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One of the most stigmatized and misunderstood mental health disorders is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What’s sad about this particular disorder is that PTSD affects millions of Americans who have experienced some sort of trauma, whether they are civilians or people serving in the armed forces. However, our military men and women are more susceptible to developing PTSD due to head injuries, as well as the extended periods of stress they are under while out on the field.

One interesting fact about PTSD is that it can sometimes take years to develop, which can create issues when it comes to trying to diagnose an individual. Experts tend to agree that in order to correctly diagnose a PTSD case, the person must experience symptoms for at least a month. These symptoms can include anxiety, self-loathing, irritability, and most of all severe depression.

A major problem with the PTSD epidemic in the military is it is causing many good men and women who are serving to be discharged for misconduct. What’s sad about this, is most of the time the misconduct is a direct result of PTSD symptoms. Thankfully, new studies have emerged when it comes PTSD and the military with the hopes of changing the discharge process and getting our military members the help that they need.

Thank You to Those Who Serve

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Despite today’s heated political climate, we all can agree that the men and women serving our country deserve our thanks. Whether serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines, our military continues to fight for our freedoms day in and day out, risking their lives on a daily basis.

A Long Fought Fight

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Currently, the United States is still tied to conflicts in the Middle East, with our military continuing to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as routing out ISIS. According to mental health studies, war and extended time in combat can take a real toll on those serving in the military both mentally and physically.

Too Many Suffering

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the military is a major cause for concern. This can be caused from severe stress, as well as traumatic brain injuries that sometimes go undiagnosed. According to Veteran Affairs, roughly 11-20% of soldiers suffer from PTSD in any given year, while many of these soldiers are no longer serving actively, there are still quite a few soldiers suffering from PTSD who are serving overseas.

PTSD and the Military

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Thankfully, we know way more today about PTSD than we did before. However, recent findings suggest that the military may need to reevaluate their treatment protocols for those suffering PTSD. According to new studies, many service men and women in the military are being discharged for misconduct, when most of the time this misconduct is caused by their mental illness.

Studies on PTSD

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Studies on PTSD and how it impacts those serving in our military have ramped up over the past decade. This is mainly due to the United States and its extended conflict in the Middle East, which has resulted in our service men and women working under a constant state of pressure and stress. Some have continued to reenlist with very little downtime in-between tours. This has also led to quite a few discharges on a yearly basis for misconduct.

New and Troubling Research

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New research has found that over half of the military men and women being discharged for misconduct have eventually been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, as well as PTSD. Most of these diagnoses have been determined roughly two years after they’ve been discharged.

Symptoms May Vary

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Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, which can make it hard to diagnose. Another problem with the symptoms is they are commonly associated with other medical problems, so when they manifest they can be misdiagnosed. This is why many military men and women are being inaccurately discharged for misconduct.

Emotional, Physical and Psychological

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The main symptoms of PTSD are: agitation, irritability, self-destructive behavior, flashbacks, severe anxiety and mistrust. Many suffering from PTSD often isolate themselves from socialization and become emotionally detached from people and activities they used to love.

Discharged without Proper Diagnosis

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Since PTSD is known for altering a person’s behavior, it can lead to actions while on active duty that can result in discharge. The problem is without a proper diagnosis; being discharged for misconduct can have negative consequences on the person being removed from service.

Loss of Medical Benefits

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When one is discharged for misconduct, it is not considered an honorable discharge. This means that the person is automatically disqualified from receiving health benefits from Veteran Affairs. This is one of the worst possible outcomes from someone suffering from PTSD because without treatment their symptoms will only get worse over time.

Internal Studies

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One internal study found that in most discharge cases resulting in misconduct, the PTSD diagnosis wasn’t even considered in relation to the actions that led to the discharge. Therefore, many men and women were losing out on health benefits to help them get well, as well as being discharged for all of the wrong reasons.

Recommendations and Solutions

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The study went on to recommend that the process for discharging service men and women should be altered to take into consideration ALL factors of the situation. PTSD should be tested for and be weighed heavily before discharging a person. An early diagnosis pre-discharge could greatly impact the person’s life, as well as switch their discharge to an honorable one.

Not All Charges Dismissed

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Now, it is widely understood that many charges of misconduct are warranted and not all are related to brain trauma and PTSD. However, the time has come for the processes to be reevaluated to look at the person as a whole, rather than just the action that led to them being discharged.

The Pentagon Files

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Many studies and findings have been presented to the Pentagon regarding the military’s discharge processes and some of the findings have been considered for implementation. However, the Pentagon has questioned some of the methodology used in the studies and is still considering more information before making any firm changes.

The Hope for a Better Understanding

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Regardless, our military men and women deserve the respect of an accurate diagnosis before discharge occurs. With PTSD being such a common problem, we hope that those of us fighting for our freedoms can get the care they need. Here’s hoping the Pentagon chooses to alter the process.