A veteran walks into his local watering hole and presents a valid Georgia driver's license to the waiting bartender who conducts a careful inspection of the card.
Before the patron can pocket his identification something catches the bartender's eye: A notation showing this man has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Under Georgia Senate Bill 419, which passed the state House and Senate with overwhelming approval during this year's legislative session, veterans and active duty service members suffering from PTSD can request a designation on their driver's licenses reflecting the diagnosis.
The legislation, which awaits Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature, could make Georgia the first state with a driver's license that denotes a specific health problem, other than poor eyesight, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop as a result of exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor such as military combat or violent personal assault.
In order to receive a PTSD license designation, an applicant must obtain a sworn statement from a physician or psychologist licensed to practice in Georgia verifying such a diagnosis. The bill also requires a waiver of liability for the release of the driver's medical information.
Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for the governor's office, said Perdue had not reviewed the bill as of May 18, however it was on his calendar to be reviewed soon. The bill could become law by July 1 if the governor signs it.
State Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus), one of the bill's co-sponsors, said the measure is intended to protect both law enforcement officers and veterans from potentially volatile situations. A Vietnam veteran, Harbison said he sees no downside to the legislation, but several veterans organizations are already voicing their concerns over what they believe will be the unintended consequences for service members past, present and future if such a measure were to become law.
"Whenever something comes down the pike that would involve our veterans I'm definitely going to take a look at it and make sure it would definitely not be something that would be harmful," Harbison said. "It is a good bill. It is designed to help our veterans who feel they may need this particular tool in order to make sure they're not put in harm's way."
Marvin Myers, president of the Georgia Veterans Alliance called the bill "deplorable" and said his organization stands against it because it could put veterans at risk for discrimination.
Myers argued that service members are more susceptible to the power of suggestion because they are taught from the moment they enter basic training to unquestionably follow orders. His fear is that some veterans would sign up for the designation without thinking about the possible long-term effects of that decision.
"In all probability you can't buy a gun anymore the rest of your life," Myers said. "In all probability you walk into a bar they're going to say, 'Uh, Susie, I think you need to go somewhere else to have your beer. Not here.'"
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