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Wife takes on veteran's mission to help after tragic PTSD death

An estimated 15 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the disorder is treatable, and soldiers with PTSD often live successful lives.

But not every person with PTSD makes a successful return to daily life. A 39-year-old mother of four recently went public with the tragic ending to her husband's struggle with PTSD. Her husband, a 44-year-old veteran of the Army, developed problems after 11 deployments in seven years. During 25 years in the military, he endured 19 blasts. After a 2010 blast in Afghanistan, the man's behavior changed noticeably. He had PTSD and a brain injury.

After returning home, he tried to commit suicide. He tried therapy at the VA, including an overnight stay. He tried a treatment program unrelated to the VA and learned to deal with depression and anxiety, but not PTSD. He turned to the Lone Survivors foundation, an organization that helps wounded veterans return to civilian life.

One night, the veteran, his wife and two of their children went to a wedding. After returning home, according to prosecutors, he assaulted his wife, threatened to kill his family and threw a loaded shotgun to a teenager. After he pulled another gun from a bag, the man's child shot him. Prosecutors said the shooting was justified.

The man's wife now says she has committed herself to continue the man's mission of getting help for others suffering from PTSD. She says she promised she would never give up on him.

Veterans who return home with PTSD do have options for treatment. According to the VA treatment options include:

  • Cognitive therapy, which helps veterans change the way they think about the trauma they experienced
  • Exposure therapy, which aims to reduce a veteran's fear of their memories
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, which can change how you react to memories of trauma
  • Medication
  • Other therapies

In addition to treatment, veterans with PTSD may qualify for VA disability compensation. If they have enough work credits, they may also qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Financial benefits will not make the symptoms go away, but they can provide financial stability for veterans who are no longer able to work because of their disabilities.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "After soldier husband's tragic death, widow takes on his mission to help those battling PTSD," The Associated Press, May 14, 2014; U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, "Treatment of PTSD," Feb. 27, 2014

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