VA Struggles to Separate Fake from Real PTSD, With Virtually No Patients Improving


“As disability awards for PTSD have grown nearly fivefold over the past 13 years, so have concerns that many veterans might be exaggerating or lying to win benefits,” reports the Washington Post. The Post quotes studies and experts suggesting that “roughly half” of veterans may not really have PTSD.

“Depending on severity, veterans with PTSD can receive up to $3,000 a month tax-free, making the disorder the biggest contributor to the growth of a disability system in which payments have more than doubled to $49 billion since 2002,” reports the Post.

In addition, the Post notes that virtually no veterans ever seem to be getting better. “Of the 572,612 veterans on the disability rolls for PTSD at the end of 2012, 1,868 — a third of 1 percent — had lower ratings the next year, according to statistics provided by the VA.”

As disability awards grow, so do concerns over the veracity of veterans’ PTSD claims (Washington Post, October 16, 2014)


  1. Simple enough to test if the Government really wants to test.
    Put person in a fMRI and scan their brain and have lie detector (respiratory rate , heartbeat and skin conductivity) running .When shown a video of war or whatever causes PTSD in that particular person, the monitoring devices should get a measurement to confirm or deny PTSD.

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    • Lie detectors don’t work and can be cheated easily, that’s why they are not used as evidence in courts anymore. An fMRI is just as bad.
      Maybe the government should reconsider its foreign policy and stop sending people to senseless wars instead of thinking how to save money on vets who get damaged physically and mentally by them

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      • I agree, war is disgusting, so the soldiers have a legitimate reason to be disgusted by it – and disgust at war is not a “mental illness.”

        The real problem is a government that won’t end the wars, an insane leaders of society problem.

        And, of course the vets aren’t getting better, because the psychiatric drugs CAUSE the symptoms of the serious DSM “mental illnesses.” But the psychiatric industry did do a really good job of classifying the ADRs and withdrawal symptoms of their drugs as “mental illnesses” in their DSM. The only problem is they’re looking for genetic bio markers for iatrogenically created illnesses.

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  2. Well, although I would not deny the possibility of people faking it to get a pension, it certainly isn’t surprising that no one gets better. Psychiatric interventions in this kind of distress usually make people worse anyway.

    If it is true that half of these veterans are faking it, then what about the other half? I think this statistic tends to prove what I just said. Almost no one is helped by the “treatment.”

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    • Ted: Instead of a medicalized response to the suffering of those hoodwinked to fight the dirty wars of the Yankee empire, why not donate our Money to counter recruiters who debunk the pie in sky promises of the military recruiters, give a forum to anti- war GIs, and join in on the anti-war marches the Bay Area is famous for.

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      • As a veteran with a 50% service connected disability, I assure you that I am somewhat compensated for the time I am screwed up with PTSD. That’s true of every veteran who receives benefits and has PTSD; which as far as I can tell, doesn’t go away. Mine, in fact, gets worse every time I have an episode. I have no peer group with which to discuss the trauma or to compare myself with, and there is nothing written about it. War is a trigger. Global warming is a trigger. And crazy talk about nuking countries is a trigger.

        Whether or not it’s medicalized, PTSD is often disabling and it can interfere with the best laid plans and courses of action, to leave the sufferer devastated and unable to function normally.

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        • Have you tried to connect with some veterans organisation that is involved in peace efforts (like I don’t know how bad it is for you and if that in itself would not be a trigger but maybe that would be a place to talk to people who actually know what you’re going through and try to make the best of it…

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    • Well, if 50% of vets can “fake” PTSD that only speaks about the reliability of psychiatric diagnosis, doesn’t it? It’s kind of hard to fake diabetes or cancer…
      But it’s not a surprise that people who suffer from severe post-war trauma don’t get better when the only “treatment” they are given is in form of drugs (a lot of them from what I’ve heard) and some standard “therapy” if they’re lucky. I think everyone on MIA would have expected that the outcome would be disastrous and we’re proven right every day.

