Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the Defense Base Act September 10, 2008Posted by Aaron Walter in Uncategorized.
More and more civilian contractors have been returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan to find themselves unable to sleep, eat, work, and return to their former selves. While it certainly is not something widely covered in the media, most civilian contractors in the war zone are under similar conditions as our men and women in uniform.
Rocket attacks, roadside IEDs, small arms fire, fear, panic and uncertainly replace the normalcy of home-life. In both soldiers and civilians these conditions can leave someone scared, confused, or angry.
The National Center for PTSD describes that due to one or more traumatic events a PTSD sufferer basically ungergoes changes in their brain. These changes lead to symptoms including: reliving an event, avoidance, numbing, and feeling keyed up.
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):
Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:
- Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat veteran
- Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident
- Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:
You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
- A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes
- A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants
- Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.
You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
- You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy
- You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal):
You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal. It can cause you to:
- Suddenly become angry or irritable
- Have a hard time sleeping
- Have trouble concentrating
- Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
- Be very startled when someone surprises you
People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:
- Drinking or drug problems
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
- Employment problems
- Relationships problems including divorce and violence
The “rough and tumble” lifestyle of some contractors, such as heavy truck drivers or private security could even contribute towards PTSD symptoms. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that there was a higher instance of PTSD among soldiers in Iraq who suffered concussions or other head injuries than other types of bodily injuries. It isn’t only those with the most physically demanding positions that can suffer with the above symptoms. A recent story from the Associated Press notes that even 17% of diplomats serving in dangerous posts return home suffering from PTSD.
For some, the effects of PTSD can be debilitating, and can cause sufferers to be unable to find or complete work when they return home. It is important to realize that A) there are medical professionals all over the country who can help you and B) you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act while you seek treatment and recovery. These benefits include medical treatment with the doctor(s) of your choice and weekly cash payments.
The irony is that someone suffering from PTSD must both rationalize that there is something wrong emotionally/physically and then seek medical treatment but also make the rational choice to file a claim regarding your symptoms during the limited period available to file a claim.
Luckily, just as there are medical professionals who are anxious to help you recover, there are committed legal professionals who want to help as well. While the law is a business, sometimes it isn’t just about the money. Rather, it is about fairness and the opportunity to once again be a productive member of society.
Understand your rights, seek treatment, and do not delay.