When I was selling life insurance full time I did quite a lot of business with soldiers stationed at Ft. Stewart in Hinesville, Georgia. I was pretty good at getting these guys covered prior to their deployment to Iraq but a stumbling block I could never find a way around was getting troops leaving the service or retiring covered for disability insurance and sometimes, even life insurance.
Most of these guys were still in their early 40's and non-smokers in excellent health. But the catch was, according to the Army, they were "disabled." It turned out that most any kind of scratch or injury in a combat zone qualified you for 10% disability which not only increased your retirement pay, but also made you eligible for 100% Veterans Administration health benefits for you and your dependents for the rest of your life. It was a scam that everyone turned a blind eye to so that retiring veterans could pad their wallets.
I believe the same thing is happening now with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I read somewhere where 80% of the troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan never see combat and are never under enemy fire. I have also read estimates that as many as 60% of the troops stationed in the Middle East suffer PTSD.
I say, poppycock.
Last weekend, Sunday, May 6th was the 70th Anniversary of the fall of Bataan and the 1942 surrender at Corregidor, Philippines. The local chapter of the Filipino American Veterans Society held a commemorative service at the Veterans Wall and I decided to attend, just because.
There were three of the original WWII veterans there and they told their personal stories of the Bataan Death March. Each story was blood curdling, filled with unbelievable atrocities committed by the Japanese Army. One man remembered how they were forced-marched for 120 miles without food or water. He said the American soldiers were abused most, those that fell behind shot on the spot and left to rot on the side of the road as reminders to those that followed. Out of 60 men in his group, only 6 survived the march.
None of these Filipinos received any veterans benefits what-so-ever or even an official thank you until corrective legislation was passed in May, 2009, 67 years after the fact. You know what? None of them complained about it. None of them expected anything special. Each of them stood tall at the ceremony and sang God Bless America and saluted the flag.
We have become a nation of entitlement wimps. A Navy medical officer told me recently that in spite of the economy, the military is having a hard time filling its ranks because only one out of four who apply are accepted. Why? Obesity and character flaws, re: criminal records. Obviously, a large proportion of the one quarter that do make it believe they are entitled to special treatment simply for "being there."
There is no doubt that many soldiers in combat suffer legitimate traumatic stress and deserve all of the help they can get. But most of them, PTSD my ass.
And yes, I am a veteran.