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  3. There are no doubt some veterans who exaggerate or fake the symptoms of PTSD, but I feel that number is very small. A far greater problem is the diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in veterans who actually have PTSD. The VA and the APA fought against acceptance of the PTSD diagnosis for years, and every veteran who exhibited symptoms prior to 1981 was labelled with a mood or psychotic disorder. Hardly any of these cases were re-evaluated after the acceptance of PTSD, and most of these vets died young.

    Underlying this has been the historical bias against stress or trauma being the cause of later mental or emotional difficulties. Recently biological psychiatrists have been advancing a new theory about “PTSD with psychotic features” which can appear in individuals who have a genetic predisposition for it prior to the trauma. This opens the door to treatment with psychiatric drugs, something the VA’s own studies have found to have no value in the treatment of PTSD.

    VA is essentially turning the clock back to the pre-PTSD days when every veteran with symptoms that appeared after service was assumed to have had a genetic predisposition to the illness which was triggered or aggravated by events in the service.

    I am a US Navy veteran of the Cold War and Vietnam Conflicts. In the 1970s, before the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was developed, I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder by Veterans Affairs psychiatrists. After eight years of unsuccessful treatment with psychiatric drugs which severely damaged me both physically and emotionally to the point of ischemic strokes and suicidal ideation, I was extremely fortunate to recover completely within a few months. I had learned about Orthomolecular Therapy based on tissue mineral analysis of a hair sample and Creative Psychology through my own research and in 1982 was able to obtain a source of these treatments independent from the VA and at my own expense.

    My VA psychiatrist, who later rose to the presidency of the American Psychiatric Association, refused to acknowledge my use of Orthomolecular Therapy, the hair test results, or Creative Psychology and termed my recovery a “spontaneous remission”. Since 1982, I have lived a healthy, productive life, free of not only the need for psychiatric drugs, but all other prescription medicines as well.

    In 2007, concerned about the suicide rate of veterans diagnosed with PTSD, I began to attend a PTSD group at a VA CBOC Clinic. After only a few meetings where I shared my story with other veterans, I was taken aside by a VA psychologist and psychiatrist and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a rare and extremely disabling condition, in a twenty minute interview and banned from further participation in the PTSD group.

    When this new diagnosis affected the renewal of my life insurance policy, I requested the medical records of my recovery in the 1980s. I discovered that all such mental health records in DVA VISN 1, in the 1978 to 1990 time period, had been spoliated. No records remain. I am convinced that thousands of veterans could have made recoveries similar to mine, with thousands of lives saved, had VA psychiatrists run studies on Orthomolecular Therapy and Creative Psychology instead of destroying all evidence of a veteran’s drug-free recovery. I have recently been examined and tested by well-qualified civilian forensic psychiatrists and a QTC, Inc. C&P medical examiner, who find in me no evidence of any mental illness.

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    • Subvert: Glad to know that you successfully excised yourself from that nasty entanglement. It seems as a society we are setting up a two-tiered response to emotional suffering. Disability payments for PTSD, but a kick in the face for those diagnosed with the hair splitting diagnosis of BPD. Adam Sandler starred in Reign on Me with Don Cheadle, and Jada Pinckett Smith. It was a heartfelt buddy movie about a man who lost his family in 9-11 and his college roommate who tries to steer him to a more integrated state of being. The movie also interrogates psychiatry in a subplot. But at the end,I was left wondering, if as a society we are ready to identify with eccentrics whose root of the distress is unknown.

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    • I want to thank you for your comment subvet.

      I was spoken to about a group that I have been involved in for a couple of months today. I was asked to stop informing people of the truth basically. My argument was that if people were spreading misinformation from their doctor, that it was only right to let people know that it was misinformation.

      Apparently not, it is a forum where the misinformation is to be disseminated, and truth needs to be silenced. I thought straight back to your comment and realised how this censorship of truth is operating in these environments. It’s just easier if people believe the lies.

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      • I joined the Disabled American Veterans (Life Member)) back in the 1970s when I was first treated by the VA. I have never been very active in that organization and have found it unresponsive to my suggestions to lobby for improved mental health care for veterans.

