Author Teila Tankersley is a mother of a returning vet that came back broken. Her family is fighting to find justice for our returning PTSD afflicted soldiers. This is her story.
Our family has been struggling with the nightmarish drama that PTSD has placed on our lives. The effect of PTSD can be far-reaching, it can be a debilitating disorder, and its symptoms can have a negative impact on a number of different areas in a person's life. In particular, it can negatively affect a person's mental health, physical health, work, and relationships.
Untreated PTSD has led to an epidemic that has placed many of our returning heroes behind bars.
As a parent of a war veteran, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has become a four letter word in our home - a maddening “MAZE” that veterans and their families go through to find the help and treatment that is needed to treat PTSD.
Our son, Jeremiah Tankersley, served nearly 10 years in the US Army, did two tours in Iraq and was honorably discharged in 2010 and received a general discharge in 2013. The effects of PTSD have traumatized our family and although my son and our family have cried out for help, our pleas have been like a puff of smoke, acknowledged, but quickly dismissed.
Jeremiah is now facing charges that we know could have been avoided if he’d been able to receive appropriate follow up treatment for his PTSD. Finding treatment for our son has taken us on a 5 year journey and along the way, we’ve run into long waiting lines and brick walls.
The Veterans Administration (VA) is underfunded and the needs of our veterans are ever increasing. Soldiers returning with symptoms of PTSD are not purposely overlooked, but the funding and the manpower is lacking. Although the VA admits there has been problems in the past, they are confident that these issues are improving, but not quick enough for our son.
Despite the best efforts of the VA, many veterans wind up in legal trouble after their return from war. In fact, statistics suggest that nearly 10% of war veterans have some sort of criminal history. Most of it is small-time stuff, but some of the allegations against Soldiers in the past three years have risen dramatically.
Commanders at Fort Carson acknowledge that Soldiers coming home from a year in combat often have difficulty fitting into the society when they come back from Iraq or Afghanistan. The reason is that, it's hard to turn off some of the reactions that will save your life in combat, but which will lead to grief on the streets in your own hometown.
In a recent study, Eric B. Elbogen of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina evaluated data from more than 1,300 recent war veterans and measured levels of criminal involvement, substance abuse, anger, and aggression. He also looked at gender, age, and presence of PTSD or TBI. He discovered that almost 10% of the veterans sampled had been arrested at least once after they came home. Although many of the violations were not related to violent behavior, those that were involved veterans with PTSD and those with a criminal history, drug or alcohol use, and high levels of anger resulting from PTSD were at increased risk for arrest. It appears the soldiers living with untreated PTSD often reach for drugs as a means to self-medicate. Those drugs often lead them down a path of self-destruction.
These results demonstrate a need for clinicians to recognize that many veterans seeking treatment, particularly those with PTSD, anger, and moodiness, are at higher risk for arrest.
My son’s bouts with the law started approximately 6 months after he was given a general discharge from the military. In the military he had been diagnosed with PTSD and was being treated for it, but once discharged, there was no follow-up. He made multiple calls to the VA and was told he was on the waiting list, however the night sweats, anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares would not go away. When his prescription medications ran out, and he was unable to secure an appointment to renew them, he eventually turned to street drugs to self-medicate. That is how he gained a foothold in a spiraling downhill hellish nightmare. Stoned on drugs he got involved in crime.
Through all of this, we have tracked our son's PTSD... the steps forward and the steps back. We have ranted, raved and have contacted everyone that we could to seek help for our son, and he has as well. It has been a frustrating journey.
PTSD is as real as cancer, tuberculosis and diabetes, yet finding treatment for it, is not always easy. The untreated symptoms of PTSD are real and can lead to suicide, criminal behavior, etc.
Missing limbs, broken bones, and bruises -- these are all injuries that can be easily seen. However, that's not the case when it comes to PTSD.
"It's been a nightmare," said Tanisha Tankersley Porter, she has watched her brother emotionally and physically deteriorate since coming back from war. His marriage is now destroyed, his future is at stake and help seems so far away at the moment. Families everywhere, equipped with only love and good intentions, have become caregivers for these returning soldiers, but that is not enough. We need the experts.
It's incredibly TOUGH for those discharged veterans living with PTSD and HARD for their families as well.
The system needs improvement, every returning solider with PTSD deserves follow-up treatment and proper counseling, without it our jails will overflow. To us, PTSD help has become a maze of broken promises, dead ends and feelings of helplessness. Yes, PTSD is a maze that needs improvement and if the VA has its way and can get the adequate help and funding, this may one day be resolved. As for our son, we hope it is not too late.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD, but have not yet been treated for it, I encourage you to contact the Veterans Administration. This is a battle no soldier should have to fight alone.
This is a video that my son is in, it contains graphic material, wouldn't suggest anyone under 18 to watch, but it gives a view into a day in the life of a Calvary Scout. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_O9iSfKbv8
It is happening all over the US, vets being ignored, here is a story on another Calvary Scout who was seeking much needed PTSD help: http://insider.foxnews.com/2015/07/05/video-iraq-war-veteran-chris-...