PTSD: Fakers and frauds and WTAF?

Today Mad Duo Chris is going to rant a bit about how fakers and frauds engage in fuckery that further hurts all of those who really do have PTSD. (See the alliteration there?) It’s enough to make you want to curb stomp someone. Mad Duo

A couple of months ago I was watching Fox News and a preview for an upcoming story came on. The story was about a veteran with PTSD who had been prescribed a “PTSD dog”. The preview showed the back of the veteran’s head and showed him petting his dog as he drove his truck. The veteran’s southern drawl was evident, but his face was never shown.

I’m a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and am well aware of the PTSD problem among some veterans. Unfortunately, I’m also well aware of the legion of liars and fakers pretending to have PTSD in order to get a monthly government handout. When I saw the preview, my first feeling wasn’t sympathy or concern. It was, Yeah, this guy has PTSD. I bet a rocket landed two miles away when he was on a huge base, and since then he’s been making up symptoms so he can get a disability check. Sure, whatever.

A few minutes later they showed the full story (which is here, if you’re interested). When I saw the veteran, I was stunned. It was Staff Sergeant David Moore, a Georgia National Guard soldier I was with on many missions with in Afghanistan.

David is, without question, the real deal. Some of my most vivid Afghanistan memories revolve around him. The mission where he was embedded with French Marines as a liaison, yelling out casualty reports over the roar of an ambush in the background. The afternoon David led an Afghan Army platoon to get me and ten other members of a small patrol; they were ambushed, and David screamed for help over the radio while he fired through his windshield and the Afghan soldiers ran away.

And what was probably the most searing memory of my entire tour, maybe of my entire military career. Staff Sergeant Moore, a Georgia National Guard captain and I were on the crest of a hill. A dead American was strapped to a litter beside us. We were going to run the casualty down the hill, but when we lifted him the litter collapsed.

We unstrapped him. The litter looked broken. We had a short conversation about how to get him down the hill. David looked at the captain, his commander. And he said in the flattest, most calm voice I’ve ever heard, “Sir, we have to run him down the hill. And I mean, you and me.”

The captain nodded, and I remember him telling me, almost apologetically, that I should stay there. I brushed aside his explanation and nodded understanding. David and the captain stood and grabbed handfuls of material at the casualty’s shoulders. Then, under cover fire from troops on the hill and vehicle gunners down below, they sprinted down the slope. They were totally exposed to intermittent fire from numerous Taliban positions. I watched them bound toward the vehicles, their burden bouncing limply behind them, until they reached the road and relative safety.

The image of those two men risking their lives to bring a fallen warrior home has never left me.

David Moore, 3RD from right, standing back row wearing a bandana:

David also served in Iraq, where his vehicle took an IED strike. He had more than enough experiences to justify a PTSD diagnosis. He deserves the help he’s getting.

So, why did I automatically think the story about him was going to be about a PTSD faker?

I think all of us combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan know of someone faking PTSD for free money. We hear a constant stream of stories about them: the rear-area soldier who never left the wire, got arrested driving drunk shortly after coming home and immediately threw out PTSD as a defense. The Ranger sergeant I know who attended a course with a female soldier suffering PTSD because “a vehicle in her convoy got hit by an IED”. No, it wasn’t her vehicle. No, she didn’t see it. But she was so traumatized she was on multiple medications for it. The guys who came home from a noncombat, partnering and training mission in Africa and claimed PTSD. The guys who could care less about honesty, integrity, or the problems they’re causing for real victims, as long as they’re getting a free monthly check.

As with any form of welfare, people are going to jump on it if it’s easy money. If we make it so simple to get diagnosed as “disabled” by PTSD, we shouldn’t be surprised that so many people get diagnosed. PTSD is a defined disorder with specific criteria, but its symptoms are self-reported. If a veteran says he’s having nightmares and anxiety attacks, who’s going to challenge him?

And our society seems to be eager to paint us all as damaged and suffering for our service. In an excellent 2012 article entitled Our sickening rush to see PTSD, and what it costs veterans, Wired magazine’s David Dobbs shows how society seems to want to see us as PTSD-afflicted.