        Last year, my local DAV Chapter began to offer a “PTSD Support Group” for veterans, active-duty and non-veterans, sponsored by the National Alliance for Mental Illness. I enrolled and began to attend the weekly meetings, but I didn’t last long – about a month. I simply related my experience, and what I have learned about biological psychiatry and the NAMI organization. The group leaders and several members found that my comments “triggered their own issues and interfered with their therapy”.

        After I was expelled from this support group in my own DAV Chapter building, I spoke to the Chapter Commander. He was unaware of NAMI’s corrupt and sordid past and present, but said “Hey, this group is sponsored and approved by the VA so I will allow them to continue meeting here.” He had previously confided to me that he takes psychiatric medication himself.

        I felt that some of NAMI’s activities, like meeting with military officers and senior NCOs on base and during duty hours to enlist members for the group were a threat to our national security. A major thrust of the NAMI group is to assist members in obtaining a diagnosis, medication, and a successful application for a service-connected disability. I wrote to several military and government leaders concerning this.

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        • “The group leaders and several members found that my comments “triggered their own issues and interfered with their therapy”.”

          And that there is a silencing technique. What I found after thinking through this was that they will not identify what it is you say that supposedly “triggers” others. So this leaves you walking through a minefield fearful of speaking any truth because you might trigger someone who believes, and may be disseminating, lies and misinformation. In the end it possibly does more damage to the people in the group than help them. The ‘group therapy’ is virtually useless when that type of environment is created.

          Once again, thanks for ‘triggering’ these important insights into why these types of groups are failing.

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          • Just an additional thought subvet.

            It seems to me that what is occurring is a fear by those running these groups of what I’ve heard called the “Town Crier Effect”.

            The TC effect as I understand it consists of a person on a podium telling a group of people some untruths or misinforming them. Everybody in the crowd accepts what has been said because they believe that others around them believe the misinformation. But one person stands up and says “No, that’s not right because….”. The others in the crowd then start to speak up and say “Yeah, what your saying isn’t necessarily true…”. And before you know it the person disseminating the misinformation is being run out of town. So, for fear of being exposed the Town Crier needs to be shut down, and quickly.

            How would one do that? Easily really, just tell them that it’s best if the kiddies keep believing in Santa Clause, because then they will behave themselves. In my situation it was don’t tell people it’s drugs their taking, lets just keep them thinking it’s medication. Only a little white lie and nobody’s hurt by it right? Not until they are faced with withdrawal symptoms.

            Take care

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  4. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been around for Centuries
    and has been called by “Many Names”…
    FYI: There Is No Cure For PTSD…”NONE”…
    The BEST any Combat Veteran that Really is suffering from PTSD
    that is Receiving TRUE PTSD Treatment is a Half Way Normal Life…

    Actually this article smacks of being “Anti Disabled Veteran”…
    There are a few things that the Public must become aware of prior to any Reporter
    writing any article on PTSD…and quoting the VA and any Doctors that write Books…
    on the subject…
    The Dept. of VA Bureaucracy (Admin) is really anti Veteran…
    FACT any Medical Person that gets known as actually Helping Veterans…
    IS REMOVED from that Job…transferred to less contact with Veterans…

    Any Medical Study ever done that Proves actual PTSD/TBI is closed down…
    with the “Statement” that the Studies were inconclusive and all personnel
    are scatted to the Four Winds…

    FACT: All of the actual Long Term Medical Professionals treating PTSD
    have been “Removed from ALL PTSD Treatment Centers…and
    those Doctors that are left in Behavioral Health are mostly PART TIMEERS…
    The VA HAS not used the PTSD Treatment Funds for PTSD Treatment…
    Once a Full Time Medical Professional Retires or Leaves the VA Behavioral
    Health Depts…THEY are NEVER Replaced…

    As for the Doctors publishing Books about PTSD…
    They are just trying to “SELL BOOKS” which most should
    be assigned to the “Fiction Aisle”…

    Any Congressional Hearing on the VA is nothing more than a “Stage Play”…
    The Sect of Veterans Affairs…actually Knows NOTHING of the daily inside
    workings of the VA Bureaucracy especially in DC and the Directors offices
    in each VISN or VA Medical Facility…

    (…who’s attitude is…They are only here for Four Years…WE ARE HERE FOREVER !!!)

