President Donald Trump has linked the recent mass shooting in California with the need to treat combat veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress.
Ex-Marine Ian David Long has reportedly been identified as the gunman who is responsible for the deaths of 12 people in Thousand Oaks California, including Marine veteran Dan Manrique and Navy veteran Telemachus Orfanos. (Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has effectively excommunicated Long from the Corps by publicly referring to him as an “ex-Marine.”)
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump called Long a “very, very mentally ill person,” who had mental health issues stemming from his combat deployment to Afghanistan, underscoring the need to provide funding to treat veterans in need.
“He was a Marine; he was in the war,” Trump said. “He served time. He saw some pretty bad things. A lot of people say he had the PTSD. And that's a tough deal. As you know, I've given tremendous funding to the vets for the PTSD and for general health for PTSD. It's a big problem.
“People come back. That's why it's a horrible thing. They come back, and they're never the same.”
Some veterans advocates took issue with Trump's remarks. Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that Trump’s remarks portray veterans dealing with mental health issues in a false light.
“Comments like this one from our commander in chief are extremely unhelpful,” Reickhoff told Task & Purpose on Friday. “They perpetuate a false and damaging narrative that veterans are broken and dangerous. Most people who suffer from PTSD, when able to access effective treatment, are able to live healthy, happy, meaningful lives.”
“Despite the challenges, and despite the still severely limited resources, post-9/11 veterans soaring as a population thanks to our core resilience and commitment of men and women who self-select to service.”
IAVA has its own rapid response referral program to connect veterans with the resources they need, Reickhoff said.
“When veterans with mental health injuries do hurt someone, it's most likely themselves, not someone else,” he told Task & Purpose. “We lose 20 veterans and service members to suicide every single day. Which again highlights the critical importance of seamless access to quality and effective care, whether through the Department of Veterans Affairs or elsewhere.”
White House spokespeople did not respond to a request from Task & Purpose to clarify the president’s remarks.