Ex-military are able to obtain £3,000 per month in benefits, depending upon the severity of their symptoms. However, a number of psychologists have began raising concerns as to how many veterans are fabricating or exaggerating their post-war symptoms, in order to receive PTSD benefits.
Robert Moering, a former marine himself and now a psychologist conducting disability examinations, gave the example of one of his patients, aged 49. The man claimed he suffered from paranoia in crowds, nightmares, and unrelenting flashbacks, all of which Moering described as textbook symptoms. He also said that he needed a handgun to feel secure and was afraid he would shoot somebody.
However Moering suspected him of exaggerating because hardly anyone with PTSD has so many symptoms so much of the time, and those suffering from nightmares and concentration problems usually find it subsides after a few weeks. The man also wanted an increase in benefits when he was already receiving $1600. Moering made him take three tests, designed to detect dishonest patients by looking at highly unlikely response patterns. The results indicated he was not telling the truth, however Moering could not be certain whether everything he said was fabricated, or merely stretched.
Christopher Frueh, who spent 15 years treating PTSD in the VA system, described veteran benefit fraud as an “open secret”. For example, there are numerous online forums where soldiers give advice on how to act during examinations. One man wrote: “dress poorly and do not shower… refuse to sit with your back to the door.. constantly scan the room.” Others said if the examiner asked about homicidal thoughts, to say something like: “doesn’t everyone, I mean didn’t you ever think about killing someone?” Veterans were also told to fail memory and other cognitive tests.
It is believed these forums have been constructed as an attempt to give back soldiers what they deserve after serving their country. However, exaggeration can also be a sign of distress itself. Senior VA mental health officials argue that the extent of malingering is impossible to know. After all, someone may suffer tremendously from an experience that would not have affected another had it happened to them.
The other problem is the fact these men have served in the army. It is governmental policy to give veterans the benefit of the doubt, and psychologists have to be careful if they do expect foul play. An example of this is Gail Poyner. She worked as a psychologist but was dismissed in 2010 after insisting on giving veterans tests to determine whether or not they were exaggerating. She stated: “It’s political… It’s not prudent to suggest people who have served our country are not being honest.”