UAV count as combat ?

Discussion in 'PTSD and Mental Health Conditions' started by bunt0025, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. bunt0025

    bunt0025 PEB Forum Regular Member

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    I've never deployed. My job is safe from most of the horrors of combat, here, stateside. I have 11.5 years in the Air National Guard... and about 7 years of it activated (mostly title 10 federal orders). I work (yes, currently still involuntarily activated) in a psuedo aircrew position (kill chain, but not officially aircrew) on a UAV/RPA/UAS/'drone' flying in the AOR.

    A few years ago I sought mental health care at the VA for some 'results' of a few missions I 'flew'. A series of events led me to file for a VA comp & penn claim {*see below} and was rated at 30% for PTSD, some sort of depression, and OCD. This year my medical unit finally read my yearly health assessment in such a manner that they requested a copy of my VA records. Upon attaining them they pulled me off 'the line' and directed an MEB. I am currently trying to answer some question I have on the MEB/PEB process.

    1) Is the differences that is see in other people's VA versus military ratings specifically due to the military only rating service connected... whereas the VA rates non service connected, as well? Or does the military simply assign lower ratings due to different standards?

    2) I read another post about PTSD only being able to recieve a rating of 50% or higher via the following regulation: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2007/julqtr/pdf/38cfr4.130.pdf I assume this is true ONLY for military ratings, correct?.. as my VA rating is 30%.

    3) The VA was very lenient and flexible on my attempts in seeking treatment {**see below}. Do I have to worry about the military being very strict on deviations and/or avoidance during treatment during this MEB (or a future PEB)?

    4) In other locations that I have found the above regulation's verbage, having the PTSD as 'combat related' was mentioned as required. Is the above regulation superceded by another one that adds this criteria? If so, will I need to provide the same sort of evidence that I did for the VA on my comp & penn 'statement of stressor' to prove my PTSD is service connected?

    *
    The VA confirmed that I was on orders and began billing Tricare for my visits. However, since I did NOT attain a referral, first from my normal medical doctor, the bills for the visit (not just the co-pays) started heading my way. When I tried to resolve the issue via the VA covering treatment that is service connected, they said my orders were only 'in support' of the theater. I was advised that a service connection rating from any comp & penn claim would halt me being billed for the visits AND the co-pays. During the mental evaluation that ensued was the first time I had heard that I had previously been given ANY specific diagnosis by my doc AND she had listed my troubles as being "service connected" right in the verbage of her notes.

    **
    I missed several appointments, often with no prior notification, and stalled out on cognitive therapy twice. I just felt I wasn't helping myself to immerse into the events and I simply quit. I also declined group therapy as the classification level of the detail surrounding (and encompassing) the events of my stressors would obviously inhibit me from discussing them easily with others... and therefore 'fitting-in' to a group dynamic.

    Actually, the latest thing I've tried is the PTSD info class. It has been very informal with members simply sharing how they've dealt with PTSD and has been very helpful. I am allowed to simply listen to the others and provide feedback (my contribution to the content can stay quite limited). Though, I'd wager that my therapy is probably viewed as purely instructional and not 'treatment' by the VA/military.
     
  2. DevilDoc

    DevilDoc PEB Forum Veteran

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    PTSD from flying a UAV? Is this a joke or are you trying to milk the system?
     
  3. bunt0025

    bunt0025 PEB Forum Regular Member

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    Yes.
    Is there a third option?
     
  4. DevilDoc

    DevilDoc PEB Forum Veteran

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    IMHO, being at war without any personal risk or discomfort is kind of like playing poker for fun.
     
  5. nwlivewire

    nwlivewire PEB Forum Veteran

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    Bunt0025 has asked a serious question. I don't think he is j/k. I would think that killing from afar and watching monitors of real people getting killed by what methods I have at my disposal from afar and seeing the "live" feed is not a laughing matter.

    May be safer for the body, but I would imagine there is psycho trauma with this type of long-range killing.

    v/r,
    nwlivewire
     
  6. ikory

    ikory PEB Forum Veteran

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    If you think that is a joke all post traumatic stress must be a joke.
     
  7. michigan0782

    michigan0782 PEB Forum Veteran

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    well i guess in flying UAV from a chair in the states where no possibility of harm is done or risked to him and he was exposed to a traumatic event in which BOTH parts of ceiterion a are met, 1 part criteria B, 3 parts of C and 2 of D then i guess.

    however for criteria a both must met te "experienced, wotnessed, or confronted by events incolving actual or threatened harm to self or others AND expeienced INTENSE horror, helplessness or fear. Then he must reexperience the event, avoid stimuli (guess video games are a no?) and symptoms of increased arousal that has laste at least a month AND cauaimg CLINICALLY sognificant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas pf finctioning

    if those are all met then. sure.....however...id never want to swap "horror stories" i was on the ground kicking in baghdad doors....enough said.
     
