Psychology Speaks Out in Defense of Veterans with PTSD

Laurence Miller of Boca Raton, Florida, has had enough of dehumanizing and shaming veterans suffering from war. Mr. Miller, a psychologist, wrote in to the New York Times a week ago in response to a November 11 column on violent tendencies in returning soldiers with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or other combat-related trauma. He wrote eloquently in defense of our nation's soldiers, adding his voice to the majority speaking up in support of veterans suffering from psychological trauma.

 As a psychologist who has evaluated and treated hundreds of patients with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, I can assure you that neither of these syndromes, alone or in combination, is sufficient to turn an otherwise nonviolent person into a murderer or a sexual psychopath. If that were the case, we’d all be dead.

All active and retired service members deserve appropriate clinical services and moral support. But it is vitally important to distinguish the many service members afflicted with brain injury or post-traumatic stress who largely internalize their suffering from the small but dramatic minority who commit violent acts. We should do this so as not to stigmatize another whole generation of veterans as “ticking bombs” to be shunned as pariahs in workplaces, neighborhoods and social settings.

“Explaining” criminal behavior by cavalierly attributing it to a service-related injury, without tackling the hard complexities of each individual case, would be the ultimate disrespect. In evaluating many cases of brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, we find that there are often clues to the pre-trauma personality that have been overlooked by professionals and ignored by people close to the subject.

We applaud Mr. Miller's initiative in speaking out in defense of the quiet majority of veterans and soldiers suffering from combat trauma.

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