Trouble ‘Adjusting’ to Sexual Assault May Be Getting U.S. Military Members Booted Without VA Benefits

Are dodgy diagnoses being used to
save the military money on mental health care? That’s the charge
from some legislators and activists, who say U.S. service members
with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are being
diagnosed with and discharged for “adjustment disorders”

instead, and that this is especially true for those who report
being sexually assaulted. 

What’s to gain from the latter diagnosis? The question is
probably better phrased, “What’s to lose?” For the U.S. military
and government, adjustment disorder diagnoses provide a way to lose
benefit obligations.

Because adjustment (and personality and mood) disorders are
considered preexisting conditions, the Department of Veteran’s
Affairs (VA) isn’t required to cover veterans’ treatment for these
conditions as it would be for veterans’ discharged with PTSD. Under
a law enacted in 2008, veterans with PTSD get an honorable
discharge and medical care.  

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced a provision to the
annual defense authorization bill—passed
by the House May 22—that would have given service members
discharged with mental illness an opportunity to appeal the
military’s diagnosis.

“As a Marine Corps combat veteran, I cannot accept the fact that
combat veterans have been discharged who were clearly suffering
from PTSD,” Coffman said in a statement. “They were not only denied
treatment before being discharged, but because of the type of
discharge they received, did not have access to mental health care
after they left the military.”

But Coffman’s provision was one of 136 defense bill amendments
that were rejected by the Rules Committee, including several sexual
assault and mental health-related provisions from Rep.
Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). One would have required the
inspector general of the Department of Defense (DOD) to review all
personality and adjustment disorder designations given to service
members who report sexual assaults.

“The personality disorder designation often is used as a tool to
retaliate against survivors for coming forward,”
Speier’s amendment
said. She also says that the adjustment
disorder diagnosis is used in the same way.

It’s impossible for you or me to determine whether the bulk of
adjustment disorder diagnoses are justified. But there’s no doubt
they’re increasing. From
The Washington Times
:

According to a Vietnam Veterans of America study, the military
discharged 31,000 service members because of a personality disorder
from 2001 to 2010.

But after lawmakers and the press reported on the high rate of
such disorder diagnoses tied to sexual assault cases, the number
dropped—and the number of adjustment diagnoses began to rise.

In the Air Force, for example, personality disorder discharges
went from more than 1,200 in fiscal 2007 down to just over 100 two
years later in fiscal 2009, according to a Yale Law report.
Adjustment disorder discharges in the Air Force spiked over that
same period, increasing sevenfold. 

General mental health care trends could be at play, but the
extent of this shift doesn’t seem to belie totally good-faith
diagnostic efforts. More believable to me than a coordinated plot
to discredit rape victims, however, is that this could be a
ploy to save the VA and other federal agencies money. (I don’t
doubt that discrediting or shushing up assault complaintants is
sometimes a welcome side effect.)

Regardless of why adjustment disorder diagnoses are rising, the
diagnosis is a strange one for soldiers who report sexual assault.
Being sexually assaulted can obviously produce lingering
psychological trauma, and surely this is severe enough in some
cases to warrant military discharge. But severe, negative,
post-assault responses would seem to be a very classic
form of PTSD
.

“It’s likely that if the person doesn’t have symptoms when they
enter the military and then is exposed to traumatic stress—the two
classic ones in the military are combat and sex assault—it’s most
likely PTSD,” psychologist David L. Kupfer told
The Washington Times

“When you look at the numbers, it does seem like there is some
financial incentive affecting the diagnosis of people who are
showing symptoms after exposure to trauma.” 

Adjustment disorder is also
a type of stress-related mental illness
, with symptoms
including anxiety, depression, crying spells, anger, feeling
overwhelmed, and trouble sleeping, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But it’s triggered not by discrete, traumatic events but relatively
commonplace life changes, such as moving, starting at a new school
or job, ending a relationship, etc.

It’s a diagnosis for people who have a high degree of trouble
coping with new circumstances—the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders
(“psychiatry’s bible”) describes it
as “marked distress that is in excess of what would be expected
from exposure to the stressor.” Are military psychiatrists
suggesting that sexual assault is a standard part of military life,
one which some people just have a pathologically hard time
adjusting to? It sure seems that way. 

