To the Editor: In a letter in the March 2002 issue, McGrath and Frueh (1) described fraudulent claims for compensation for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). During the 14 years I have spent in the mental health clinic of the VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, I have seen the opposite problem on a number of occasions.
We routinely check military records to verify claims of combat exposure. In the case of individuals who served in covert activities, the records are frequently falsified to conceal those activities. As a result, deserving individuals have spent years without needed compensation until a member of Congress has finally unearthed the verification of their claims.
It would be of great help to us in dealing with these individuals in therapy if the military would at least provide a "yes" or a "no" to the question that is essential for determining eligibility for compensation for PTSD: Was the individual exposed to an unusually stressful or dangerous situation? We don't really care what the situation might have been; in therapy we are much more interested in how the individual experienced it.
Memories of traumatic events are notoriously unreliable. I even knew a World War II veteran who returned from a 50-year reunion surprised that his friends had hailed him as a hero for some act of bravery of which he had absolutely no memory!
Dr. Henderson, now retired, was in private practice in Ocala, Florida.