Friday, August 12, 2005

Still the Same Ol’ Story

It seems that with a lot of US military experiencing combat again, the Veteran’s Administration is repeating their past practices. Since Sherman pronounced that war was hell, the general non-combatant population likes to believe that the horror of war will permanently damage a huge percentage of those who participate. And, of course by extension, since war is so destructive of the mental health of the players, there is no justifiable reason for ever engaging in the activity. As warriors return from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA has been building numbers of vets who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But, now it appears that someone is looking at the process and apparently doesn’t like what they see. The assumption of affliction without much in the way of validation of either symptoms or causative experience is getting the VA looked at. Still pumping the PTSD numbers?

A few years ago B. G. Burkett, a military researcher and Vietnam infantry veteran, collaborated with Glenna Whitley, an award-winning investigative reporter in a book titled, Stolen Valor. The book is required reading for any who wish to challenge the “conventional wisdom” of those who lament US involvement in the Vietnam War. The book offers three principal theses and supports them with excellent documentation, referencing and research. First, the book addresses the warping of statistics regarding who actually bore the brunt of the fighting during that period when conscription was the law of the land.

Ask the man on the street, and you’ll be told that the average age was just nineteen, the majority of the draftees who served in Vietnam were minorities who couldn’t get a deferment or a safe National Guard assignment (like flying single-seat/single-engine jets for five years?), and the majority of the combat casualties were African-Americans. The book provides detailed and supportable statistics to prove that the average age was closer to 24, the draft impacted all demographic slices proportionally, and the casualty rate of blacks in combat was lower than the percentage that could be expected based on representation in society. In other words, the truth doesn’t support the common belief.

The principle thesis of the book is that an incredible number of individuals now don the mantle of heroism without having served. The book focuses on claims of poseurs, wannabes and criminals who assert POW status, top-secret missions and high-level decorations to gain attention, respect, jobs or privilege. The documentation is, once again flawless and undeniable. Wannabes and Phonies Uncovered

But, the third thesis (and most tedious to read) is the refutation of the post-traumatic stress disorder epidemic. Using the numbers gathered from government sources through FOIA requests, the authors offer proof that drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness and anti-social/criminal behavior does NOT occur any more often in combat veterans than it does in the population at large. Moreover, they build a strong case that the VA intentionally misrepresents the proliferation of PTSD cases in order to increase their budget share, justify their bureaucracy and build their mental health care empire.

It appears with the new investigation of the VA PTSD claims for the current conflict that they’ve not updated their playbook in the last thirty years.

Stolen Valor Reviewed
Stolen Valor Reviewed II

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