  8. DevilDoc

    DevilDoc PEB Forum Veteran

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    I don't this all PTSD is a joke I just think UAV operators with PTSD is a joke.

    They are comparing them to snipers, both kill or witness from a distance but the comparison stops there. Snipers are still in harms way, when was the last time a UAV pilot was WIA or KIA? Killing targets on a screen is not the same as shooting it out with insurgents, ignoring your own safety while bullets and rocket propelled grenades soar over your head, and then reveling in the sweet victory of vanquishing your foe by looking at his dead body at your feet.

    Maybe I'm just tired of going to these group therapy hearing BS coming out of someone's mouth. It is not the same as having someone you personally know, someone you talk to, and share the war experience and watch them lose their life. This is why I think there is a big difference between "PTSD" and battle fatigue or - what it really is shell shock.

    Yet again just my opinion.
     
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  9. pittpan2005

    pittpan2005 PEB Forum Veteran

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    DevilDoc,
    I am no rocket scientist here or physician, but it's obvious neither are you. PTSD is not only related to combat. A member can have a "combat" related condition that doesn't stem from being in a war zone. US Code makes it perfectly clear.

    (e) Combat-Related Disability.— In this section, the term “combat-related disability” means a disability that is compensable under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and that—
    (1) is attributable to an injury for which the member was awarded the Purple Heart; or
    (2) was incurred (as determined under criteria prescribed by the Secretary of Defense)—
    (A) as a direct result of armed conflict;
    (B) while engaged in hazardous service;
    (C) in the performance of duty under conditions simulating war; or
    (D) through an instrumentality of war.
     
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  10. pittpan2005

    pittpan2005 PEB Forum Veteran

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  11. Jason Perry

    Jason Perry Benevolent Leader Site Founder Staff Member PEB Forum Veteran

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    Everyone is entitled to their personal opinion about whatever. However, the purpose of this site is to inform people about benefits and compensation due as a result of disabilities incurred in military service and to offer a community for folks to share their experiences. I don't take a heavy hand to moderating, but if people start being negative towards others, I will take whatever steps I feel like (temporarily banning, taking away posting privileges, or in severe cases, permanently banning).

    Opinions on this point are fine, but they don't really mean anything unless you at least try to reference the actual criteria- in this case, for PTSD, as found in the DSM-IV. It seems very clear that UVA flying with attendant exposure/confrontation with stressors can and does meet the criteria for PTSD (I have come across this issue several times and have seen it awarded; side issue, if it is not PTSD, since the mental health general schedule is the same for the vast majority of conditions, it really does not matter much if it is called PTSD or major depressive disorder, or anxiety- again, the ratings are the same).

    A separate issue raised by some of the posts is whether this PTSD counts as "Combat-Related." Generally speaking, I have never seen or heard of a combat related award for something that occurred that was viewed remotely. I think the "sniper" distinction is not that helpful when analyzing the issue...I have a hard time finding a distinction between remote viewed actions and, say, dropping a bomb from 10,000 feet (at least in theaters where we have complete air superiority and enemy anti-aircraft capabilities are not that great a threat to high flying aircraft). They both would seem to fit a strict definition of "caused by combat" or from an "instrumentality of war." But, I do think there is some sort of "zone of danger" (which is a part of the what you find in the body of civil law regarding negligence) criteria that is either inadvertently or unconsciously being applied. I would have no problem with this if that is what the rules explicitly say...but they don't say that and the UAV related PTSD would seem to fit the criteria that is stated.

    Individual cases are different, but usually people have additional conditions that are not unfitting but are service connected, so it is not unusual to see higher VA ratings than military ratings for unfitting only conditions (you are mixing up some of the terms, here...VA will only rate service connected conditions...I think you meant "unfitting.").

    The 50% temporary minimum rating comes from Section 4.129. It applies equally to military and VA (it would not apply to you now because you have yet to be found unfit...if you are for a mental condition resulting from a highly stressful event, then you should get the rating from both military and VA.

    Not sure what you mean by "deviations." More than likely, you will be going through IDES, where the VA provides the exam and percentages to be applied.

    Combat-related is a separate issue. That finding has tax benefits and will support a CRSC finding, which will allow dual receipt of military and VA compensation.


    Not sure if there is a question here, but you can make a claim for health care from the VA...also, if you get a LOD from your unit, that is a source of coverage.


