As published as an editorial in the Norwich Bulletin, July 13, 2010.

Our View: Veterans Getting Care They Deserve

There is some encouraging news this morning on two fronts with regard to treating veterans — particularly those from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — suffering from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.

First, the Department of Veterans Affairs has adopted new rules that will ease the burden of proof for service members when filing claims for service-connected disabilities as a result of PTSD. The failure to process claims in a timely manner is nothing more than a bureaucratic obstacle preventing veterans from receiving the care they need, and should never have been allowed to continue as long as it has.

Secondly, and more important, there also are new steps being taken to more effectively treat the disorder. The University of Connecticut Health Center has been awarded a $750,000 grant by the U.S. Justice Department for a two-year study of a new treatment method. To conduct the study, the center is seeking 90 volunteers from those wars. (To learn more or volunteer for the study, call (860) 679-2214.)

PTSD is the invisible injury of war. It is a mental health issue that, if left untreated, can have a devastating impact on an individual’s ability to function normally in society. It produces an extraordinarily high level of anger, anxiety and irritability, difficulty sleeping and flashbacks.

The traditional method of treatment is to have patients confront their fears, situations that most would more naturally attempt to avoid. The new therapy to be studied will focus instead on controlling the anger and other emotions associated with the disorder.

According to UConn Health Center, 13,000 Connecticut men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and upward of 40 percent will develop PTSD — figures that mirror the national average.

As a nation, we support the men and women who serve in combat. As a society, we owe it to them, and to their families, to provide that same level of support when they return home.