Veterans protest the gutting of West L.A. PTSD therapy groups
December 29, 2018
“I’m 69 years old and I lost a whole lot of life. When they announced we were disbanding I thought, why in the world is the government who vowed to take care of us cutting us off at the knees?” Arnold Hudson
Dov Simens said he was “playing Rambo” in a homeless camp on Wilshire Boulevard 34 years ago when he stumbled on a therapy group for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Veterans Steven Goldstein, from left, Peter Erdos and Dov Simens sit outside building 256 at the West Los Angeles Healthcare Center. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)Through weekly sessions on the West Los Angeles veterans campus, Simens, 75, a member of the military’s secretive Phoenix interrogation and assassination program in Vietnam, was able to marry, have children and buy a house in Sherman Oaks, he said.
Buoyed by his success, he took a break. But anger and depression drove him back to the “group of my peers.”
“I have PTSD and I know that there is no cure,” Simens said. “There is no pill or opioid that will make what I did disappear.”
Now he and other veterans say the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has soured on long-term therapy and started dismantling the West L.A. PTSD program, which has helped thousands of former service members heal the invisible wounds of war.
Before August, about 20 groups, each with five to 30 members, had been meeting on the medical campus for a total of 40 hours a week of therapy, said Leslie Martin, the former PTSD therapy program director. The combat veterans group shut down this fall after refusing the VA’s order to move to cramped quarters with no privacy, she added.
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