The Invisible Injury

The Invisible Injury

From Charles Quinlan

This campaign is for veterans who suffer with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). I refer to these as “The Invisible Injuries"

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Welcome!

Thank you for stopping by to read this article. I want to make it clear that I hold every member of the armed forces (past and present) near and dear to my heart, as should every American. Although, I would love to raise funds for everyone, this campaign is for those veterans who are suffering with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). I refer to these as “The Invisible Injuries”.

I am a combat veteran and I love this country, however I have seen many veterans give years of service to our country just to end up on the streets or live in poverty. Many of us, me included, feel that a most people have the ability to fend for him/herself. “Why should I give him my hard earned money when he won’t work for himself?” We have all said it at one time or another. I will get back to that in a moment.

The cold truth is many (not all) veterans suffer from PTSD. Most of us do not acknowledge this disorder and may even look at it as an excuse to act out. The truth of the matter is PTSD is a disability you cannot see. If you are unsure of what PTSD is then I will explain.

PTSD is a condition that develops after someone has experienced a life-threatening situation, such as combat. In PTSD, the event must have involved actual or threatened death or serious injury and caused an emotional reaction involving intense fear, hopelessness, or horror. People with PTSD have three kinds of experiences for weeks or months after the event is over and the individual is in a safe environment. People who have PTSD have experiences from all three of these categories that stay with them most of the time and interfere with their ability to live their life or do their job.

Re-experience the event over and over again

  •  You can’t put it out of your mind no matter how hard you try
  • You have repeated nightmares about the event
  • You have vivid memories, almost like it was happening all over again
  • You have a strong reaction when you encounter reminders, such as a car backfiring

 Avoid people, places, or feelings that remind you of the event

  •  You work hard at putting it out of your mind
  • You feel numb and detached so you don’t have to feel anything
  • You avoid people or places that remind you of the event

 Feel “keyed up” or on-edge all the time

  •  You may startle easily
  • You may be irritable or angry all the time for no apparent reason
  • You are always looking around, hyper-vigilant of your surroundings
  • You may have trouble relaxing or getting to sleep

 These are stats provided by the United States Veteran Affairs (VA):

  •  Lifetime occurrence (prevalence) in combat veterans 10 – 30%
  • In the past year alone, the number of diagnosed cases in the military has jumped 50% - and that’s just the diagnosed cases.
  • Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 Iraqi or Afghanistan veterans have PTSD.
  • 40% of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past 12 years have PTSD.
  • 17% of soldiers are women. 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.
  • Afghanistan = 6 – 11% returning vets have PTSD
  • Iraq = 12 – 20% returning vets have PTSD

The human cost our veterans are paying. 

When veterans come back with PTSD and depression, they face even greater challenges at home. Aside from the physical and psychological pain that come with reliving horrific events, there’s numbness and an inability to reengage in life. Relationships are strained. Normalcy is unattainable. For many, it all begins to fall apart.

.Lost Jobs

  • It’s harder for veterans with PTSD to get and hold jobs. For them, the inability to meet financial and family obligations adds to the stress and isolation they already feel. This economy is making it even harder for them. Many service members who are suffering say they do not seek treatment because they fear it could harm their careers.

Homelessness

  • The V.A. reported that more than 130,000 veterans are homeless on any night. More than double that number experience homelessness over the course of a year. 45% of homeless veterans are suffering from some mental illness. But the reality is much worse – these numbers were collected before the recent economic recession.

Broken Families

  • Studies show that families where a parent has PTSD are characterized by increased anxiety, unhappiness, marital problems, and behavioral problems among the children. Both male and female veterans with PTSD are more likely to lose their families.

Substance Abuse

  • People with PTSD are more likely to have problems with drugs and/or alcohol. In an effort to escape the distressing thoughts and feelings associated with PTSD, there’s a real temptation to self medicate. Mix that with the sense of isolation and challenges they face in successfully reintegrating and it can easily lead to abuse and dependency.

Suicide

  • People who suffer from PTSD and depression are significantly more likely to take their own lives. One hundred twenty six U.S. veterans kill themselves each week – 6,552 each year. Since 2001, more Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed suicide than the number of soldiers lost in combat.

More Problems for Our Women Soldiers

  • Women make up 11% of our middle-east forces. While women suffer PTSD at a higher rate than their male counterparts, many have more difficulty qualifying for aid because they may not have been in “direct combat”. Female veterans have a higher rate of military sexual trauma. They have higher rates of divorce and homelessness as well.