“With tens of thousands of soldiers returning to the US from Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans need to ask themselves why they so desperately want to see veterans as damaged goods. I think partly it’s out of a weird logic — and some guilt — that because war is hell (and make no mistake, it is), it must plant within every soldier a devil. It does not.  The two great wonders of war are 1) it is unimaginably horrible and 2) most soldiers emerge from it not merely okay, but in the long run, better.”

If society, and the VA, wants us to have PTSD, how many vets would you suppose take them up on the offer? And how many of them use that diagnosis just to make money? In a 2009 article for Scientific American (http://cl.ly/D8F3), Dobbs mentions that “most veterans getting PTSD treatment from the VA report worsening symptoms until they are designated 100 percent disabled—at which point their use of VA mental health services drops by 82 percent.” So if you’ve got PTSD and get a check for it, what’s the incentive to get better?

Some veterans stretch the truth for gain. And then there are the outright liars, many of whom spout ridiculous falsehoods about their service for years without anyone really scrutinizing them. In the excellent blog Weaponsman, writer “Hognose”, a retired Special Forces Afghanistan veteran, tells his story of going to a VA group therapy session:

“A ‘facilitator’ steered me into a ‘rap session.’ ….There were four of five guys there and the ‘facilitator’ said I’d be sure to get along with them because they were all Special Operations vets also.

There were five or so guys, scroungy to the eye and evident to the nose. None would meet your eye. The ‘SF’ guy explained he didn’t go to the Q-course, he got OJT because he had so many confirmed kills that SF traded for him. The ‘SEAL’ told a bloodcurdling POW rescue story that was awfully familiar, because it came from a Chuck Norris MIA movie.

‘There was never a successful rescue of a US POW in Vietnam,’ I said mildly. ‘Many a

ttempts, and some successful rescues of ARVN prisoners, and early in the war, some releases and escapes. But there was no successful rescue.’

You might have heard a few papers shuffle as the phonies all looked at their shoes. ‘Not one,’ I added helpfully.

The phony SEAL didn’t challenge me, but the ‘Facilitator’ did. He hustled me out and said, ‘You must never question a veteran’s experience! He was there, you were not.’ But I know the history. The ‘vet,’ if he was a vet — the VA is not all that scrupulous about checking — was somewhere, but he sure as hell wasn’t on a POW rescue that never happened, unless he was an extra on the set of Mission MIA XVIII or something.”

More recently, we’ve heard the story of dozens of retired NYC cops and firefighters who scammed the system for years, after being coached on how to fake PTSD symptoms. And the Air Force Public Affairs officer who was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder, “A milder form of PTSD”, after eating dry meat and soggy vegetables and hearing vulgar talk on an Afghanistan deployment. And the Air Force drone operator who spoke of being crippled by PTSD after killing 1600 men. Actually, it was his entire squadron that participated in the deaths of 1626 enemy, over a period of years. He operated a drone on seven missions where someone else, not him, fired a shot. He never really killed anyone. But he’s got PTSD, maybe because he “didn’t join the military to kill people”.

Right or wrong, combat vets like me who know guys with legitimate PTSD problems feel nothing but disgust at those who whine, exaggerate or flat-out lie about their experiences. And maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but it seems that the fakers outnumber the real victims by about 5 to 1.

And until the real victims outnumber the fakers, I’ll be automatically suspicious of anyone claiming PTSD. And that sucks. Not for me, but for David Moore. And for every other vet who actually suffered horrible trauma in combat and needs help dealing with it.

 

Chris Hernandez (Mad Duo Chris, seen below on patrol in Afghanistan) may just the crustiest old member of the eeeee-LIGHT writin’ team here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of nearly two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags & Dropped Rifles – the  Real Truth About Working With the French Army and The Military Within the Military as well as the modern military fiction novels Line in the Valley and Proof of Our Resolve. When he isn’t groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he has written for The Statesman and continues to write on his own blog, Iron Mike Magazine, Kit Up! and Under the Radar.