    Glad to hear you are getting help and it is working better than your previous attempts. Hope all goes well for you.
     
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  12. Tim Poling

    Tim Poling PEB Forum Regular Member

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    Let me jump in here to say that "we" members of the armed services no matter what capacity should extend support to one another and not ignore or ridicule another who might not have “seemed” to be in a more horrific war scenarios then one’s self. I for example am a Chaplain Assistant in the AF with 24yrs (18yr 10mths for retirement) experience. I personally made the mistake of thinking because I wasn’t in the thick of the battle that I wasn’t affected. My job in theater is to provide preemptive intervention counsel to my fellow brothers and sisters in arms, so as to stabilize and get them back into the battle. 2007 in Iraq during the surge I became very involved with Army & AF Special Forces units and task forces who were in severe mental and emotional pain due to the loss of comrades and friends during the surge. This was my beginning experience of war up close. Sather AB where I was stationed spent 6.5 weeks under heavy mortar and rocket attack until elements of 1st CAV arrived to kick some ass. During this time though, I was faced with so much of the horrors of death supporting a 17-man army team of 92-mikes. These events had a huge impact on me, which I didn’t realize until in 2009 because of the “good job” supporting mortuary ops in 2007 I was sent to Dover AFB Mortuary Ops Center. There I continued working with a multi-service team providing honor, dignity and respect to our fallen brothers and sister (HEROs)…190 bodies to be exact. I won’t go into details, but just support our Ops center team was a toll, then this is when our President Obama reversed the “black out” of the return scenes of our fallen, and DOD started supporting family members to come and be at the Ramp Transfer ceremony at Dover. My days went from bad to worse as now I spent 4-6 hours each night with family members, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives and children trying to consul them. When you have a young boy of 13yrs old crying on your shoulder saying that his brother (a Marine) wasn’t just his brother, but his best friend, and ask “know what am I going to do?” The main question all families asked, “Will I see my son/daughter again?” This was no “here after” question, but on of, will they be viewable, in which case most weren’t…so I/we did the best we could. I stuffed all this into my closet for about 5 months after returning from Dover. I hurt physically and emotionally. People, family, friends and my leaders told me I was different. This angered me, I was ok, because I really hadn’t been affected, I wasn’t wounded and how could I claim to be a wounded warrior, I wasn’t in the “real” battle? Then my body started shutting down, and I would have what are called dissociative episodes mentally…I would ended up somewhere on my base at that time with no recall as to how I got there and the timeframe that had passed. This happened four different times, the first three times I would be at a place that I subconsciously remember as places of rest (I was a bicyclist and these were places where I would stop and watch the sun come up or go down, relaxing). The fourth time, I drove to my home and loaded a 9mm all unconsciously, and what woke me to reality was when I chambered a round…I broke and reached out for help. That was over three years ago, and to this day I continue to wrestle with “why am I different, am I weak”, when others aren’t affected? One of my first relief points was at a PTSD program at Landstuhl Med Center where I was with nine combat army members all suffering PTSD…their collective statements were, they’d fight on the battle field anytime, but could never see themselves doing what I did, consoling people, it would be too much.

    So, to each of you that believe PTSD is limited to just a few that were in the thick of it, the “true fight”, I would say there are others out here that have experienced a different part, not the same, but as trauma as the other, “why”, I don’t know, but I do know I would give anything to be “normal” again, and not have the pain. More than a few thoughts I suppose, but hopefully others won’t be so hasty to judge another…now we fight for what is right and just for each other from the different impacts of these wars...mine PTSD (Chronic) Fibromyalgia and 15 other different issues, at a 90day point with the IDES and no one knows nothing!
     
  13. nwlivewire

    nwlivewire PEB Forum Veteran

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    Thank-you so very much for your service Tim Poling. I am glad you have found this web site and are a contributing member.

    v/r,
    nwlivewire
     
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  14. ikory

    ikory PEB Forum Veteran

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    Two thumbs up.

    Well said Tim Poling.
     
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  15. ikory

    ikory PEB Forum Veteran

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    Just be supportive. It is not our place to judge especially at group therapy. It is not about milking the system, but getting recognition that the military did cause trauma.
     
  16. NDBravehart84

    NDBravehart84 PEB Forum Veteran

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    Thumbs Up for both Jason and Tim...... lest we forget.........
     
  17. badge4107

    badge4107 PEB Forum Veteran

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    Judge not another of his or her crisis. Few warriors are without wounds in war.
     
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  18. SGT Bob

    SGT Bob PEB Forum Veteran

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    Agree 100%. Killing someone is a traumatic experience that WILL come back to haunt you. I can speak from personal experience.
     
