Ryan Zinke, the humblest aspirant for Congress in the nation, today released a half-baked serious of Republican talking points masquerading as a “plan” to help address the healthcare needs of American veterans. Putting aside that Zinke’s “solutions” are a largely conservative ideological claims like the need to “fire” bad administrators, privatize care, and not spend a single cent more on veterans, the most appalling element of Zinke’s proposal is how he plans to solve the crisis of mental illness, specifically PTSD, in the military.
From the Zinke “plan”:
With no support backing his assertion, Zinke argues that doctors are over diagnosing mental illness like PTSD and suggest that the solution will be to have patients get over it.
That’s an astonishing position to take. Zinke’s plan further stigmatizes mental illness, suggesting that veterans who receive a such a diagnosis “all too often” aren’t really experiencing mental illness at all. He then, instead of suggesting that veterans who “are experiencing symptoms of depression” seek mental health care immediately, argues that they should have someone point them to the local American Legion to talk it out.
Zinke should be proposing the exact opposite: doing more to ensure that veterans with mental health issues be educated about the options available to them and then given the treatment they need. According to the RAND Institute, right now “only 30 percent of veterans with PTSD or depression seek help from the VA health system.” That’s millions of soldiers who are not even seeking treatment, and the Army argues that “stigma is a major barrier for veterans in need of mental health care.”
The truth is that veterans, perhaps even more than the average person, are already too reticent to seek mental health treatment. That a veteran—and Congressional aspirant—would release a plan endorsing the idea that those exhibiting symptoms of depression not seek medical care is reckless and ignorant.
I’m beginning to have some theories about how Senator Zinke is able to receive benefits for an 80% disability from the military, despite being able to run in “Spartan” races: apparently he came home from his service with neither a heart nor a brain. The only qualification Senator Zinke ever mentions in his bid for Congress is his experience in the military. That he would substitute rhetoric and partisan talking points for the substantive need faced by our veterans is telling both about his values and his worthiness for Congress.