Our veterans are encouraged to seek help through the VA for PTSD and TBI. Many do not out of fear of judgment, job lose, or therapy. The veterans who receive medical care and disability compensation from the VA usually receive a lowdisability ratingornone at all. The VA disability rating works on a scale from 0 to 100 in increments of 10. Many veterans like myself initially receive a disability ratings of 0 to 20 percent for PTSD or other disabilities. A 10% rating provides the veteran a monthly non-taxable income of $130.94. A 20% disability rating provides the veteran a monthly non-taxable income of $258.83. Although some veterans follow through to increase their disability rating, others fail to keep appointments for various reasons such as memory loss, homelessness, substance abuse, or proper support structure. The most prominent mentality among many veterans is “I don’t need help. I survived combat so I can survive anything!” Unfortunately, this mentality is a killer among veterans because it drives them to alcohol and drugs to cope with the nightmares, depression, hyper-arousal, and rage. Others fall into deep depression and eventually commit suicide. 

Those veterans who follow through with increasing their disability realize it takes months or even years before they can reach the level of financial security that is required to survive. I would like to tell you my story of what happened when I ignored the signs and symptoms of PTSD.

I joined the United States Army on June 16, 1998 at 18 years old. I enlisted in to the Military Police Corps, stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and climbed through the ranks. I eventually achieved the rank of Sergeant in 2001. In February 2003 my unit deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom. On July 4, 2003 while engaged with an enemy sniper, I was ejected from my vehicle fractured my C-5 and C-6 vertebrates that left my right arm paralyzed. On August 8, 2003 I was sent to a military hospital in Germany and then returned to Fort Stewart for surgery a week later. Not soon after, I began having marital problems and my wife ultimately divorced me in fear that I would harm her and our daughter. She stated on numerous occasions that I returned a very dark and cold person. I began going from bar to bar where I would fight or drink myself to tears. I finally was medically discharged me in February 2005.

Unsure of what I would do next since I thought I would retire from the military, I decided to obtain my Florida law enforcement certification. I worked odd and end jobs while going from relationship to relationship until I met a woman who became my second wife. I was able to get my drinking habits under control and in 2009 I was hired with a sheriff’s office as a deputy sheriff. I worked night shift for three years. Approximately during the second year I began realizing that it was becoming more difficult to control my anger, distinguish violent situations with ones I encountered in Iraq, and have the ability to follow the department’s rules of engagement. I then began seeing images of people and places that I saw in Iraq, which became very freighting. I also began hearing people scream as if they were under fire or injured, although none of those situations were actually happening. I took a leave of absence and went to the VA PTSD clinic. I was placed in their clinic for a week where I was diagnosed with moderate to severe PTSD and a mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Approximately two months later I resigned from the sheriff’s office in fear that I would eventually hurt myself, a partner, or a civilian. Around the same time my wife decided to divorce me.

Alone again in a large world without a job, spouse, or home, I applied to receive disability compensation with the VA for PTSD and TBI. I was granted a 20% disability rating which meant I would make a grand total of $244 (non-taxable) per month. I tried to obtain employment in other occupations, however when the employer learned of why I resigned, he/she would dismiss me. Fortunately enough, I had family in the area that I lived with. I bounced around from house to house for a year or so until I was able to get back on my feet. If it weren’t for my family, I would have definitely turned to alcohol again and/or drugs to cope with the hallucinations, depression, anger, and hopelessness.

Many veterans have a similar story but with different endings. They may not have had any one to turn to. Maybe they did not act on their symptoms and sought out help. Either way, many end up homeless, consume alcohol or drugs, fight, or even the unthinkable…commit suicide.  

My goal for this campaign is to raise funds to assist these veterans that are in need. I know how hard it is to ask for help, especially when you believe it will cost your career and/or family. I also know what it is like to have nothing, sleep on the ground, survive with little or no money, and contemplate suicide on a daily basis.

I would invite you view this website, http://www.aspousesstoryptsd.com/ourstory.html. It is a story of a real woman living with her husband who suffers with PTSD. If nothing else it will open your eyes to this reality.

The funds that are raised will be used to help educate veterans about the signs and symptoms of PTSD and TBI. The funds will also be used to buy groceries, clothes, and pay bills for veteran and their families. A part of these funds will also be donated to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans.

Please find it in your heart to help these individuals who have put their lives on the line for yours!

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