    Does anyone here really know the TRUE reason why during the Vietnam War,
    the USMC/US Navy came out with the “Combat Action Ribbon” (CAR) ???

    Or why the US Army came out with the “Combat Action Badge” (CAB)
    during the Gulf War ???

    The “TRUE REASON IS” To Combat the Over Whelming Numbers of
    “False Claims” for Combat PTSD…

    The “Biggest Reason” for all of the False Claims and Awards is that the
    Dept. of VA…”NEVER EVER AUTHENTICATES” any DD 214…
    Meaning the Only Tue way to Authenticate a DD 214 is to obtain a
    a Certified Copy of the Veterans DD 214 from St Louis…having it
    sent DIRECTLY to the VARO and NOT to the Veteran..and not rely
    upon a Copy the Veteran gave them…That is what I started to do…
    Dropped claims coming to me for Combat PTSD by 98%…

    (…which 98% of the VARO Staff “CANNOT” Interpret what is even Typed on it…)
    (Even when they are presented with the Proof of a False Claim they do NOTHING…)
    (Have seen Heads of PTSD Programs Removed from their Positions
    when they have Removed Veterans falsely Claiming PTSD…The Race card…)

    I am in Complete agreement with your High Numbers of FALSE PTSD CLAIMS…
    Came to that conclusion after my first 70 Claims…
    Where only Seven (7) out of 70 Veterans filing claims for Combat PTSD
    turned out to be telling the Truth…

    The VA does not want to cut these fraudulent Claims as they get
    PAID by the Social Security Numbers of each Veteran enrolled in their System…

    I will stop this lengthy piece for now…
    as I could go on and on…
    Respectfully submitted…

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  5. There is a lot of things the VA has problems figuring out! I went into Basic Training LAFB Texas in 1981. I was taken advantage of by my T.I. so now I have MST ( Military Sexual Trauma) what a way to start your career. It was over before it began and it has ruined my entire life. Then they send me to Iraq and I take bullets for my country and watch my friends die. I come home and I have piles of paperwork doctors appointments and I am put on so many meds I can’t drive a car or stay awake at my Civil Service job. I am told by my supervisor I cannot do my job, I said ok sign this paperwork from the VA so I can resign this position. So now at 100% Disabled Veteran female I finally get my disability benefits after applying for 5 years. My husband comes home from Iraq and goes crazy then over doses on drugs and dies. Now my home is in foreclosure because his income is gone. Now I live in a 250 sq ft shack paying $1000.00 a month and they turn down my DIC widows benefits( $853.00 a month) because they say Social Security is paying me too much money. You just can’t win for all the suffering. That’s lousy little sum of money would at least provide a comfortable living space with a bed that’s not on the floor while I figure out how to commit suicide. What about our quality of life? And now they want to complain because a few people try to buck the system. Treatments??? Non of the trauma caused by the military will ever go away. It is permanent damage. I do my best exercising and trying to keep it out of my mind is a struggle. No more pills, just trying my best to live and be happy~

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    • Makes me want to cry hearing your story :’-( Please don’t commit suicide—darkness turns to light. Hang in there, seek friends, start hobbies, ask for help, pray, meditate, read, write, feel the pain, start over, then start again. I hope you find your way forward soon.

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  6. it really kills me when a office jockey who never left his desk cries ptsd because he was away from home and family. then the VA comes along to disprove all soilders who have ptsd are bucking for a free payday. really? with both a service connected disability from iraq and ptsd, you could have every f***ing penny back if you could fix what was messed up, then made to wait while the situation worsened. to those who say,” no one made you sign up”, true. it’s a sense of being a patriot that made that happen back in 1979. i went to iraq in 05 as an old dog of the bunch who led from the front, not behind a air conditioned building. my 2 sons did their duty as well and both have issues. what i do find funny, is that we will throw money at illegals and non hackers, but make vets ump thru hoops and wait years for a paltry check. if your getting 3000 a month for ptsd, i can pretty well assure that your egg has been scrambled. lets start pulling the welfare folks that are perfectly able to work but won’t, and stop worrying about those who sacrificed their lives, families,jobs and sanity for a country run by people who could care less about those they sent into harms way so their entitled kids would’nt have to. let sleeping dogs lie. if you go ahead and stir this pot, be prepared for those who have training you could’nt hack, with weapons that scare you, with damaged brains that have nightmares you could’nt fathom. vets, regardless of branch or service, be it cold war, vietnam,korea, ww2,grenada,OIF or OEF or any place we can’t talk about, deserves everything that their entitled to. if you don’t agree, sign, suit, man up, or shut the hell up. ’nuff said. ‘merica!

