A new study reports what many people have known for years — veterans with persistent post-traumatic stress 10 years or more after the Vietnam War have shown little improvement and a large percentage have died.
Veterans of color who went into the service before completing high school were most likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. So were veterans who had to kill many enemy fighters, The New York Times reports.
The study financed by the Department of Veterans Affairs began a generation ago. It should prompt more aggressive action in the treatment of PTSD especially with veterans that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created.
There are more than 21 million U.S. veterans — about 7.2 million from the Vietnam War era. The study found that 11 percent in the Vietnam War sample could live with post-traumatic stress for the rest of their lives.
About 13 percent of the current active-duty soldiers and 10 percent of the Marines have post-traumatic stress disorder. About 18 percent of the veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder had died by retirement age, which is twice the percentage of those without PTSD. That’s an unnecessary loss of human resources.
But families and communities also have suffered because they’ve shouldered the burden of returning veterans with PTSD. Often the military has brushed off the concerns, leaving veterans with no place to seek help.
That dismissiveness can’t go on any longer.