Edwards uses Vets Day for political gain

Presidential contender John Edwards is introducing a $400 million plan Monday to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, including those recently returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under Edwards’ plan, veterans could seek counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder outside the Veterans Health Administration system; the number of counselors would increase; and family members would be employed to identify cases of PTSD.

Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat, was scheduled to introduce the five-point plan during a speech at New Hampshire’s Plymouth State University.

“I strongly believe we must restore the sacred contract we have with our veterans and their families, and that we must begin by reforming our system for treating PTSD. We also must act to remove the stigma from this disorder,” Edwards said in prepared remarks his campaign provided to The Associated Press. “Warriors should never be ashamed to deal with the personal consequences of war.”

Edwards said that despite his opposition to how the war has been waged, the enlisted men and women deserve the nation’s support when they complete their service.

“We must stand by those who stand by us. When our service men and women sacrifice so much to defend our freedom and secure peace around the world, we have a moral obligation to take care of them and their families,” he said.

A recent study of Veterans Affairs records showed that the number veterans with PTSD increased by almost 20,000 during the last fiscal year — a nearly 70 percent jump.

Edwards said the Bush administration’s extension of tours to 15 months has only exacerbated the situation, and he promised to increase the time given to service members between deployment. A Defense Department study earlier this year showed that inadequate time stateside led to higher rates of PTSD or aggravated mental stress from service in the field.

Edwards’ campaign said there are too few trained counselors in the networks available to veterans. As such, they avoid seeking care because of the wait or the stigma. Instead, Edwards said he would increase counseling and training for counselors and allow veterans to seek treatment outside of the existing system.

The VA currently has a backlog of as many as 600,000 claims, increasing delays for initial treatment by up to six months, according to the campaign. Edwards pledged the entire backlog would be eliminated by Memorial Day 2009 — four months after he might take office — and would cut the processing time by half.

Edwards’ plan also would provide a comprehensive medical examination, which would be part of a “Homefront Redeployment Plan” provided to every veteran. Edwards said veterans don’t receive their first examinations for months or years after leaving the service, making it more difficult to determine whether an injury is service-related or not.

The Edwards campaign said the government could pay for the program through closing tax loopholes and more efficient tax collection.


  1. Hal Brown

    A 1982 non-VA PTSD program: I wrote the following twenty years ago when I put together a website about the mental health center where I was the supervisor.

    In 1982, the Mason Mental Health Center was one of the first programs to receive a grant from the Veterans Administration to operate a program to treat Vietnam veterans suffering from delayed post traumatic stress disorder. In fact, I believe we were one of only two community mental health centers to receive such a grant. Eventually the VA itself opened outreach programs themselves all over the country, and programs like ours were phased out.

    Our program began in November of 1981 without any involvement with the VA. Not a veteran myself, I had been working with a few Vietnam combat veterans in therapy. They were involved in a Vietnam veterans’ organization and were contacted by the local PBS television station, WKAR in East Lansing, MI, to put together a group to take phone calls at the station after they aired a special on post Vietnam stress syndrome.

    They suggested that I be one of the resource people available, not to take calls, but to assist those vets who were. The phone calls began to pour in after the program and I decided on the spot to offer a group at Mason Mental Health for any vets who wanted to attend. A few nights later 25 showed up for the first of many vets groups, and spin-off groups for spouses of vets.

    That was how we did business in those days. If we saw a need, we tried to met it. We weren’t volunteers, one of “the thousand points of light.” We were paid for what we did, but we did it because it needed to be done. The real heroes of the Vietnam veterans programs were the clients themselves. They hung together and helped each other through touch times as they dealt with inner demons.

    I would have liked to keep the program independent from the VA, but I knew that I needed to hire a Vietnam veteran who was also a professional psychotherapist, and there weren’t many of them around. So when VA funds became available I wrote the grant and we were able to hire the first of several dedicated therapists.

    Unfortunately, the VA took over much of the control of the program and while it continued almost until Mason Mental Health closed, our relationship with the VA was never very good. They insisted on approving clients before we saw them, even for first time emergency sessions that we were willing to do for free. We had to attend regular meetings at a VA center 60 miles away, and our therapists ended up having two supervisors. One hated bureaucracies and the other seemed to thrive in one of the biggest bureaucracies in the government. One knew his therapists could empathize with Vietnam veterans far better than he could and the other… well, I’m sure you get the idea.

    I hope the VA has improved since then. But I have my doubts.

  2. Cailleach

    Oh my! Now you’re criticizing Edwards for proposing a really good program to help veterans on Veterans’ Day! What–it should have been on a Friday evening in August? Why do you hate him so? He may be a rich pretty boy, but he seems to be a caring, thinking, hard-working progressive rich pretty boy. You seem to find fault with everything he does, no matter how good it is. And in headlines that have nothing to do with the content of the article! Are you channelling Ann Coulter? Lay off and let us make up our own minds.

  3. Doug Thompson

    I don’t like any politician who uses Veterans Day for political purposes, be they Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or whig. I don’t like it when the person doing it is a sitting President or a Presidential wannabe.

    That’s the way it is here and that’s the way it always will be.


  4. Helen Rainier

    I sure as hell would like to know who dreamed up the headline for this article. Was it Phillip Elliot?

    It is “using” the veterans to propose a radical program that would help them get the medical treatment they need after they have served our country and that’s terrible?

    But, it’s OK for a**holes like the draft-dodging and deserting “president” and “vice-president” to send them into an illegal war/occupation of a country that did absolutely nothing to us based on their religious fantasies of imperial hegemony.

    It’s OK to send them into harm’s way without the necessary protective equipment and armanent they need? It’s OK to extend their tours of duty involuntarily and without warning but not to allow them ample R&R time at home?

    It’s OK to house them in substandard housing at what should be the premier military hospitals such as Walter Reed?

    What a bunch of hypocritical BS. This is why I hold the Neocons in such contempt and revulsion. They have NEVER put themselves on the line and have NEVER accomplished or achieved anything on their own f*cking merit.

    They spit on the Constitution which they took an oath to uphold and defend and they slap We, the People every time they wake up or come out of hibernation.

    They have no business even being allowed on the sacred ground of Arlington Natural Cemetary. That is the most disgraceful insult these a**holes can impose on all of our veterans.

    Screw them and the brooms they rode in on. If there is a God, and if there is a Satan I hope they are working together to fashion a special room or area in Hell just for them.

    BTW, to all of my co-veteran comrades in arms, a Memorable and Blessed Veteran’s Day to each of you and thanks for your service to OUR country.

    P.S. If I ever had the misfortune to run into any of these a**holes, I would spit at their feet.