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What’s Next for Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress?
The central question going forward from yesterday’s summit on veterans issues at the Bush Institute is this: How do we get to the point in our society that veterans with post-traumatic stress are not treated as damaged goods?
President Bush spoke to this issue in his opening address, when he emphasized that PTS is a condition like diabetes. Treatments exist for PTS, he said, just like they do for diabetes. And employers don’t turn away from a future employee simply because they have diabetes.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News moderated the half-day session, and she picked up on the fact that the president didn’t use the term post-traumatic stress disorder. Rather, he said “post-traumatic stress.” The difference is important, as she noted. “It is big for a president to no longer say PTSD. It is PTS.”
The difference matters because it gets to the heart of whether someone has a condition that stops them from holding down a job or going to school. A disorder may stop an employer from hiring a veteran who has suffered a trauma for fear of them breaking down on the job. But if this is not a disorder, employers are more likely to look at a veteran who has endured a war-time trauma as they would another possible employee with their own issues. Trauma, after all, is not related to military service.
Of course, there is much still to learn about PTS. General Peter Chiarelli, the retired former vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army, told the audience that his three priorities are:
- Better understanding PTS;
- Determining whether someone actually suffers from PTS; and
- Discovering the best ways to treat soldiers with PTS
Interestingly, Chiarelli said that veterans are tested for PTS with a list of 20 questions. That sure seems like a quick in-and-out, which is perhaps why Chiarelli said he was interested in finding a way to diagnose the condition beyond a list of 20 questions.
There still is much to learn about the best ways to treat soldiers with this condition. That is one of the keys to even further erasing the stigma about PTS. As my Bush Institute colleague Eric Bing says, the stigma around AIDS was further erased once effective treatments were developed and accessible.
The Bush Institute will continue looking into the challenges surrounding PTS, so stay tuned to this spot. President Bush summed up the next big step this way:
“The goal is to eliminate PTS as a barrier to employment and empower our veterans to reach their full potential.”
William McKenzie is editorial director for the George W. Bush Institute, where he also serves as editor of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.
Active in education issues, he participates in the Bush Institute’s school accountability project. And he teaches as an adjunct journalism lecturer at SMU, where he teaches a course on media and politics.
Before joining the Bush Institute, the Fort Worth native served 22 years as an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News and led the newspaper’s Texas Faith blog. The University of Texas graduate’s columns appeared nationwide and he has won a Pulitzer Prize and commentary awards from the Education Writers Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the Texas Headliners Foundation, among other organizations. He still contributes columns and essays for the Morning News.
Before joining the News in 1991, he earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington and spent a dozen years in Washington, D.C. During that time, he edited the Ripon Forum.
McKenzie has served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, on the board of a homeless organization, and on governing committees of a Dallas public school. He also is an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, where he lives with his wife and their twin children.Full Bio
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