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Transition Home: A Silent War for Families

By: John Waltz

Special Assignment Writer

Firebase Network


Dec 21, 2006

In a prior article I authored titled, “Suicides among Active Duty Personnel at an All Time High,” which primarily covered suicide. As a follow up this article is going to cover what the families are dealing with. Right now there are thousands of families dealing with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) without a clue on how to help.

For too many families the excitement of the homecoming is short lived and soon fades. The unpredictable behavior of their loved one begins to shift and they change into a completely different person. The once gentle, easy going and loving person they once remember is now full of rage, violence, and lashes out in anger at the smallest things. Their behavior is totally unpredictable and soon relationships with their spouse, children and family become strained. These are all warning signs and the family the alarms should be sounding loudly. Unfortunately there are very few if any PTSD support groups to reach out to veterans and their families.

An educational program about PTSD would be a great value by reaching out to all Americans and would let them know the warning signs. Many Americans feel that  the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) need to make an effort to reach out to veterans instead of relying on the veteran to come to them. 

Due to a lack of transitional resources a service member experiences an abrupt shift from the battle to domestic life. Add that in with the fact, when a soldier comes home, it appears life has gone on uninterrupted and that the nation is more worried about Rosie O’Donnell, Britney Spears, Donald Trump, O.J Simpson and Kevin Federline than our troops. For a service member this further fuels the distress and confusion they already have.

Without any treatment or support elements in place, PTSD can leads to substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide. Domestic violence within the veteran community is two to five times greater than their civilian counterparts. This is also the biggest contributing factor of veterans and service members not being able to maintain a steady relationship, which gives them a higher divorce rate. Not only does PTSD lead to strained family relationships, but also leads to the inability to maintain a job which fuels the number of homeless veterans.

To make matters worse once a veteran does get help they find out how difficult it is to deal with the DVA. In order to file a disability claim they are required to get in back of the line of 70,000 other veterans and wait at least six months for an answer, sometimes even longer. This problem is further complicated by the fact that the DVA is under funded by $4 billion dollars and would show that veteran’s issues do not take priority.

In a CNN interview with on Paula Zahn that aired December 21, 2006 Paul Riekhoff, President Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association, summed up the problems of the DVA by saying, “If you truly support the troops, it really starts with funding the DVA.”

If you have a veteran or service member who you believe has PTSD, get them help as soon as possible. Make sure you also educate yourself on PTSD and establish a strong support base for the veteran. No one wants to see any more of our brave veterans senselessly ending their lives or suffering because of a poor mental health care. Support the troops and never forget our veterans.

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