Increasing numbers of veterans seek help for PTSD

BATAVIA, OH (Oct. 21, 2019) — As a senior veterans’ service officer at Clermont County Veterans’ Service Commission, Rodger Young often helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Veterans Services assists more than 1,000 Clermont County veterans a year to help them with everything from disability claims to filing for health care insurance offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Emergency Financial Assistance.

“We are seeing more veterans with PTSD for various reasons,” Young said.  “Some of the veterans coming back from Iraq/Afghanistan have as many as eight deployments under their belt. Older veterans who have served in past wars are now retired/retiring and have more time to think about their war experience and fewer distractions to offset those memories.  Most of our claims are for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) hearing loss, and various exposure claims.”

In one major study of 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 13.5 percent of deployed and non-deployed veterans screened positive for PTSD, while other studies show the rate to be as high as 20-30 percent.

As many as 500,000 U.S. troops who served in these wars over the past 13 years have been diagnosed with PTSD. Warning signs include panic attacks, depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, chronic sleep impairment, lack of impulse control and mild memory loss.

“There are a lot of symptoms, and not all people have the same ones,” said Young, a retired United States Air Force Master Sergeant. “It can be hard to nail down. Most veterans think things are normal, until people tell them otherwise.”

Young describes PTSD as “more like overactive radar.” Those with the disorder can feel uncomfortable in settings with lots of people. Most will avoid crowded areas or will ensure a direct path is planned out in advance in case a situation arises.

Vets with PTSD often want to sit with their back to the wall to get a good vantage point. They’ve been trained to look for people with bombs strapped on, and get out quickly. Similarly, they scan crowds, almost like an automatic reaction, looking for anything out of the ordinary. They’re leery of cars pulled over to the left side of the road, even risking a speeding ticket to avoid them, due to suspicions engrained in their military careers.

Loud noises can bring on anger and distraction, and require time to calm down. Young tells of a couple that had to do dishes separately. The rattling noise unnerved the one with PTSD. His heart rate sped up, as his instincts feared a threat. He couldn’t control the reaction.

Some PTSD sufferers encounter nightmares, which may be controlled with medications. They can wake up and hallucinate, like one vet who thought he saw “camel spiders.”

Four hours of sleep is common. Many keep busy while at home, mowing the lawn and doing chores, instead of watching TV. They’re very regimented, used to tools being in order and wallets and keys in a certain drawer.

Young says potential employers may fear that vets with PTSD would “go postal.” In reality, they make good employees because they work hard. Focus on work keeps their PTSD away.

At a more severe level, some PTSD sufferers become suicidal. Young encourages them to text the Veterans Suicide Hotline at 838255 or call 800-273-8255.

The team at Clermont County Veterans’ Service helps get those with PTSD ready for specialized  services from the Veterans Administration.  The VA’s main regional medical facility is at 3200 Vine St. in Cincinnati. VA Healthcare Associates Clermont County has an office at 4600 Beechwood Road and the Georgetown Community Based Outpatient Clinic is at 474 Home Street. For those who can’t get transportation, Clermont County Veterans’ Service offers van service. Call 732-7471 for more info.

Although PTSD never ends, treatment for the disorder has come a long way in recent years, Young said.

“They know a lot more than they used to,” he said, “and they can help people live better with the symptoms.”