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RealClearPolitics - Articles - Thomas Lipscomb

Last Build Date: Mon, 26 May 2008 07:25:16 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2008

Purple Hearts for PTSD?

Mon, 26 May 2008 07:25:16 -0600

Now the anti-military groups and some veterans' lobbyists appear to be combining forces in asking that the honored Purple Heart for those physically wounded in combat be awarded for mental conditions based upon some highly dubious criteria. And this proposal is actually receiving serious consideration by the Bush Department of Defense. Claims of injuries from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are being used to grossly inflate the casualty rate and establish a whole new class of dubious "victims" out of veterans who served their country and are now being induced to serve themselves by both those who hate the American military while, of course, ritually praising their "service," and veteran lobbyist groups who claim to speak "for veterans" while increasing their ability to sell veterans on the benefits they get by paying for membership. In doing so, they have helped veterans and in some cases people who simply claimed to be veterans make hundreds of thousands of PTSD injury claims in what military records fraud expert B.G. Burkett calls "by far the largest collection of military disability fraud cases in the history of the United States, all alleging PTSD." Seventy percent of the disability claims presented to the Veterans Administration come through what is called "a membership representative," who often works for one of the veterans' lobbyist organizations and helps applicants with the difficult paperwork. One of the recent candidates for president of the Vietnam Veterans of America had to disqualify himself when it was revealed that he had admitted drawing up phony claims for disabilities by VVA members to the Veterans' Administration. Since a 100% disability payment for PTSD can be worth more than $30,000 a year for life, it is not surprising that a high percentage of veterans working for the VA also receive payments for PTSD themselves. It also makes the grantee eligible for a 50% disability payment under Social Security. Together they total over $40,000 a year, tax free and inflation-indexed. Burkett, a veteran himself, has been hired as an expert to the Marine Corps and the FBI, and testified on cases of phony assertions of rank, military service and medals awarded in numerous legal cases. His book “Stolen Valor” led to the recent passage of the Stolen Valor Act of 2006. The Act established Federal penalties for attempts to pass off fraudulent claims for medals or military service. Newspapers have carried stories for years about Burkett's work in helping unmask pretenders to military rank and honors who had been showing up on 4th of July reviewing stands and public ceremonies for years in full dress uniforms, with ranks and decorations they had invented rather than earned. In an attempt to try to get a handle on the flood of PTSD disability claims overwhelming the Veteran's Administration, its Inspector General department asked Burkett to take a look at a pilot study the VA had made of 2,100 random PTSD cases that had been extracted out of the 287,000 cases they were considering at the time. Of that sample group, for example, more than 28% had no medical trauma event of any kind in their records. And the rate of successful PTSD claims processed through the VA system was far higher in some parts of the country. Some areas approved 60% of claims with no trauma record while only 10% were granted in others. The VA seemed on the edge of uncovering the most massive fraud in its history and one in which it bore at least part of the blame. As the second largest agency in the Federal government with almost 300,000 employees it was at least possible for it to do a solid evaluation. But as soon as word of the VA's intention of a broad review of hundreds of thousands of PTSD claims costing potentially billions of dollars got out, those critical of the review lobbied their allies in Congress to halt the investigation. Not surprisingly, no review has taken place. In the meantime the paperwork on PTSD disability claims has gotten so huge at the VA and the expense of reviewing each claim is so high, that the VA is con[...]