Some Georgians could soon be carrying a unique driver’s license – one that says they have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lawmakers recently passed legislation that would allow current and former military to request the PTSD designation on their driver’s licenses.
The legislation, which has to be signed by the governor to become law, would likely make Georgia the first state with a driver’s license that denotes a specific health problem, other than poor eyesight.
Some veterans and law enforcement officials say they can’t image that many servicemen and servicewomen will want their PTSD diagnosis put on display when they present their driver’s licenses to cash a check, buy alcohol, board an airplane or face a traffic cop.
“Why would I want to put out there on my license – hey, I’m a nut job,” said Marvin Myers, president of the Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance Inc.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, like military combat, natural disaster or a physical or sexual assault.
Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Decatur), the bill’s sponsor, said he sees the potential benefits and no downside.
“It is totally voluntary,” he said.
Ramsey said he had just finished speaking to a veteran’s group when he was approached by a former serviceman, who has PTSD and was worried that he might have a bad encounter with law enforcement.
“He said, ‘God forbid anybody put handcuffs on me. I’d go berserk’,” the senator said.
The veteran suggested a PTSD notation on driver’s licenses could help, Ramsey said.
“This is how it is supposed to work -- an ordinary citizen came up and said, ‘This is what I need’,” he said.
Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle), an Army veteran who co-sponsored the bill, said a safer encounter could be the result.
“The police officer would know that a sudden move [by the motorist] wasn’t necessarily an offensive move,” Douglas said.
Ramsey's bill sailed through the General Assembly, despite attempts by some lawmakers to expand it to include other medical conditions. Feedback, was “nothing but positive,” Ramsey said.
Lea R. Flowers, an assistant professor in Georgia State University’s Department of Counseling & Psychological Services, said Ramsey’s bill has some positives in that it may raise awareness of PTSD and calls for strictly voluntary participation.
“But it could be a slippery slope,” she said. “Will we offer that for bipolar? Schizophrenia?”
The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police didn’t take a stand on Ramsey’s bill as it moved through the Legislature, said Frank Rotondo, the organization’s executive director.
“It probably benefits for law enforcement to know that a person believes that, under stress, they can melt down,” he said.
The bill, which could become law July 1, would require a sworn statement from an MD or psychologist, verifying the service member’s diagnosis of PTSD. It also requires a waiver of liability for the release of the driver’s medical information.
The state Department of Drivers Services has yet to decide how the PTSD diagnosis would be displayed on the driver’s license, spokeswoman Susan Sports said.
The department currently offers an identification card for the disabled that has a wheelchair symbol and can include the cardholder’s medical information, Sports said.
“This ID is primarily used by the individuals to secure priority seating on buses, et cetera,” she said. “The ID is not for driving.”
Perhaps I am being cynical, but how many of our vets are going to voluntarily stick this on their licenses? Why is PTSD suddenly singled out? What if this goes to a bill passed that mandates all PTSD vets must have this on there. You would not be able to go buy a gun, alcohol or anything without someone freaking out and comparing you to the Ft. Hood shooter, or Ted Kaczynski. The downhill portion of this is, is the Vet who is pushing this really that much in trouble with the law that he is requiring special treatment because of his PTSD? Why don't police officers get trained in mental health problems because I am sure they pick up people with Bi-polar, schizophrenia, and others? Hell, a woman with severe postpartum depression can be just as dangerous as we all have learned from the past. What are your thoughts on this? I know I am probably being biased because I write about PTSD/TBI and married to a Vet. However, we have endured enough of the "labeling" on our Veterans let alone stick it on your driver's licenses.
I am hoping that this will get done by one or two Vets, then voluntarily go away! I don't believe the Vietnam Veteran's Associations, and all the Vets across the United States will ever let this get to the point of being mandatory. Oh and to my dear friend Oz, have no shame of this because you live there! Silly Woman, not your fault!
Label My Vet Not,
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