New federal guidelines that will streamline the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for veterans are likely to increase the number of PTSD patients in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program because they will make it easier for veterans to be diagnosed. Out of 14 states that allow medicinal use of marijuana number, New Mexico is the only one that includes PTSD on the list of conditions that qualify for a license. Although the Veterans Administration refuses to allow its doctors to provide veterans with signatures that allow them to get a state license, at 29 percent of the total number of licensees, PTSD patients still comprise the largest group in the state program.
Of 1952 active licenses, 564 are for PTSD. The next largest group is for chronic pain, at 319, and cancer patients total 284. The entire list with breakdown by illness is updated weekly on the department of health’s website.
The trend of PTSD patients being the largest group of license holders, despite the need for them to seek new doctors to give them the necessary recommendations, has been consistent for the past year. It’s likely that the new guidelines will increase the number of PTSD patients in the program even more. This is because they will make it easier for veterans to be diagnosed.
In a statement released about the new federal guidelines, New Mexico Rep. Harry Teague said he supported the streamlining of the process:
“The men and women who fought to protect our country deserve the services they were promised and the best care that we can provide. That includes easy access to treatment and assistance for both physical wounds and the “invisible” mental health wounds, like PTSD,” said Harry Teague, New Mexico’s only member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and founding member of the Congressional Invisible Wounds Caucus. “As our military commitments overseas continue, the physical, mental and emotional burden placed on our troops and returning veterans only continues to grow. This announcement will positively impact so many veterans suffering with the effects of PTSD and I applaud VA Secretary Shinseki on these new regulations.”
Veterans have struggled for decades to meet the requirements for PTSD benefits, arguing that finding such records is extremely time consuming and sometimes impossible. The new rule, which applies to veterans of all wars, will provide compensations to soldiers and veterans struggling with PTSD if they can simply show that they served in a war zone and in a job consistent with the events that they say caused their conditions without providing evidence of specific traumatic events. The new rule would also allow compensation for service members who had good reason to fear traumatic events, known as stressors, even if they did not actually experience them.
(It’s important to note that Teague’s statement was not made in light of the medical marijuana program, but in direct reference to the new PTSD guidelines.)