To be clear, the adjustment disorder diagnoses aren’t only going
to those who report being sexual assault victims. For example:
During a deployment to Iraq in 2008, former Army Pfc. Michael Nahas
survived two roadside bomb explosions and one rocket-propelled
grenade attack. He began feeling “anxious and guilty about people
he believed had died needlessly,”
according to Veterans Today
, and eventually attempted
suicide. He was diagnosed with PTSD at the hospital, went back to
his unit, and was given an administrative discharge for adjustment
disorder. 

And in November 2013, the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at
Yale Law School filed a federal
lawsuit
 on behalf of William Cowles. The suit claims
Cowles, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, was
erroneously diagnosed with an adjustment disorder instead of PTSD,
barring him from collecting military retirement benefits.
 

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WaPo Critic Blames Seth Rogen Movies for Isla Vista Killings

Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann

Given that the University of California—Santa Barbara killer
cited his inability to get laid in college as a motivation for his
massacre, should Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow and Zac Efron apologize
for making movies that glorify the sex and excess inherent to
college life?

Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday thinks so. In
a recent article about the horrific weekend attack that left seven
dead in Isla Vista, California, she
implicitly blamed
Neighbors, a new film that casts
Rogen and Efron as residents of a fictional fraternity row:

How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like
“Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of
college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How
many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which
the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that
those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not
fair”?

The killer, Elliot Rodger, was a wealthy social outcast with a
father in the film business. According to his 141-page manifesto,
Rodger was rejected by fellow students at the UCSB campus and came
to hate all women for refusing to have sex with
him. Clearly, the version of campus hookup culture
glorified in movies like Neighbors did indeed spurn
Rodger.

But is that what made him a murderer? Hornaday
roped in male privilege and violence in media to
complete her argument:

If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and
macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light
projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one
should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form
in the culture at large.

Part of what makes cinema so potent is the way even its
most outlandish characters and narratives burrow into and fuse with
our own stories and identities. When the dominant medium of our age
— both as art form and industrial practice — is in the hands of one
gender, what may start out as harmless escapist fantasies can,
through repetition and amplification, become distortions and
dangerous lies.

Rogen took to Twitter to dispute Hornaday, branding
her “horribly insulting and misinformed,”
according to The Huffington Post.

“How dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a
lunatic to go on a rampage,” wrote Rogen in a Tweet.

Apatow had nothing to do with Neighbors, but has worked
on similar bro-friendly comedies with Rogen. He did not take kindly
to Hornaday’s insinuation, either. He tweeted that it
was absurd to blame movies rather than mental illness.

The angry reactions from Rogen and Apatow garnered significant
media attention, and eventually
drew a video response
from Hornaday.

“In singling out Neighbors and Judd Apatow I by no means meant
to cast blame on those movies or Judd Apatow’s work for this
heinous action, obviously not,” she said in the video.

But she did defend her view that certain movies—those made by
white males, in praise of wish fulfillment and vigilantism—are
unhealthy for the culture.

In times of tragedy, violent entertainment often plays the role
of convenient scapegoat. Nevertheless, there is good reason to be
skeptical of such claims,
especially in the immediate aftermath
.

Expect to hear more media figures blaming movies, video games,
mental health care deficiencies and lack
of gun control
in the coming days.

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Winter Olympics Sports Socialism Goes Out of Fashion in the Free World

The days when countries vied with each other for the national
(dis)honor of spending themselves into the poorhouse in Putin.Olympicsorder to host the Olympics — or at least the
Winter Olympics — might be fast disappearing. Why any sane city
would ever want to
host
the Olympics is a mystery given that these games
never paid
for themselves — although they did give politicians
lots of opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse. (Actually,
scratch that, the answer is clear: Most cities are not sane.) But
after Russia’s recent Sochi debacle bumped the price tag of this
sports socialism to a jaw-dropping $51 billion, the outer bounds of
insanity might have been reached. It is no longer possible to
pretend that the promises
of spillover effects and Keynesian multipliers are anything other
than total nonsense.

