Murphy bill would make veterans with PTSD eligible for VA mental health treatment

By:  Rob Ryser
Danbury News Times

DANBURY — Danny Hayes knows getting treatment for his combat trauma got his life back on track.

Hayes knows the consequences of not getting treatment for combat trauma.

“A gentleman I was trying to help ended his life,” Hayes said of a Vietnam combat veteran who had sought trauma treatment but was turned away by the Veterans Administration. “They told him nothing was wrong.”

Hayes, Danbury’s director of veterans affairs, said he hopes Friday’s visit from Sen. Chris Murphy includes an update about Washington’s progress to help more combat veterans receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Murphy on Thursday said he promises to bring one. Murphy has introduced a bill to make combat veterans with PTSD, who have been dismissed from the military for misconduct, eligible for mental health treatment from the VA.

Thousands of veterans who get with less-than-honorable discharges can be ineligible for federal benefits, like health care.

“This is a very unique class of veterans who suffered PTSD or brain injury and then did something as a result — maybe they went AWOL or lashed out verbally or committed a physical offense,” Murphy said. “No soldier that acts out because of a brain injury should be made ineligible for VA services — that is inhumane.”

He plans to speak about his bill and other legislation affecting the military at a 1:30 p.m. discussion with veterans at VFW Post 149 on Byron Street.

Hayes, who served six months in Iraq as a specialist with the Army, agrees.

“They send you overseas in the blink of an eye,” he said. “But when you come back they don’t help.”

When Hayes came back from Operation Desert Storm with a Bronze Star he was not the same man, and he knew it.

“I was angry all the time,” he said. “I was getting in trouble a lot — going out and getting into fights —which wasn’t like me.”

Not until Hayes started to see a psychiatrist did his recovery began.

“Back in the 1990s, there was no such thing as PTSD and there was nobody to talk to,” Hayes said. “But today you can get help, and there are peer groups where guys can go.”

Murphy said veterans with PTSD who are in VA care are less likely to commit suicide than veterans not in the system. “If we send them off to war and their brains are injured in the process, it is reprehensible that we don’t offer them the treatment they deserve,” he said.