Tuesday, February 10, 2015

PTSD & Combat - Eddie Routh's non-combat PTSD

There is a lot of discussion in the news right now about veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and criminal acts.  The next big media frenzy surrounding a veteran with PTSD will come in the form of the high-profile Eddie Routh case.  In 2013, Routh shot “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and another veteran, Chad Littlefield.  Routh’s parents say that Routh had been formally diagnosed with PTSD. Additional mention has been made of the fact that Routh’s attorney will attempt to plead the insanity defense because Routh has a mental illness, but there is no indication yet whether this defense will be based on PTSD and its symptoms. See the article about Eddie Routh’s upcoming trial here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/01/22/the-trial-of-eddie-routh-the-man-who-killed-chris-kyle-will-be-american-snipers-darkest-chapter/ 

All of this raises an interesting aspect of PTSD and its triggering events.  There is a lot of discussion about whether Eddie Routh has PTSD or not.  The discussion seems to surround a debate about his combat experience.  The Warfighter Foundation, a nonprofit supports combat veterans, has issued statements questioning Routh’s reported PTSD because he never saw combat.  A spokesman for the Foundation is quoted as saying “Eddie Routh served one tour in Iraq in 2007, at Balad Air Base (the 2nd largest U.S. installation in Iraq), with no significant events. No combat experience. .. This has NOTHING to do with PTSD. He was an individual with psychological problems that were not associated with his service. So don’t give me that bleeding heart bulls**t that he was a veteran suffering from PTSD.   See the article here: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/02/05/veterans-group-claims-to-have-uncovered-potentially-significant-truth-about-chris-kyles-alleged-killer/  

Whether Eddie Routh has PTSD is something I do not know the answer to.  However, I do know that entirely too often military personnel with no combat experience in the traditional sense suffer from PTSD. For example, one Vietnam veteran with the job (MOS) “electronic device repairman” I worked with was required to supply direct combat support to forward serving troops.  This veteran was required to repair lighting on perimeters while being forced to dodge bullets and avoid dead bodies while under sniper fire.  A glance at his records would not have revealed this type of trauma, and yet it existed and caused him harm forty years later.  Additionally, there are a number of veterans who merely from the constant exposure to potential harm experience trauma.  They do not have to actually see  or experience an ultimate harm.  The VA has recognized this type of trauma as prevalent in the literature and in the veteran population by altering the requirements for proving an in-service event that triggers PTSD.  http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1922

While I understand that the experience of combat veterans is not equivalent to anything else, I do have concerns about lessening the trauma experienced by others servicemembers merely because they are not combat veterans.  If veterans eat each other alive, things are surely spiraling downhill and signify major problems for veterans in the future.  If veterans culturally cannot support each other and appreciate differences in service, who will?  And if these veterans are discounted, how much more difficult will it be for them to get treatment from an already swamped VA health care system?




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