The deadline for awarding the 2022 Winter Olympics is barely a
year away and potential bidders are dropping out like Indian
athletes in a luge contest.


Reports
Deadspin:

Yesterday, Krakow, Poland, officially withdrew its bid for the
games
, a day after a citywide referendum where 70 percent of
voters came out against hosting the Olympics. “Krakow is closing
its efforts to be the host of the 2022 Winter Games due to the low
support for the idea among the residents,” said mayor Jacek
Majchrowski.

In January, another of the six original finalists pulled out,
when Stockholm, Sweden’s ruling political party declined to fund
the games. They cited the pointlessness of paying hundreds of
millions for facilities that would be used for two weeks and then
rarely again, a story common to almost all
Olympic hosts.
“Arranging a Winter Olympics would mean a big
investment in new sports facilities, for example for the bobsleigh
and luge,”
the Moderate party said in a statement.
“There isn’t any need
for that type of that kind of facility after an Olympics.”

In November, voters in Munich, Germany,
rejected a proposed Olympic bid
. “The vote is not a signal
against the sport,” said one lawmaker, “but against the
non-transparency and the greed for profit of the IOC.”

Last March, a joint bid from Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland, fell
apart after
being rejected by a public referendum.

Of the four remaining finalists, two are in rough shape. The
Oslo, Norway, bid is falling apart. It was supported by a
razor-thin margin in a September referendum, but public opposition
has only grown since then. And on Sunday, the junior member of the
government coalition
voted against funding any Olympics
. For them to go on, it would
require an unprecedented alliance between the ruling Conservatives
and the opposition Labour party.

The Lviv, Ukraine, bid seems dead in the water with the turmoil
and war in the country. “Currently our dream is on hold,” said the
bid’s chief.

Who’s still standing? Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China.
The first is an oppressive oil state and the second just an
oppressive state.

It has taken nearly a century for these white elephants to go
out of fashion in the free world. Can the unfree worldKim Jong Un be far behind? (The answer is “yes.” And
for proof, observe the 1980s mushroom cut that North Korean
strongman Kim Jong-un still apparently regards as high
fashion.)

My piece about the obscenity of poor countries like India
hosting the Commomwealth Games is 
here
.

H/T: Prateik

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A. Barton Hinkle on Sabra’s Campaign to Get Government to Regulate Hummus

how would you know what this is without government?Sabra Dipping,
whose Chesterfield, Virginia, plant produces millions of tons
of hummus each month, is lobbying the Food and Drug Administration
to write new rules governing who can claim to make the stuff. In a
“citizen petition,” Sabra has asked Washington to declare
that only certain dipping sauces qualify as hummus, and only they
may be labeled as such. Specifically, Sabra
wants Washington to forbid the use of the word “hummus”
unless the dipping sauce is made out of chickpeas and contains at
least 5 percent tahini, or ground sesame seeds. To help federal
bureaucrats further understand the profound gravity of the issue,
Sabra draws their attention to a variety of imposters, such as a
certain “red pepper lentil hummus” (made with lentils) and a
certain “fat-free original hummus” (made — gasp! — without tahini).
But none of that, writes A. Barton Hinkle, is enough to disguise
the fact that the company is simply trying to cement its position
as the leading market incumbent by using the government to squash
the smaller competition.

View this article.

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Obama Gives 10,000 Men Opportunity to be Last Man to Die for Our Mistake in Afghanistan

Later today, President Obama

will address
the graduating class of West Point and, according
to reports, outline a bold new foreign policy framework that will
simultaneously explain how everything he’s already done was exactly
the right thing to do and how going forward he will be even more
perfect. Or something.

But as Daily Beast reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin
point out
, the president has already signaled he’s going keep
upwards of 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the longest-running war
ever for the U.S. and one of our biggest failures.

President Obama is poised to keep nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in
Afghanistan until at least 2016. Some top intelligence and military
officers now fighting that war say the number of troops under
consideration by the White House should be just enough to prevent
al Qaeda from re-establishing a safe haven. Others aren’t so sure
that 9,800 troops can keep the terror group and its allies at
bay.

