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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Washington State Takes Reins to Support Returning Troops

Just as local media outlets have been cleaning national media clocks in post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] reporting, it looks like the States are giving the Feds a run for their money, too.

More money is turning up in state budgets for PTSD treatment programs for our returning veterans. Although the reason is clear -- federal funding is drying up as the escalating costs of the war drain the national budget -- it couldn't be happening soon enough.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From the Everett, Washington Daily Herald:

The effects of the war in Iraq are beginning to reverberate in the state Legislature. A state-funded treatment program for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder could receive an extra $170,000 this year, enough to serve another 130 soldiers should they need help when they return from Iraq. The funds are in a $500,000 package for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the budgets proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, the House of Representatives and state Senate.

Only Washington and New Jersey have state-funded PTSD treatment programs. Washington is the only state with an increasing number of veterans, said Tom Schumacher, who runs the Everett-based program. Other states rely solely on federal funding to maintain their PTSD programs and for helping soldiers readjust to civilian life, though many emotionally wounded veterans shy away from them, Schumacher said.

Of the 10,000 National Guardsmen and reservists already returned from combat duty to Washington state, Schumacher estimated that 4,000 of them will have readjustment issues or full-blown PTSD. "Can we ever do enough? Probably not," Schumacher said. Nevertheless, "It's up to us to be the example of what should be done."

The Daily Herald introduces the reader to the story of a female civil affairs officer (and grandmother) who served in Afghanistan. She's had to cope with nightmares and guilt ever since returning stateside.

The article continues:

In war, the challenge is staying alive. Back home, it's figuring out how to live. Returning soldiers tend to be hyperalert, suspicious and tense. It's a normal reaction in combat situations, said Arlington resident Ernie Butler, a Vietnam veteran. "They're living each day of their life in fear of the next step," Butler said.

In Vietnam, it was walking through the jungle. In Iraq, it's fighting door to door, he said. Most veterans will not want to face up to PTSD symptoms, Schumacher said. When he helped set up Washington's PTSD program in 1984, he found veterans suffering from the disorder living in remote areas "just to get away from society," he said.

"They're going to be the last ones yelling about PTSD," Butler said. "You're a young Marine, you're not going to admit to PTSD. It's a sign of weakness."

That's OK. You don't want to yell about your PTSD? I'll do it for you, then. But let me -- and others -- reach out to help, OK?

If you're struggling with sleeplessness, uncontrollable and sudden rage, anxiety, or feelings of guilt or fear, please know you have a lot of places to turn to. And if you're afraid you might harm yourself, please get help immediately.

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