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang-CLEAR!

20 thoughts on “PTSD: Fakers and frauds and WTAF?

  • December 29, 2015 at 10:11 am
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    Wow this is really sad ; There are soldiers in the rear who are not believed to have PTSD ..There are soldiers who could not have PTSD because they were not in combat? Or Airforce personnel being frauds ., no wonder their are so many deaths among vets ..smh although PTSD from combat is incredibly horrific .. To deny others is really dangerous especially considering the environment of the military which is a breeding ground for PTSD without combat .. I mean I was in Iraq for operation comfort post war I was attacked by an Italian officer .. Also other incidents and experiences but due to this type of attitude I was not only in denial it took years and losses to accept my diagnosis of PTSD I still am to scared to file and my condition has only worsened., this is sad and really surprising just because people who usually go through stuff are really compassionate and empathetic to others .. PTSD does not just happen to combat soldiers.. PTSD is caused by traumatic events .. And there is plenty of trauma to go around in the military.. .. So many people suffer from experiences in the military.. Even posting this is frightening; because if you have PTSD and are not getting help because of stuff like that people could take their lives.. There are frauds everywhere even in combat .. I find it sad and disgusting that a actual military person would put this out against other soldiers who could be suffering but because they weren’t in combat u turn your back? .. Wow .. Smh .. I guess your group is the only ones we should thank ., so thanks for your service ..☹️

  • September 21, 2014 at 11:47 am
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    I would also like to state that I never went to the VA to file a claim or cry to someone about ptsd I went 20 years later because My wife insisted to see a counselor I did and was diagnosed with it ! so dont asssume everyone is cheating the system, hell I am talking to ww 2 vets that are finaly admitting they have a problem and are seeking help, and in My opinion those men were the best of the best so before you assume you know anything about it go to the va and talk to some war vets maybe you will have a different opinion but know your in the military and I know what mind set you guys have at the moment I know if you complain about anything being wrong your gonna be ridiculed by other soldiers or marines hell rex use to mess with guys in our unit that were having a tough go of it and know Mr recon is 100 % for ptsd.

  • September 21, 2014 at 11:27 am
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    I dont No Solipsis, A recon marine who was in our unit gung ho straight up no bullshit always high speed and bragging about bieng the perfect soldier is collecting 100 % for ptsd He was a great soldier and never had disciplinary problems, I will admit though the VA is pushing guys into filing claims, hell my brother retired with 24 years in the army sof the VA told them to file claims for whatever was wrong, and as far as guys with disciplinary problems maybe thats why! they have ptsd I dont know? but I know its easy for guys still in the military to talk shit about guys getting benifits hell I did the same thing when I was your age all the guys did but talk to Me in 10 years and see if you still have that point of view and as far as police and paramedics there are more then you think partner My friends are police and a few Ive known got out of the force due to mental issues and corrections officers also dont know about paramedics dont no any .

  • September 20, 2014 at 11:57 am
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    I am a Marine with 16 years in (so far). I have noticed throughout my time that, more often than not, the Marines who are diagnosed with PTSD are the ones who receive disciplinary action. For example, in August of last year I had a corporal who shoplifted from a store. When I picked him up from the detention center and took him to loss prevention, the ladies in loss prevention told me this individual had stolen on four occasions, they had him on video, but that this was the first time he had been caught red-handed. We NJP’s him, and he was busted to LCpl. He had been in trouble before (8 year Cpl), so we started to process him for administrative separation. He then went to Walter Reed and was seen for weeks before, lo and behold, he gets out with PTSD!