The decision to attack Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks was
both understandable and defensible. But what is the mission in
Afghanistan now? Or more precisely, what was it the minute the
Taliban was deposed and the trail for bin Laden went cold? Was it
nation-building? Was it creating one more spot on the planet where
goodwill toward America could dissolve into the sand once
again?

Whatevs. Republicans bash Obama for being “weak” and
“indecisive.” Like in Libya, where he dispatched American force
without even pretending there was an imminent attack on the U.S. or
even consulting Congress. How’d they work out again? (Memo to
Republicans: The means and shitty outcome of our intervention into
Libya is the scandal; Benghazi is a horrible sideshow.) Here’s Sen.
John McCain, who’s never met a war anywhere he didn’t want to
join:

“The president wants to be able to say in January 2017
that he got us out of both wars. The tragedy of that is the chaos
that he is leaving behind,” McCain said. “I’d like to hear how he
will restore the reliability of the United States in the world,
which has dramatically eroded. I have no illusions that that will
happen.”

Until the Republicans admit that it was precisely
stupid, ill-conceived, and poorly prosecuted U.S. foreign policy
that has contributed so much to instability in the world, don’t
expect foreign policy to get better. Especially when the Democrats
refuse to admit that their guy in the White House has been a
disaster for related but also distinct problems (one of which is
never admitting his mistakes, a la Bush, but always blaming
others).

And for the 10,000 troops who will be cooling their heels
doing god knows what in Afghanistan for a couple of years: You’re
going to need. Hopefully none of you will the last man (or woman)
to die for that mistake. Which is a memorable phrase once uttered
by the current Secretary of State, John Kerry, who inspires
confidence in absolutely no one as a diplomat or guardian of young
soldiers.

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A.M. Links: Hagel Calls for Military Health Care Review, De Blasio Wants to Legalize Ferrets, Oldest-Ever House Member Ousted

  • Defense Secretary Chuck

    Hagel is calling for
    a widespread review of the military health
    care system in the wake of recent troubling revelations about U.S.
    veterans’ medical care. 
  • Edward Snowden
    told Nightly News
    anchor Brian Williams that he “never
    intended” to wind up in Russia, but the U.S. State Department
    “trapped” him there. Secretary of State John Kerry called it “a
    pretty dumb answer, frankly.” 
  • A high school in Long Island
    is the latest to ban backpacks
    , forcing students to carry books
    and belongings in clear plastic bags. 
  • The De Blasio administration is
    considering legalizing ferrets
     in New York City. They were
    banned there by Rudy Giuliani in 1998. 
  • Wisconsin abortion providers
    testified in federal court
    Tuesday that requiring clinic
    doctors to have hospital admitting privileges creates unnecessary
    bureaucratic hurdles; state attorneys present witnesses
    today. 
  • Ninety-one year-old Republican Rep. Ralph Hall—the oldest-ever
    member of the U.S. House (he once had a brush with Bonnie and
    Clyde
    )—lost
    a primary runoff
     against a little-known challenger in
    Texas. 

Follow Reason and Reason
24/7
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on 
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Shikha Dalmia on Sexism at the New York Times

Jill AbramsonThe New York Times‘ firing of its
first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, who led her paper to
eight Pulitzer victories in three short years, elicited howls of
protests from her sister scribes. And with good reason. After
changing his story several times, the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger,
finally explained that the real reason Abramson—who had the gothic
“T” of the Times tattooed on her arm—got the boot was her
“abrasive” and “high handed” management style which, as far as they
are concerned, is sexism.

Reasond Foundation Senior Analyst notes that unlike other
feminist complaints about wage gaps, not enough female CEOs, tax
payer-covered birth pills, and, the emerging cause celeb, the
absence of paid menstrual leave, this one actually might be
valid.

View this article.

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WaPo Notices Jared Polis, “A Pro-Pot, Video Game Playing Congressman”

Yesterday’s Washington Post included a
long, juicy profile of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
. It
opens with a set piece of the “pro-pot, video game playng
congressman” standing around a marijuana dispensary in his home
state, chatting knowledgeably about the product but refusing to
have his picture taken because “that could go viral.”