  19. talon224

    talon224 New Member

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    OP: I would assume you have the same job as me (1n1). According to Base Mental Health it is possible, however, I have never actually seen it done myself. If you dont ever actually go to the sandbox (in person) they dont have to take PTSD as seriously, but instead label it Adjustment Disorder.
     
  20. bunt0025

    bunt0025 PEB Forum Regular Member

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    I have mild/major (I don't recall which) depressive disorder, PTSD, and OCD... according to my VA psychologist.
    I would like to comment that dropping and taking the responsibility for a bomb are two separate items on the scale that one could create to represent a continuum of weapons employment. How many munitions are guided to target via a UAV painting the target do you suppose? Don't know? Ask the nearest Hornet driver where he/she bore sights their laser after taking off from a carrier...
    Sometimes, a 'real' jet pilot is little more than a heavily glorified munitions troop out on a flightline delivery tasking. Transportation for the munition, for the most part. Of course, he/she is a pretty task saturated driver, though.
    Then there is on station time. How much can one be affected in the time that a gas guzzler is present to see the damage. Since we UAV sip at the tanks we tend to be around for the smoke to clear, and then for the mourning of the families, and then sometimes later in the week for the funeral(s)... we certainly see a different side of the coin than the Flyboys. Of course, much like everything else in the military, right/wrong place at the right/wrong time sure makes a difference.
    Ah, I was mistaken/confused/ignorant of that concept. Makes sense now. Thank you, sir.
    I don't know what an IDES is, but I was feeling angry about recieving the bills from the VA and someone there suggested a comp claim. I did so, was evaluated by my doc's boss, and recieved an award letter. I didn't really know I was being evaluated for PTSD, but was merely trying to get some headway with the bills and heard any % if in uniform would solve that debt. Until recently I didn't even know a LOD was sent to my unit and was approved. I figured the AFSOC's nod (the Bubba the VA keeps on hand for varification [which I had read amount in the Army Times a while back]) was all that was needed to varify, but my commander had to approve it, too, apparently.
    That is the part I'm still foggy on. If the VA % isn't based on fitness for duty, then how did I get <50%? Quite frankly at the time I didn't care, but since then (but before starting this thread) my unit asked for my doctor's notes / records from the VA. The reciept of them caused quite a stir (and was actually the first time I had heard of my diagnosis). I was immediately restricted from my psuedo-aircrew status (the kill chain). Then, I was later removed from the building entirely to "focus on getting better" by getting a qualifying general assessment of functioning (GAF) score on each end of a 90 day minimum period (apparently required to attain a waiver simply to be in uniform in the Guards if one has psychosis).
    I realize that since I'm over-the-horizon I wasn't privy to being retracted to a warrior transition unit, but at least I could stay helpful to my coworkers (and therefore the boots on the ground) continuing to do my AFSC non-specific job up to a certain point/level. I pressed on trying to convice my unit to put me back in the seat. Next, I failed another GAF score and elected to start taking a SSRI that had been recommended to me. Then, the SSRI started to kick in and I frankly spent the days fighting sleep, stomache pains, and a slight 'intoxication' feeling. It tapered off after I had my dosage reduced, but then I started to feel depressed, again. It became clear that I was basically going to have to medicate up (read: dope up) to pass a GAF, but then ween off of it to where I would even remotely feel comfortable being kill-chain again (funny how a position can be kill-chain, but not be ground based aircrew... thus having no restrictions on medications, except what the Commander lists in a MFR for the MICs... yup, no mention of SSRIs, yet).
    Just today I informed my CoC of my intention of proceeding with the MEB. I've lost hope that I can return to the job under the conditions the Air Force expects (no matter how skewed / non-fitting to the UAV world that I think said conditions are). I doubt I'll ever be able to pull off an honest 80 (or 60 for that matter) on the GAF in uniform (or off meds). Retraining was brought up and I looked to pursue it, but there is a waiting list to get in anywhere in the unit. Of course, the Guard is shuffling its deck and nobody has a clue what we are going to end up with so I can't get my CoC to budge me in front of the wait over at retention/training as they don't know if the wait is ever going to be over.
    The group sessions have brought mixed results. I think I've underestimated my symptoms/experiences plenty enough internally and therefore I am pretty hesitant to share much. It likely stems from seeing the soldier in his worst scenerio, talking to them on the radio, and then continuing to enjoy the air conditioning / coffee cup / etc - world that represents our battlefield. It is just a paradox to properly deal with one's feelings when it is so very obvious that me / most of my co-workers would not even be alive to sniffle if we were on the other side of the screen with boots on the ground during a fraction of all that we've seen.
     

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