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Dropping the “Disorder” in Post-Traumatic Stress

Many 9/11 responders have suffered from PTSD in the days, months and years after the attacks. But if certain people in Washington have their way, the diagnosis might change to PTS. According to the Washington Post, a movement is afoot in the nation’s capital to change the way politicians and veterans’ advocates talk about post-traumatic stress, by dropping the word “disorder.”

Former President George W. Bush observed that “There’s a stigma attached, partly because it’s mislabeled a disorder,” adding, “It’s an injury…it’s treatable.” Representative Scott Peters (D-CA), sponsor of a bill to recognize June as “National Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Month,” hopes that “using the term Post-Traumatic Stress without adding the negative connotation that ‘disorder’ brings will lead to a greater utilization of mental health-care services available.”

The shift in the way government officials discuss post-traumatic stress in veterans could influence the way post-9/11 service agencies discuss diagnosis and treatment for first responders. The veteran population has much in common with the police, firefighters and emergency medical service workers who served in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Both populations put a high value on service and resiliency, and are loathe to admit they have a disorder.

But New York responders also face another stigma. In 2014, more than 100 retired police officers and firefighters were indicted for participating in a phony PTSD scam. Police Commissioner William J. Bratton called out those “retired members of the NYPD indicted in this case [who] have disgraced all first responders who perished during the search and rescue efforts on September 11, 2001, and those who subsequently died from 9/11 related illness, by exploiting their involvements that tragic day for personal gain.” Did this scandal make a claim of PTSD toxic to first responders who are legitimately suffering with the condition?

As attorneys who facilitate benefits and compensation for 9/11 responders, we hope that every injured responder gets the necessary help to overcome the trauma of that day. If changing the way we talk about post-traumatic stress can get more responders the help they need, a change in language is entirely appropriate.

If you have questions about post- 9/11 benefits, call Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson today at 888.351.9421 or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation.

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