Former judge says courts likely to face influx of cases connected to P.T.S.D.
An estimated 350,000 American veterans will return home with P.T.S.D., making it difficult for them to readjust to civilian life. A former Connecticut judge says the influx could lead to an unprecedented rise in court cases connected to the disorder.
President Barack Obama may have officially ended the Iraq War and is in the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, but for many veterans, the war is far from over.
An estimated 350,000 veterans will return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D. The disorder not only makes it difficult for them to readjust to civilian life, but often leads them to destructive and violent criminal behavior.
Barry Schaller, a former Connecticut Supreme Court judge, said courts across the country could face an unprecedented influx of cases connected to P.T.S.D. It’s the subject of his new book, "Veterans On Trial: The Coming Court Battles Over P.T.S.D."
"Since courts in America stand uniquely on the front lines of dealing with the unsolved problems of society, courts will bear the brunt of postwar mental health problems," Schaller said.
P.T.S.D. is already used to make claims for medical and psychiatric services. Schaller calls the disorder a "mitigating factor" in cases where veterans are charged with crimes. Since the Vietnam War, courts have viewed P.T.S.D. as a legitimate criminal defense.
Schaller said Veterans' Affairs and other services needed to be more attentive to the needs of troops who return with P.T.S.D.
"In Iraq and Afghanistan, you have prolonged wars with multiple deployments, with everybody being exposed to combat," Schaller said. "It brings its own set of factors that produce mental stress at the level when it becomes a disorder."
A study by Army mental health experts recommended prescreening recruits for signs of their susceptibility to P.T.S.D. and the harmful behaviors the disorder could trigger in them.
But Schaller doubts the viability of such a program.
"Screening has never been 100 percent effective," Schaller said. "Frankly, when a war goes on, the needs begin to outrun the screening that is taking place."
What the military should institute, Schaller said, was a training program for soldiers re-entering society that was comparable in duration to basic training. He said the training, education and experiences of veterans made them well-equipped for civilian leadership positions.
"I don't think it's enough that they just recover," he said. "I think that that's setting the bar too low."
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