Advocates: Veterans with PTSD should get purple hearts, benefits

Jun 29, 2012

Advocates for the mentally ill say the federal government isn’t going far enough to help veterans who return from war with psychological wounds. They’re in Seattle this week, demanding a change in military culture and better mental health care for veterans.

Mental health advocates say it’s time the Department of Defense recognizes combat-induced psychological trauma for what it really is – another wound of war.

The advocacy group "NAMI" – the National Alliance on Mental Illness – wants the Purple Heart medal to be awarded to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s currently limited to those who suffer physical injuries. Ron Morton is a Vietnam veteran living with PTSD. He turned out for a rally at Westlake Park because:

“These wounds are as real as any wound that’s inflicted on a body part of any person, man or woman who is out there. If we don’t acknowledge that, the suicide rate is going to continue to go up amongst active duty military and we’re responsible for that. We are accountable.”

Suicide deaths in the armed services have so far outpaced combat deaths in two-thousand twelve, and every 80 minutes a veteran commits suicide. NAMI advocates want the military to increase accountability for suicide prevention across its ranks, and change the culture to eliminate the stigma of mental illness.

They, along with Senator Patty Murray are looking for sweeping changes to mental health care for veterans. New legislation, proposed by Senator Murray this week, seeks to increase access to care, reduce delays in treatment and expand support to family members.