Friday, December 22, 2006

70 percent Disabled with PTSD, but not Gay

We can thank President Bush, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the outgoing Republican-controlled Congress for their tireless efforts in protecting our military from non-heterosexuals, as reported in the Hartford Courant on December 10. Money quotes:

Broken By War, And Ordered Back

Nothing was stranger for Mary Jane Fernandez than the events of last Christmas, which had her 24-year-old son, newly returned from the war in Iraq, downing sedatives, ranting about how rich people were allowed to sit in recliners in church, and summoning the Waterbury police to come arrest him.

This Christmas may top that.

Despite being diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and rated 70 percent disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Damian Fernandez has been called back to duty and told to prepare for another deployment to Iraq.

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Steve Robinson, director of government relations for Veterans of America, said he knew of a number of other war veterans with PTSD who had been called back to Iraq.

"If you have a war-related injury that you're being compensated for," he said, "to be sent back into a situation that might exacerbate the problem just doesn't make sense."

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Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said veterans can seek exemptions from being recalled and receive medical screenings before being deployed. But he said a physical or mental disability, including PTSD, was not "an automatic exemption" from serving.
[OYE Comment: Only being Gay is "an automatic exemption" from military service.]

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Mary Jane Fernandez said she already has notified the Army about Damian's chronic PTSD, and is stunned that he has not been excused. She said a friend of Damian's, who also has severe PTSD, has opted to go back to Iraq because "he misses killing people," the friend told her. A veterans' counselor familiar with the case confirmed that account.

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A new Pentagon policy deems PTSD a "treatable" condition, but directs that troops with psychiatric disorders should be sent to war only if they are stable and "without significant symptoms" for at least three months prior to deployment.

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"He feels guilty that if doesn't go back, he'll be deserting his buddies," Mary Jane said of her son, who received commendations for prior tours in Korea and Africa. "But if he does go back, he's afraid he won't be able to do his part.

"He's all torn up now."

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Because the Army has no policy exempting soldiers with PTSD from returning to war, counselors at the New Haven Vet Center have been unable to offer Damian assurances he will be excused. Mary Jane said one counselor suggested that Damian's best bet might be to stay "locked up" in the hospital through January.

Still, Donna Hryb, team leader at the Hartford Vet Center, said she would be surprised if the Army deploys a soldier as severely impaired as Damian."It would be counterproductive for the unit and for him," she said.

Hilferty, the Army spokesman, acknowledged that redeploying soldiers with "severe" psychological problems could jeopardize other troops' safety. He noted that the Army is not calling back soldiers who have served in combat within the last 12 months, to allow them time between deployments. Hilferty also said officials are working to better monitor soldiers' "readiness."

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Update (December 22): He's been discharged. Finally, and only after major negative publicity and the personal intervention of Senator Dodd (D-CT) and the Connecticut Attorney General. This veteran has honorably served his country and needs help. And it still took them twelve days to give him his life back. If he had made a "homosexual statement," he would have been discharged immediately.

OK, Yellow Elephants, when, if ever, will you decide to Be A Man! Enlist!?


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