President Obama arrives in Texas today to fulfill his duties as Commander in Chief at the memorial service for the three soldiers who were shot dead last week at Ft. Hood, but an even more significant battle will continue in the months ahead. It's the battle to make sure that Specialist Ivan Lopez, who was being tested for possible Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he opened fire on the post, does not become the symbol of the returning American war veteran, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Dr. Harry Croft, a veteran San Antonio psychiatrist and one of the nation's leading experts on PTSD, says despite efforts like I Heart Radio's 'Hire a Veteran' program, he's worried that employers will think of Lopez when considering a veteran's employment application.
"Since you’re not allowed to ask (about a job applicant's emotional and mental history), I'm afraid the misassumption amongst many employers will become that everybody who has ever been in the miltiary has PTSD."
Dr. Croft says only about one in five combat veterans develops PTSD. He says PTSD is also common among civilians who have never been near a combat zone but who have suffered from some sort of traumatic incident in their lives, like a sexual assault, being in a fire, or even being laid off from a job. And, Croft says there is no connection between PTSD and violent 'snap' behavior in any case.
"The stigma surrounding PTSD is that 'everybody with PTSD is unreliable and perhaps violent," he said.
Veterans returning from the Vietnam War suffered what was called the 'ticking time bomb' stigma, where employers thought that being in Vietnam automatically meant they had experienced incidents like My Lai, and were unstable and unsuited for civilian life.
Ever since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Veterans Administration and an army of private psychiatrists like Dr. Croft have worked hard to make sure that civilians and civilian employers know the truth about PTSD, but the Lopez situation may ruin that decade-long effort.
"Only one in five who come back from the actual combat zone have PTSD," Croft said, and said there is no indication that even these individuals pose any sort of threat of violence or are liable to 'snap.'