    In perhaps the most egregious case I have ever been privy to, there was a SSgt who received recruiting duty orders, but would need to extend his contract to execute them. He refused, and so, naturally, he was informed that he would not be allowed to reenlist. The SSgt stopped coming to work on time, would come in without a shave, without a haircut, etc. I did two Page-11 (Article 15s) on him, but he had the mentality that he couldn’t stay in, so why bother performing? We had a Cpl in the same unit on her second marriage who likewise had a rocky past in the Marine Corps. Well, it turns out that the SSgt was committing adultery with the Cpl (while she was pregnant with her husband’s child, no less), and the husband found out. He informed the command, and the SSgt went to court martial. He was found guilty and busted to Sgt, she was administratively separated under Honorable conditions, and he just got diagnosed with PTSD. He can’t stop boasting about it. The crazy thing? Why he has PTSD? Well, he plays street hockey, so he claimed he has been hit in the head with a hockey puck a lot. This story, told by him and confirmed by no one, led to an assessment that he suffered from “mild TBI” which caused PTSD and mood disorders. I was apoplectic upon hearing this, to think that we have come so far that an individual getting hit with a hockey puck in a recreational, non-military-related activated somehow MADE this individual have sex for months with another man’s wife, then puts the taxpayers on the hook to give this clown a check every month. It’s a crime, and no one seems to want to do anything about it. PTSD claims are absolutely out of control.

    • September 20, 2014 at 11:48 pm
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      Why did that state senator, former NG BN commander in Iraq, plagiarize papers at the Army War College? PTSD. Why did the nurse expose himself to an elderly woman at a nursing home? PTSD. It’s turned into a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card, because it works.

      • October 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm
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        Hey Chris, actually the individual you mention is (former) Senator John Walsh (Montana), a US Senator, who was appointed to his Senate seat in February when Max Baucus resigned to become ambassador to China. I concur whole heartedly with what I (and you) believe is an abuse of the VA system by some military personnel feigning PTSD. It’s so absolutely unfortunate because it causes such harm to those who definitely need the help. David

  • July 1, 2014 at 1:55 pm
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    I dont know what to think, I was a truck driver in the gulf war and a contractor for kbr as a truck driver in the war on terror, so I have a take on the issue, anyway as for My own personal experience the gulf war was harder for me mentaly, I think it was due to my age, 19 years old and just married, I did see alot of carnage during the gulf war but was never fired upon except for scud missiles every know and then, We spent a year in saudi in a run down hole, at the beginning of the war we had alot of missions running munnitions to the front and after the conflict we were sent into Kuwait to deliver humanitarian type cargo, anyway I seen a few guys in my unit bug out and sent home one guy refused to take off his MOP gear it was quite funny this dude wore it for a month straight no showers or nothing it was crazy and when you figure 100 degree temps he had issues, we also had alot of guys fighting each other I was in one myself, we had a complete breakdown of military discipline the unit as a whole was ate up so 1 year of misery with guys that wanted to beat the hell out each other, If i had a geuss it would be what you would expect in prison.

    So as for My experience as a contractor in Iraq I was in Mosul Iraq in 2004 driving for kbr, I arrived in Mosul the same day the defac was blown up, just got off the little russian puddle jumper and boom I heard the explosion, talk about a welcome to Mosul anyway we went outside the wire daily alot of hair raising experiences and I did get hit by a IED just out side of Mosul hit me right under my arm pit just caught the edge of the vest thank god, left a nasty scar and a bruise, anyway to compare before the gulf war I was happy, had a good job and everything was great, after the gulf war I spiralled downward and didnt realize it until 55 employers later at age 38 something changed Me there, My last employer was KBR and I believe I had a death wish thats why I went to iraq so after years of My wife telling Me to go to the VA I did , I never went because I figured you had to be a combat soldier wading in blood and guts daily to even think you had ptsd but I did and the shrink said I had PTSD he asked Me about my experience in mosul and I told him it was still better then My time in the gulf war for some reason I would take getting blown up over ever wanting to relive my time in the first gulf war, hard to explain and cant,

    • July 10, 2014 at 10:23 am
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      Chuck,

      If you don’t know what to think, I’d say you should listen to your doctor. PTSD doesn’t require that you wade through blood or be engaged in hand to hand combat, it just requires trauma. My argument is with people who didn’t experience real trauma but claim PTSD for the money. If you experienced trauma, and it’s affecting you now, get help and don’t feel bad about it.

      Thanks for your service, and welcome home.