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    • “we will throw money at illegals and non hackers”
      I can understand your anger but I can assure you that “illegals” are not the ones who suck up all the money. I’d look in the pockets of people who has started all the wars like Cheney and co. It’s good business and has been for centuries – send others’ kids to war and watch them die while you make shitloads of money on making weapons or manipulating markets.

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      • B, once again, you’ve taken the words right out of my mouth. We spend far more tax dollars subsidizing rich scoundrels than the relatively small number of dishonest SSI recipients vets and welfare cheats and illegal immigrants combined, by a very long shot. In fact, it’s been effectively argued that illegal immigrants contribute far more to our economy than they take out of it. It’s the Captains of Industry who are robbing us blind! I hope the day is not far off when the average American (or whatever country you’re in, but the USA seems the most obtuse about this) starts to realize who the real enemy is.

        —- Steve

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    • Mac: Back here in West Virginia we get sideswiped in the news and cultural media as incest prone hicks-almost always by higher status whites. Our so-called leaders are so totally inept at turning the table on this insult. As you say, don’t point the finger at even the less fortunate- “Cadillac driving welfare mothers, ” “illegals,” “islamacists,” etc. You get the idea.

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  7. We owe veterans much better!

    I did not serve, but many in my family and extended family have served….
    Several wars: WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam
    Each of the branches: Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines

    To the veterans on this site:
    Thank you for your service.



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  8. Last year I was sitting at a bus stop near the Veterans’ Hospital waiting for my bus when a young man walked up and sat down next to me. He was young, not even thirty yet. He was missing his left eye. Part of his right hand was gone, he used a cane to walk and even then it was very apparent that he experienced great pain when walking. His left leg was stiff and didn’t work right and his back was messed up. It was obvious that he was a vet and I decided to strike up a conversation with him. I asked his age and where he’d spent his tours of duty. Two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was 28 years old. Eventually in our conversation he told me that he was fighting for his benefits and for help with the PTSD that he got from fighting for his country but that the VA was not helpful at all and was putting up all kinds of protests to giving him what he justly deserves for serving his country.

    I asked him if he would do it again if he could and he said yes. Strange. This country is willing to use its young men and women to fight its wars of profit but it will do nothing to help them when they come back maimed and destroyed both physically and emotionally. And yet so many of them would be willing to do it all again, simply because they see it as their duty to serve us and to protect us. What is wrong with this picture? The politicians who create these wars need to be the first ones drafted to go and fight them. Perhaps then there would be a lot fewer wars. This country and this government and the VA should be ashamed of what they’re not doing for the people they’ve used and who fought so willingly for this country.

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  9. The problem with PTSD is that it can be and is faked, and it is hard to separate the pretenders from the heros. How do we address this problem? That is well above my pay grade. It should be noted that service / combat connected PTSD is often real. We should work toward a real means of diagnosis. I expect that brain waves cannot be faked. Then work for a cure. As a veteran I understand the hell that combat veteran endure. However, when I see people getting paid more for being scared then the man who lost a leg it makes me sick. Reliable testing , a real diagnosis and a course of treatment would be a good start. Somehow, we need to find a reliable diagnostic system, followed a real treatment that leads to a cure.

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    • Maybe just start with the person where they are at, and stop worrying about whether they “fit” the PTSD “diagnosis,” and instead start asking questions and getting to know them on a real level and finding out where they’re at and what they really need?

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