Collateral damage?

Was Hasan suffering from PTSD?
By ADAM REILLY  |  November 11, 2009

Holy terror?: Cutting through the muddled thinking about Nidal Malik Hasan's faith and its role in the Fort Hood shootings. By Adam Reilly
The Fort Hood shootings prompted widespread speculation that Nidal Malik Hasan — an Army psychiatrist who'd counseled veterans returning from war, but hadn't actually seen combat himself — might have experienced secondhand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But not everyone thinks this theory makes sense. Here are two contrasting (and lightly edited) takes on the topic from retired US Navy commander Bill Manofsky — who's worked on PTSD with veterans, veterans' service organizations, and Congress since 2003 — and Gordon Erspamer, the California-based lead attorney in a class-action lawsuit against the Veterans Administration that sought immediate treatment for all veterans with PTSD (both of whom we interviewed for our story "Soldiers Committing Suicide," which looked at the Pentagon's neglectful handling of PTSD suffered by US troops in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan).

ERSPAMER For someone who has faced psychological trauma before — either directly or, as we may infer in this case, vicariously (akin perhaps to a medic) — the period of time just prior to deployment [which Hasan faced] or redeployment is a precarious and destabilizing one. The interaction between haunting memories and the uncertain traumas inherent in his future may rock the foundation of a person's being.

The fact that a professional understands these issues on an intellectual level does not insulate him, but ironically may make him more vulnerable. While sympathizing with the victims, perhaps we should also give some consideration to the dilemma that this individual appears to have faced. War creates a geometric progression of victims beyond the direct combatants.

MANOFSKY To put this guy in the same box as soldiers with combat PTSD is an insult. There is no such legal diagnosis as "collateral PTSD." If so, there would be hundreds of psychiatrists lined up preceding Hasan. No one has proven that this guy even treated any patients with PTSD.

The national press really needs to understand that the docs are non-combatants. Even though he was being sent to Afghanistan, he would never have held a weapon or been in combat. This guy was holed up in the safety and security of his office at Walter Reed while the rest of us were out in the dirt and mud getting shot at. At the end of the day, he got to go home and climb into a warm bed.

The primary reason why he was retained in the military was the shortage of Arabic speakers and psychiatrists. He got promoted to major because the Army spent big bucks training him to be a doctor. Plus, they're getting hammered by the press for having a severe shortage of psychiatric personnel. So instead of getting rid of him [as an unfit officer or doctor], the command at Walter Reed just washed their hands and banished him to Fort Hood.

I have friends that are Muslim. They lay very low and keep their religion to themselves, like the rest of us do. They are honorable people whom I respect. But according to one of Hasan's colleagues at Walter Reed, he was preaching Islam in an Army uniform. . . . When the onion is peeled back on this guy, and all of his e-mails are pulled off the computers he used, there will be little or no mention of any of the trauma he heard from any of his patients.

Related: Soldiers committing suicide, GI blues, Xanax junkies, More more >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , PTSD, Media, Health and Fitness,  More more >
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