Families are alarmed by military statistics showing that 80 percent of soldiers who have been flagged with mild symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder have been sent back to Iraq and Afghanistan, many with anti-depressant pills aimed at ensuring they can still fight. Experts say repeated exposure to combat is the greatest predictor of whether a person will get post-traumatic stress disorder and how severe it will be. If they are able to see a VA doctor, hundreds of veterans with severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are being denied disability benefits because their condition is obscured by drug or alcohol abuse, which is labeled "willful misconduct," said Elinor Roberts, legal director for Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based veterans organization. The VA is allowed to give benefits to veterans dealing with alcohol abuse but not illicit drugs, and only if a clinician finds that the veteran also has post-traumatic stress disorder. VA officials say many vets with the condition have trouble making appointments to get that diagnosis in the first place. The VA is proposing a $339 million increase in mental health care spending next year, Katz said Tuesday. That would bring total annual spending on those programs to about $3.2 billion. Implementation is another question. As of late September, about $42 million of $200 million directed for initiatives to close gaps in VA mental health care in 2006 had not been spent, the GAO found. "Requesting more money is a step in the right direction," said Paul Sullivan, director of programs for Veterans for America, who was a senior analyst at the VA until he left six months ago. But he added, "The VA's problems are systemic, and the solutions must be more comprehensive than simple increases in funding." He noted the GAO findings that the VA lacked a comprehensive plan to implement the funding in last year's budget. ******** The VA is like a mule pulling a plow, very little flexibility. If a person fits into their manuals, they can get help. If a person does not fit into the system, even though his physical problems are military incurred, he is screwed. I just wish all the people who spout. "We support our troops," would walk the walk.