Local Purple Heart recipient commends new federal mental health - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Local Purple Heart recipient commends new federal mental health care rules

Terrytown, La.- Retired Sgt. Maj. Robert Lance is a 30-year Marine Corp Veteran, a purple heart recipient and a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I still, every time I hear a helicopter, guess where my mind goes? It goes back to when I first rode in them helicopters," said Lance.

The bullet Lance still carries in his back weighs nothing compared to the memories of fighting in Korea and Vietnam.

"I lost, there's 41 names on that war memorial in Washington, D.C. of my men... 41," said Lance.

He feels survivors guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder took hold of his mind.

"It was taking a toll on my family. I tell you, when I look back on it, I don't know how they stood me, I don't know how they put up with my actions," said Lance.

"He was screaming at everybody, swearing at everybody, ready to get out and have road rage only to go from point A to point B," said his wife Carol Lance, who is also the chairman of the local Mental Health Consumer Council.

The pressure of reentering civilian life builds up enough to break Lance down.

"I feel bad, and survivor's guilt is terrible, but I think I've conquered that now. I think I'm getting by that," said Lance.

He's getting by, he says, with mental health care.

"I doubt if we'd still be married. I really do. I doubt we'd still be married if I hadn't started the PTSD program," said Lance.

"All of a sudden his world changed," said Carol Lance.

Carol knows, in the most tragic of ways, how lucky Robert is to have continuous mental health care access through the VA; because, another family member never had that chance.

"He was anxiously seeking help, and they had received some help but the time limit had expired, and he took his life at the age of 21," said Carol Lance.

The new federal rules require individual and small group insurance plans to treat mental health the same way physical illness coverage is treated.

Lance says, everyone should have the access to the kind of care he has.

He turns to his doctor and his military keepsakes when he's feeling low, but he says there's one thing that has the power to truly save him: his wife.

"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here. I tell you if it wasn't for her, I'd be a statistic. I would, I really think so. I think I would have been," said Lance.

He commends the new federal rules that he says are starting to bring mental health care for civilians up to the quality of care he receives at the VA Hospital.

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