      • September 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm
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        There is a former Marine who claimed PTSD and a back injury. He posted a picture via Facebook of his wife standing on his back at a tough mudder race. I sent it to the VA IG, and I received a response that they are so inundated with complaints that they will only consider serious or egregious claims of fraud. I don’t know how 70, 80, 100%, disability for life is not egregious.

        • September 20, 2014 at 11:46 pm
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          Solipsis,

          I think the fact that the VA only investigates “egregious” cases indicates there are countless fraud cases out there. It’s so commonplace, and the VA will take so much heat for “not taking care of vets” (even if the vets are lying scumbags), the VA would rather not deal with low-level fraud anymore. That’s a bad sign.

    • September 20, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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      Chuck, judging by this post and your other below, you believe everyone is entitled to payments for something. I don’t know how your sense of pride and honor transmuted into expectancy and entitlement.

  • May 25, 2014 at 8:51 pm
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    Thank you for the article. I’ve wondered about this many times and people don’t want to talk about it as if they are betraying their patriotism if they do. I’ve also seen fakers and actually asked people on my own blog if they knew any fakers… Not one response. I know a few fakers which is disgusting. Your article is right on point.

    • July 10, 2014 at 10:24 am
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      Sorry Jade, just saw this. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

  • May 22, 2014 at 3:19 am
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    I have a relative that was a cook in nam. he was there the year of 67. never saw combat. he was over 60 yoa when suddenly he has ptsd and is now soaking the taxpayer for 3000 a month. he pastored a church for over 20 years and got a bachelors degree in his 60s. he had no retirement,so he played nuts wearing a long beard and dressed like a nut until he got a check. he then shaved and quit seeing his shrink. this trash is the kind that needs to be jailed.

    • May 23, 2014 at 12:00 am
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      Key,

      Before BBC switched to the current site, there were hundreds of comments to this essay. Lots of people were pissed at me for writing it, but others had stories just like yours. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to fake it we’re practically asking people to. And we’re just going to keep getting more and more fakers until becomes hard to fake PTSD.

      • December 29, 2015 at 10:17 am
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        Actually is not as easy as people think ..

    • July 1, 2014 at 2:31 pm
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      How do you no he never saw combat, it was vietnam the nva were always going in the wire, the world war 2 guys are finally getting what they deserve I see them all the time filing for claims back in there day it was shell shock and was never a diagnosed disorder so most of them became heavy alcoholics, I know i come from a military family, and was military also, I get sick of people judging people about there military mos and what they did or didnt do you dont no you wasnt there, and alot of guys with severe ptsd offed themselves, I know there are fakers but anyone who served still served hell the us government gives millions to other countries we give damn free food and healthcare to illegals and free schooling but you are gonna complain about your relative sounds like your envious and ps I would rather be a grunt then a cook any damn day ask any soldier he would say the same most of the vets that complain are just pissed off there not getting disability, I know a few the one guy was a ranger in nam, he complains all the time about disability and who deserves it, well the VA doesnt give disability to drug addicts and ex cons just the way it is he might deserve it but you cant go to the VA and get your blood drawn with drugs in your system and expect them to take you serious, the problem is everyone thinks you have to be some super soldier to have a problem, well thats not the case.

      • September 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm
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        Chuck, by your logic, every volunteer paramedic deserves PTSD for having to mend a broken limb…

        • December 29, 2015 at 10:34 am
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          No but to say a paramedic wouldn’t have it is wrong ., & no one deserves PTSD..

    • December 29, 2015 at 10:30 am
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      A cook in Nam? Smh those guys just started getting anything…. But to even question a Nam vet is so wrong .. Those guys were done so dirty agent orange no immediate care .. & I never knew there was any military job that would exclude u from danger in Nam .. A lot of them didn’t even know they had it .. My Uncle who owns an arsenal of weapons paranoid.. Self medicates ; its so sad I he thinks he was okay .. Many of those guys have survivor guilt .. But every last Nam soldier deserves everything .. We can offer ., these were draft guys too? .. your Uncle did not have to fake ,, should have never been forced to ., I hope this rhetoric does not become popular

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