This is something new for Polis, the 39-year-old self-made
millionaire member of Congress: He is starting to care what people
think about him. The same guy mocked
by GQ for his sartorial choices
—known as Congress’s chief
video-game enthusiast, the first member to accept bitcoin donations
on the day it became legal, and a top spokesman for legalizing
marijuana—now wants to be taken seriously by the establishment.
That doesn’t mean he’s about to start going along to get along. It
just means he’s looking for a change in style.

reason coverReason readers, of course,
were already
well aware of the Colorado phenom with the libertarian touch
,
since we had a big juicy profile of Polis several weeks ago in our
last print issue:

Close your eyes and think of a stereotypical gamer. Is he a
bowtie-wearing gay father of one with a penchant for beekeeping who
represents Colorado’s 2nd District in the House of Representatives?
Probably not. But maybe he should be.

The Post also covers Polis’ stance on fracking:

Yes, being gay and being in favor of marijuana legalization have
changed from liabilities to assets, but on the issue of fracking,
Democrats remain divided. Polis has spent hundreds of thousands of
his own dollars on a series of ballot initiatives in Colorado that
would limit places where fracking could occur, and the issue has
seriously fractured Democrats in the state.

When Reason covered
his stance on fracking
 a couple of weeks ago, Polis

turned up in our comments section
to chat with our readers
about the nuances of the issue in libertarian terms and offer some
hard evidence for his claims:

The argument comes down to individual rights…. It’s a complex
one and the libertarian perspective is not immediately clear. Can
someone else engage in an activity next to your house which causes
you economic damage and reduces the value of your home without
compensating you? A recent study found that fracking nearby
resulted in 4-15% decrease in home value:
http://ift.tt/1k1T54f

Currently there is nothing someone can do to prevent fracking
nearby…. I think the liberarian perspective would allow for
covenants in HOAs or even through local government to settle
property disputes like this between neighbors, provide a mechanism
for accounting for externalities. Currently any attempt at
addressing this is pre-empted by the state. Here are some more
thoughts on the topic:
http://ift.tt/1k1T54j

Fundamentally I believe in a regulatory marketplace…. people
who want to live in areas that allow fracking, marijuana, gambling,
and prostitution should be able to and people who want to live in
areas that don’t should also be able to.

Polis’ presence in our comments section certainly bolsters the
Post’s take on his M.O.:

Polis likes to think of himself as a translator between groups.
On my trip with him, he sat down with parents of gifted students
where people said things like, “How do you ID a GT with ESL or
ADD?” then spoke to an older group of Democratic Women of Boulder
County voters about what “pay-fors” to use for certain legislation,
then spoke about how both Congress and new companies thrive when
there are more “disruptive” forces at play at a panel about
start-ups.

“What I want to do is be able to appeal to the Reddit generation
while also making sure other parts of the party are at the table,”
he said munching on a Bobo’s Oat bar and drinking organic iced tea.
“Internet freedom, marijuana and other issues. It doesn’t mean
every Democrat has to change their mind, but we need to have a way
to talk about these things without alienating the next
generation.”

The
whole Post profile is worth a read
. (Even if you
read
Reason‘s first
.)

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Jacob Sullum on the Irrational Response to the Isla Vista Massacre

The day after his 20-year-old son,
Christopher, was shot down at a deli in Isla Vista, California,
Richard Martinez blamed his death on “craven, irresponsible
politicians and the NRA.” Jacob Sullum notes that gun control
advocates quickly seized upon Martinez’s remarks, using his grief
to obscure the illogic of their position.

Sullum says none of the items on the anti-gun lobby’s wish
list makes sense as a response to
the 
crimes of Elliot Rodger,
the 22-year-old college student who murdered Martinez’s son and
five other people on Friday night. Far from demonstrating the
lifesaving potential of gun control, he says, the Isla Vista
massacre
 exposes the false promise of policies
that aim to prevent violence by limiting access to
weapons.

View this article.

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