Veterans groups complain of stigma

Law aims to aid in stressful situations

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Reaction is mixed to a new law that allows service members and veterans to have a notation on their driver's license that they've been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

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Gladys Williams helps Detre Jordan with a form at the Georgia Department of Driver Services in south Augusta on Thursday.   Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Gladys Williams helps Detre Jordan with a form at the Georgia Department of Driver Services in south Augusta on Thursday.

Advocates say it's a way to warn law enforcement at a traffic stop that the driver has a sensitive condition and should be treated with care.

Critics argue that it reinforces the stigma that veterans with PTSD are ticking time bombs and could foster discrimination against people with mental illness.

The law, which went into effect July 1, requires veterans to bring paperwork from their doctor or psychologist proving their condition.

Georgia's Department of Driver Services will then imprint "post traumatic stress disorder" on the back of the license in the same area where "corrective lenses" or other medical conditions are noted, spokeswoman Susan Sports said.

The law is especially germane to this area, with soldiers commuting to Fort Gordon and veterans traveling to Augusta's hospitals. Among them are thousands of people living with PTSD, she said.

Dr. Lorraine Braswell, the director of the PTSD clinic at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, sees a big benefit coming from the PTSD notifications. Most people with PTSD function normally on an everyday basis, she said, but stress can cause certain symptoms of PTSD to flare.

Getting pulled over or having a wreck is already stressful, and having PTSD can heighten anxiety. That, in turn, impairs the driver's ability to clearly communicate with an officer, who might already be on edge, Braswell said.

The notification will cue the officer to take it easy, speak slowly and give the driver some space, Braswell said. She said instances of violence triggered by PTSD are rare and "overemphasized."

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Richard Weaver said anything that gives a deputy a better understanding of a person's mental or physical state is beneficial. Low blood sugar, for instance, can cause a diabetic to appear drunk.

"I can see where (a PTSD notification) would be helpful," Weaver said.

Many veterans groups, however, are vehemently opposed.

Ryan Gallucci, the spokesman for AMVETS, said even though the designation is voluntary, "it opens up the potential for discrimination."

A driver's license is not just for driving, but also is identification in a number of scenarios, including buying alcohol and guns or entry to a nightclub, Gallucci said.

The concern is that a veteran would be denied service because a proprietor has the false impression that the veteran is on the brink of snapping, Gallucci said.

"It's an unintended consequence of the law," Gallucci said.

State Sen. John Douglas, a co-signer of the law, said its original intent was to facilitate communication between a driver and law enforcement during a traffic stop or other encounter.

When he was asked for an endorsement by the bill's author, Sen. Ron Ramsey, "I didn't see any difficulty with it at the time," Douglas said, particularly because it was voluntary.

Douglas said he has no experience with veterans or law enforcement.

Veterans groups did not pick up on the bill during debate because it went through the Public Safety Committee, not the Veterans Committee. Douglas said after he was contacted by concerned veterans he unsuccessfully asked the governor to veto the bill.

Ramsey did not respond to an e-mail or phone message requesting comment.

The law

A Georgia law that went into effect July 1 voluntarily allows veterans and service members suffering from post traumatic stress disorder to indicate their condition on their driver's license with proof from a doctor or psychologist.

Comments (9) Add comment
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Dixieman 07/23/10 - 06:43 am
The veterans I know and

The veterans I know and served with are better-adjusted and saner than their civilian counterparts. How about Al Gore, John Kerry, Fred Smith (founder of FedEx), Craig Ventner (discoverer of human genome), Bob Young, Pat Sajak...are they nuts?

Taylor B
Taylor B 07/23/10 - 07:51 am
Yes, Al Gore is a nut. I

Yes, Al Gore is a nut. I agree, with you Dixie, and I didn't know Sajak was a combat vet, pretty cool.

Junket831 07/23/10 - 08:39 am
What a bunch of hogwash. PTSD

What a bunch of hogwash. PTSD is such an overblown diagnosis, that it fails to have any true meaning. The mental health community has hyped this condition because it guarantees them increased funding, job security and something to claim is widespread. Essentially everyone of us has PTSD because all you need is a traumatic event to have occurred at some point in your life. Anyone reading the news lately can see how widespread this can be: murders everywhere, armed robberies in all neighborhoods, disrespect for police and government authorities at meetings. Hey, with today's youth many can't handle the stress of basic training. My point is that to some extent we are all stressed or could be given certain conditions.

