Obama administration the motivation to “encourage” the Pentagon to do so.
Dr. Broder’s Letter:
To the Editor:
Re ”Purple Heart Is Ruled Out for Traumatic Stress” (front page, Jan. 8):
The decision by the Pentagon to deny Purple Hearts to veterans with psychic wounds flies in the face of the many public statements from the Defense Department about the need to reduce the stigma associated with these injuries.
It is disturbing that the Pentagon needs to see blood to establish the validity of a war injury.
Those of us who treat our war veterans have no doubt that ”hidden” psychic injuries are at least as serious and potentially more devastating than more visible physical ones.
Ask any veteran or family member of someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or post-deployment depression about the reality of these wounds. They will have no trouble describing the profound consequences of these injuries and their far-reaching effects on families and communities.
The sacrifice and suffering of these veterans need to be recognized and honored.
Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 9, 2009
Rep. Hall’s Letter:
To the Editor:
Re ”PTSD and the Purple Heart” (editorial, Jan. 12):
Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet our government remains painfully slow to recognize PTSD as an injury of war.
The ways in which mental wounds affect a soldier’s daily life may be less visible than physical wounds, but the impact can be just as severe. PTSD is frequently misdiagnosed, and benefits for the condition are often denied by the Veterans Administration.
Whatever one’s position on PTSD as a qualifying injury for the Purple Heart, the debate illustrates a deeper injustice throughout the Pentagon and V.A. — the lack of parity between physical and mental injuries from military service.
Last year Congress passed a law giving Americans the right to receive equal coverage from private insurance companies for mental and physical health care. Shouldn’t we provide the same for injured veterans?
It is our responsibility to provide equal benefits for mental health injuries and physical injuries, to heal all wounds of war, both seen and unseen.
(Rep.) John J. Hall
Washington, Jan. 13, 2009