by Byron B. Warnken

My grandfather was a fighter pilot in WWII.  His plane was shot down over Germany.  He was a prisoner of war for 19 months.  His wife, my grandmother, was initially told by the Red Cross that he was missing in action.  Then they told her he was dead.  Then, months later, they came back to her home in Brooklyn and told her that he’s alive, in a POW camp.  He was liberated when we won the war.  He came home.  A year later, my Mom was born.

He spent a career in service.  First with the Army Air Corps, then the Air Force, then the Pentagon and CIA.  He was the definition of the silent generation.  He didn’t share his experiences.

Then, around the age of 80, he cracked.  Some days he believes he’s back in the POW camp.  Some days he carries the weight of our Country’s dark secrets.  He hasn’t been the same since.

What is my point?

PTSD is no joke.  It gets in your head and can impact your life in a significant way.  Recurring thoughts.  Flashbacks.  Nightmares.  Insomnia.  Irritability.  Anxiety attacks.  Law enforcement officers experience potential PTSD far beyond what is faced by the average citizen.  And potential can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Even with special training, officers may find themselves with signs of PTSD after being involved in a shooting, losing a fellow officer, responding to a motor vehicle fatality, or any number of events which are everyday elements of their profession.  PTSD can affect even the most experienced officers, often causing difficulty in both their personal and professional lives.

Helping with PTSD Claims

Dan Udoff handles most of our office’s PTSD claims.  During his twenty-plus year career representing injured workers, Dan has had many public safety officers PTSD claims.  Too often, when people are struggling with this issue, they are either unaware of what is happening to them or are reluctant to seek guidance.  It is important to remember that PTSD is not a sign of weakness or instability.  Rather, it can be a natural reaction to exposure of the exceptional circumstances faced by officers each and every day.  The good news is that help is available.  Most departments have counselors available to their officers.  Additionally, workers’ compensation benefits may also provide valuable resources for those experiencing PTSD symptoms which are causally related to their employment.  These benefits can include reimbursement of lost wages, the right to treat with a therapist of choice, and the potential of receiving a monetary award.

If you are suffering from what might be PTSD, call Dan to discuss before it gets irreversible.  You shouldn’t have to burn your sick leave or personal time if unable to work.  You also have the right to be assessed and treated by someone outside of your department, and can choose a therapist who has experience dealing with issues unique to law enforcement.  Don’t wait.  Don’t let the symptoms of PTSD interfere with your job functions and/or personal relationships.

You handle the real deal out there everyday.  Sometimes, it’s important to take a step back and care for yourself so that you will be able to continue doing the work society needs you to do.