Book Review: Does Pop Culture’s PTSD Discussion Give You Combat Fatigue?

Martin Klug’s New Book Provides Important Insight

During a famous incident that occurred in Sicily during August 1943, General George S. Patton, in two separate incidents, slapped U.S. Army privates who were being treated for “combat fatigue” in Army evacuation hospitals. Patton, who had no medical degree, of course, did not understand the nuances of a medical condition whose status would remain ambiguous for decades. Combat fatigue is now known to be a type of post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), a broad, somewhat general medical condition that is still widely misunderstood—particularly from a legal standpoint. Martin A. Klug, a prominent Missouri trial lawyer, who has practiced for almost 30 years in the Greater St. Louis area, hopes to clear up some of the confusion with his recent book, Nailing Jello: Understanding the PTSD Claim [2016–09–05; available here on Amazon].

PTSD is Somewhat Malleable

Klug’s title, Nailing Jello, accurately describes the difficulty that members of our society—even so-called medical experts—have with PTSD. It wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association (“APA”) actually acknowedged its medical existence as a relatively common condition that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

Klug argues that as PTSD reached “its 30s, it grew in girth and became enamored with its own self-importance.” PTSD is now among the leading claims for disability benefits filed by veterans. It outranks many other work injuries and occupational diseases. Klug posits that somewhat like autism, PTSD has become a national epidemic. Indeed, according to studies by the APA, roughly four percent of Americans suffer from the condition in any given year and almost one in ten of us will develop PTSD at some point in our life. Klug, whose legal practice is almost exclusively for employers, acknowledges that many PTSD claims are quite legitimate, but many others are not. He allows that what we’ve seen in recent years within the legal world is not so much a medical epidemic, but rather one involving problematic claims.

We Don’t Know as Much as We Think

According to Klug, popular culture creates and reinforces many false myths about PTSD symptoms, causes and recovery. Klug allows that what people “think they know about PTSD is often wrong.” Accordingly, litigation themes in claims and litigated cases often spring from PTSD myths generated in popular culture. Klug argues that it is one thing to understand PTSD as a medical disorder. In order to fully understand PTSD as a claim, however, one must also understand PTSD as a cultural myth.

Klug’s book strikes a difficult balance. It is worthwhile as a layperson’s aid, since it examines the early history of PTSD and common and uncommon ways to treat it. It dispells a number of urban legends regarding the condition and gives the layperson important insights into claims management and litigation. It’s a solid resource for claims reps and adjusters, in that it delves into potential strategies to manage the risk of PTSD claims. Several chapters address claim valuation. It’s also a legal resource. Klug offers insight into the role of forensic tools in PTSD claims and he includes a discussion of some common themes of PTSD claims in specific contexts such as employment discrimination, criminal cases, and police shootings.

Worthwhile Read

Klug’s sense of humor surfaces at times. When discussing the interminable delays and hazards of court battles, he quips, “People who expect quick results from litigation confuse a court house with an ATM.” Near the end of his discussion, Klug adds that the entire legal process can be quite frustrating for claimant and employer alike: “This is the risk of playing with jello and nails: sometimes a thumb gets wacked with a hammer.”

I applaud Klug and his effort in Nailing Jello. The topic is important, current, and often discussed in all sorts of gatherings. As Klug argues, all too often, the PTSD discussion, particularly by non-medical folks, is more myth than truth. Klug certainly provides helpful insights from his perspective as a legal soldier on the front lines of the PTSD battleground.

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2 Responses to Book Review: Does Pop Culture’s PTSD Discussion Give You Combat Fatigue?

  1. Kristi Thompson says:

    I was very disappointed to read this piece – especially from someone respected in the workers’ compensation community. This book, as well as this book review, make light of PTSD sufferers. The author (Mr. Klug) is not a physician and makes bold comments that dismiss PTSD patients. For example, and I’m quoting from the Amazon “free sample”, Mr. Klug states: “[t]his is how psychiatry is different than chemistry. Chemists cannot suddenly decide: [O]h it’s Tuesday, let’s reorganize the Periodic Table of Elements alphabetically.” If anything, more support should be given to PTSD sufferers so we can have more answers – not more reasons to dismiss patients. I believe if you are trying to answer the question of whether or not someone has PTSD, you should turn to a psychiatrist.

    • I’m certainly sorry that you feel I’m making light of PTSD sufferers. It wasn’t my intention to do so. Two members of my extended family have suffered the debilitating effects of stress-related incidents. Klug, whom I clearly identify as a long-time employer’s attorney, makes the point that (from his perspective and study) sufferers should turn to psychiatrists; 4/5ths are treated by internists, some of whom have no specialized training in dealing with the condition. I don’t agree with everything Klug has said in his book, just as I also don’t agree with you that I take PTSD victims lightly. That said, if I was being insensitive, I apologize.

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