Identifying a PTSD case by the drivers license is an idiotic idea that Sonny should have vetoed when requested. Cops should and probably already do just assume that everyone they contact has issues. It's part of being a cop.

Veterans and anyone with PTSD or other mental health condition should not be singled out, voluntarily or not. Repeal this law and stop trying to over help veterans without checking with them first.

hollyjensen 07/23/10 - 08:44 am
So just dont get it on your

So just dont get it on your license if you dont want to

harriet 07/23/10 - 03:02 pm
Junket831 you have obviously

Junket831 you have obviously never been anywhere near the front lines. Yes, we all have issues, but until you've served in a combat zone, I don't think you have any business talking about the "hype". It probably would be helpful for vets to have the notation on the driver's license, BUT the reality is that as a society we judge those who have PTSD in a negative light. Americans are far too selfish and judgmental to take a good look at what our vets have done for all of us. Instead we use our freedoms to open our mouths and say ignorant things such as the comments written here. From what I understand it is a choice so Holly has the only good comment....If I was a vet, I would not put it on my license...just because I know that experiencing the stigma and discrimination every single time I have to show my license for something else is a lot more likely than the chance that I would have to be stopped by police.

corgimom 07/23/10 - 07:54 pm
What's the difference between

What's the difference between service-induced PTSD and PTSD from a traumatic event? If it's a good thing, shouldn't it be made available to all who are diagnosed with it?

soldout 07/23/10 - 08:58 pm
EFT is very effective in

EFT is very effective in fixing this condition. Quick, easy and free in many cases.

speeding 07/24/10 - 06:52 am
This is just the start of

This is just the start of such.

Robert L. Brockway
Robert L. Brockway 10/14/10 - 04:21 pm
American physicians like our

American physicians like our wonderful veterans, also have a high rate of suicide; and yet, American physicians tend to refuse mental health treatment. One must ask why??? Physicians report that any involvement with mental health treatment tends to be career limiting, and causes further social, and family problems. Physicians state that the stigma generated from mental health derogatory language, and attitudes creates a condition of fear within the one treated that he, or she will be found out. Fear of exposure because of a common mistrust of rights to privacy promises. That any involvement causes internally (more depression, more stigma, more shame, poor recovery, higher recidivism, etc.), and externally (more suicides, more divorces, more maladjustment, more alienation, etc.) difficulties. We know this happens. People tend to become unproductive, and lack confidence to adjust to the demands of life. Now if physicians themselves refuse mental health treatment, isn't the evidence of this enough to warrant an independent investigation, and a review of all governmental funding? Secondly many physicians including psychiatrists assert that "mental illness" is not an "illness" at all. That mental health "diagnoses" are non-medical, non-scientific, unaccountable, unreliable, and non-quantifiable. (All scientific findings, and conclusions must be quantifiable-or its simply NOT science.) Many wonder if current mental health practices are indeed really healthy for a person in the long run. Many believe that a comprehensive investigation of mental health documented abuses, assumptions, and practices must be undertaken, to determine exactly what has been going on for decades, and if indeed there is a better way. In 1999 the General Accounting Office conducted and examination, of documented abuses of patients by staff, in American mental health facilities. It determined that significant abuse occurred even against little children; however, it stated that its result were "only the tip of the iceberg" because of systemic attempts by professionals to hamper its investigation by such methods as the falsification of death records. Also in 1999 the U.S. Congress began closed-door hearings on the subject; however, as yet the public has not been informed of any of the results. The American media has ignored these atrocities, it has not reported nor investigated any issues involved, and has been overly supportive of the real way things are. A little research uncovers the dismal, sad, and horrible truth within this field. It would appear that now is the time for our government to stop all funding to mental health, until it is determined exactly what are the shortcomings of this field, and how have our innocent citizens, and brave veterans have been harmed. Mental health is politically very powerful, and the real issues here, have been swept under the rug for far too long. Please visit the following for more information: and Thank you for your interest, and concern.

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