Sen. Patty Murray on help for PTSD sufferers: 'We must seize this opportunity'

Sen. Patty Murray on help for PTSD sufferers:  'We must seize this opportunity'
Sen. Patty Murray answers a question during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Some active duty soldiers at Joint Base Lewis McChord say it's the hidden cost of war:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and what they say is a failure to properly diagnose and treat its symptoms.

An Army spokesperson at Lewis-McChord says the military is doing more than ever to respond, offering soldiers multiple treatment options.

But a growing number of critics say it's not enough.

"I think the military has been saying the right things to the public, but not backing up what they're saying," says Tim, a sergeant who suffers from PTSD.  "I'd like to see the people who need the help to come forward and get it -- not to be afraid to ask for it."

We're concealing the true identity of these soldiers who say it's time for a cultural re-education.  "When you've been in as long as some of us, it doesn't matter any more," Tim says.  "It's time to let the people know what's really going on."

But who else is listening?  We played these soldier interviews for Senator Patty Murray.  "Everything that I just heard is really tragic to listen to, but it is not surprising to me,"  says Murray.  "I have heard it time and time again."  

She says long term care for soldiers with PTSD is an undeniable price of war, "and I am deeply concerned that we still have not seen the urgency within the army and the understanding, the change in culture, that means they take ownership of this."

Congressman Jim McDermott, a former military psychiatrist, calls for an across the board response "that's going to have to be a part of leadership training," he says.  "Sometimes we like to think it's someone else's problem but it isn't.  It's all our responsibility."  

The good news is that for soldiers with PTSD, treatment options are improving.  University of Washington psychologist Larry Pruitt says "you can fully expect them to go back to a normal life and do all the things that anyone needs to do to be productive in society."

Murray says it's time for a public discussion about the long-term cost of PTSD, and the military must change its approach significantly.  "There have been some cultural changes that have made a difference," she says, "and we must seize this opportunity."

Nobody knows this better than Carlos, a young soldier who says he's coming forward and telling his story out of desperation.  "That this has to be the route that we go through to get the help that we need...it's kind of sad."

He says he's crying for help, because covering up a wound and trying to forget about it -- doesn't always work.  "One of my infantry buddies says 'rub some dirt on it.'  There's only so much dirt in the world."

A spokesperson from the Army has responded to our investigation with a two page fact sheet from the Pentagon detailing PTSD symptoms and the Army's current health screenings and assessments.  We continue to ask for interviews with leaders at both Lewis-McChord and Madigan Army Medical Center.