Veterans Affairs Psychologist Discuss Services
Lee Edwards | 12/5/2014, 1:06 p.m.
The Chicago Citizen Newspaper recently spoke with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Richard Doss, about the service he provides U.S. military veterans facing post-traumatic stress and sexual assault issues, at the Chicago Heights Veteran Center (CHVC), 1010 Dixie Highway, Chicago Heights, Ill.
The CHVC employs not only clinical psychologists but also clinical professional counselors, licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical workers, etc. that all work in concert with DVA, its parent agency.
Before serving U.S. military veterans at the CHVC, Dr. Doss served as a former Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Program Manager for the U. S. Army Reserve and is certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).
Chicago Citizen Newspaper: On an annual basis, how many veterans do you assist and from what eras in United States military combat?
Dr. Richard Doss: We go back as far as veterans are still alive so World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, etc. We service our combat veterans. There are approximately 350 veterans that are currently enrolled in the Chicago Heights Vet Center but we see far more than that. There’s probably in excess of 1,000 veterans that walk through our doors annually. They’re either going to be combat veterans or victims of military sexual assault.
Chicago Citizen Newspaper: Why is it important for military veterans to speak with a psychologist? Can’t veterans receive the same results from talking to their family members, faith-based leaders or friends?
Dr. Richard Doss: The idea is that speaking to a professional is important because that person is going to be trained and have some expertise in dealing with somebody that has a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder or sexual trauma. Family and friends may mean well and they may offer helpful [tips] but they will have not been trained in how to diagnosis and treat various disorders.
Chicago Citizen Newspaper: Why is it more prevalent for women to be sexually assaulted in the U.S. military?
Dr. Richard Doss: It is more commonly known that women are victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual trauma but one percent of men in the military are sexually assaulted as well and have a history of military sexual trauma. If you look at it statistically, more men as an aggregate have been assaulted than women just because of the sheer numbers. The military historically has been comprised of men, so one percent of a very large number basically makes it such that more men have been assaulted than women. Because of how our culture is, victims of sexual assault don’t come forward often times because of the adverse effects of coming forward but in particular men don’t come forward because of the ramifications that come with being sexually assaulted.
Chicago Citizen Newspaper: Why can’t more victims come forward?
Dr. Richard Doss: In general, the military does not want to look bad so it doesn’t want to have any blemishes and the fact is that people are sexually assaulted within the ranks of the military. Often times, historically, commanders have tried to discourage people from going forward with litigation. Also, the people who have come forward and the perpetrators that have been identified, of those, a very small number of those, are actually prosecuted. It’s a costly endeavor when we talk about coming forward to press charges on somebody for sexual assault.
Chicago Citizen Newspaper: Post-traumatic stress has been stigmatized as a disorder, your thoughts?
Dr. Richard Doss: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis; it’s a disorder that gives it a language to talk about diagnosing and treating people who have had trauma. Clinically, that’s what we refer to it as.
Chicago Citizen Newspaper: What should the first step be for family, friends and loved ones of veterans in need of assistance?
Dr. Richard Doss: The best step is to educate them about whatever experiences that service member has had. Whether it’s PTSD or military sexual assault, it starts with education. Then, encouraging that veteran to seek services for themselves and then following that up with possibly coming in for family therapy so the family as a whole can begin to understand the process and understand the challenges that come along with having those traumatic experiences.
For more information about the Chicago Heights Veteran Center call (708) 754-8885.