Beyond the Front Lines: Jerry

Substandard Care?

Jerry served in the United States Army for more than five years, spending the end of his term in Iraq. "The whole year was traumatic. In my platoon, we had several casualties. We were just constantly on edge, and you know, you're just tensed up the whole year, nonstop," he says. "Since I've been back from Iraq, I've had a lot of panic attacks, anxiety, severe depression, drinking. It seemed like anything would set me off. It'd go from angry to a fit of rage."

"The look in his eyes " he's in another world, and he foams at the mouth, and it scares me," says Rose, Jerry's wife.

"It never crossed my mind that any of that stuff was related to Iraq, and I didn't know how to go about contacting the VA or anything," Jerry says. "I was finally diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I went to the VA, and I was instructed to do cardio four times a week, for 45 minutes at a time. That's not exactly what I was looking for."

After a few months, Jerry's behavior worsened, and Rose discovered him in the garage with a pistol in his hand. "I was seriously thinking about committing suicide," Jerry reveals. 

"I didn't know what to do. Should I call somebody? Whom do I call? All I could do was just sit there on the steps and just wait. I'm not in his shoes, so I don't know what he's going through," Rose says, wiping away tears. "I have a lot of anger toward the VA and toward the military, and if they did their job like my husband did his job, we wouldn't be where we're at."

 

"It's really hard to make the transition when you come out of the military," Jerry admits. "You go from being somebody, basically, to being nobody."

Dr. Phil reiterates that at one point, Jerry had a gun in his hand and thoughts of suicide, but when he sought help, he says they told him it would be weeks before he could be seen.

Rose explains, "We went in the doctor's office, and I looked at him crying, and I said, ‘This is how I found my husband. If you don't do something now, I'm going to lose my husband, or he's going to lose his family, and his answer to that was, ‘We can't do anything right now. It's going to take awhile to get an appointment,' and sent us home."

Dr. Phil introduces FOX News Military Analyst, Col. David Hunt, and asks him, "What's going on here? I'm outraged at this."

"It's criminal conduct," he says, adding that the medical system was not set up for the return of the troops. "The guys who always pay for the government's problems are the soldiers." He notes that the soldiers get great care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but when they return home, they're lost. "This is a system designed not to help them, but to support the bureaucracy. It's criminal behavior. We suck at taking care of our soldiers."

 

Dr. Phil asks Congressman Filner, "What did you tell me the budget was for the VA?"

"Almost $100 billion," he says.

"It's beyond talk," David says. "We're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. Stop spending the money in Iraq and spend it on this kid, right here." He suggests the VA give the injured vets a credit card to use for medical service anywhere in the world. "It's not hard," he continues. "The VA, [Congressman Filner is] right, are good people. The congressman is not evil. The problem is you've got to break this system down."

"We've got these men and women who need this help now," Dr. Phil says. "We can't go into the typical political process and form a committee, to plan a meeting, to design a form, to schedule another meeting, to plan another form. They need help now!"

Dr. Phil explains that the show invited a representative from the VA to appear, but that their representative cancelled at the last minute via e-mail. One person was going to attend, but canceled and sent an e-mail. He reads the message, "'To the Dr. Phil show. I want to thank you for all of your time and assistance. We received a phone call today and were notified that the Pentagon is now aware of our situation. We were advised not to continue with doing the show.'"

"It's part of a pattern," Congressman Filner says. "Deny, deny, deny, and cover up, cover up, cover up. Then downplay what it is, and then hopefully, years later, people will forget about it."

"The type of family who goes into the service as volunteer military is not the type that complains," Col. Hunt says. "The president of the United States wants to stand there and have soldiers behind him to make a point. How about having [Randy and Jerry] behind him to make a point?"


Dr. Phil asks Jerry, "Have they explained to you what PTSD is?"

"Basically, the way they explained it to me is it's just a chemical imbalance in the brain," he says.

 

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board and author of The Stress Answer and asks, "This is not a simple problem, is it?"

"No. It's a very complex one," Dr. Lawlis replies. Using a model of the brain, he explains that with PTSD, two parts of the brain work antagonistically. "This is the frontal lobe, and it gets very slow in its frequency, so you have this kind of free association. Then you have the temporal lobes that get very agitated, and there's a battle between the two of them," Dr. Lawlis says. "So, you have to basically find ways of stimulating the frontal lobe, as well as relaxing and centralizing the temporal lobes."

Dr. Lawlis agrees to help Jerry with his PTSD at his PNP Center in Dallas, Texas. "I would consider it an honor," he says.

"Shouldn't have to. VA ought to be doing it," Dr. Phil says.