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Memorial Day: Celeste bill aids Ohioans fighting PTSD

What do we mean when we say soldiers deserve a hero’s welcome? Many troops wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have traumatic brain injuries, yet the number of uninsured veterans increased by 290,000 between 2000 and 2004.

This weekend, Americans will remember our loved ones who have been lost -- some in war, some through illness, some through injury. Some have been lost because they cannot get the help they need to overcome the trauma in their lives.

State Rep. Ted Celeste was shocked to learn that insurers in Ohio can deny coverage to men, women and children needing therapy to recover from war, sexual abuse, physical abuse or mass violence. He responded by sponsoring House Bill 249. It would require private insurers to extend mental health coverage to veterans and all others suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mental health experts estimate that about 16 percent of Ohio's returning veterans are affected by PTSD, and Ted Celeste fears that percentage will rise as troops are deployed multiple times. (The famous Lima Company, which served our country so well and tragically, sent some of its members back to Iraq this week.)

The Veterans Administration admits its shortage of therapists. In fact, the Washington Post on May 15, 2008, reported, "A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition."

And VA coverage ends after two years, long before symptoms develop in many cases.

Ted Celete's proposal, which has bi-partisan support, is in committee. He testified in the House, and the companion bill in the Senate had a hearing recently.

This Memorial Day, won't you join Ted in bringing attention to the veterans and all other Ohioans who are denied mental health coverage? Walk with him in the Grandview Heights Memorial Day Parade or contact him to take other action in support.



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