Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Veterans Die Facing Mountains of Red Tape For a Reason

Chaplain Kathie

While the following is a very good article, I find it stunning that what was left out is the biggest part of the reason they are waiting longer. Money. If you read news reports, you only get part of what has been going on. You have to talk to the VA employees to get to the bottom of what they see everyday. First, the situation of not being able to replace claims processors when older workers retire or leave. Yes, there is a hiring freeze even with the VA.

At a Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary conference in Lake Mary last week, the situation was presented loud and clear by one of the speakers. It takes two years to train a claims agent, so they are already behind on having people able to process claims. When you take into account that there were not enough new hires to handle the flood of veterans entering because of Agent Orange and PTSD rules being changed, it made a bad situation turn into a crisis.

Then there is the issue of the Suicide Prevention Hotline getting so many calls but no one seems to be asking why there are more veterans in crisis while the government has been spending so much money on PTSD. Why do they ever have to find it so impossible to survive combat that suicide is even a thought in their mind? We've been at this since the 70's and should have been a lot closer to making sure they are getting appropriate care instead of better than nothing.

Medications are not the answer but the DOD and the VA seem to approach "treatment" with a bottle of pills. Therapy needs to be developed for the individual. Some do well in group therapy while others need one to one. When they start talking about what's going on inside of them, what they feel and think, then they start to heal. Medications can take "feeling" away from them, basically numbing them. Their help cannot end with pills.

Then there are other programs going on from sports, to horses and dogs. There is a growing list of programs available for a reason. There is not a one-size-fits-all for everyone. The bottom of the list that should be at the top is getting the families involved in the care of our veterans. Too many family members have little or no knowledge of what PTSD is, what they can do to help or what help is available for them in the form of support.

It is not that the VA is broken but the media does not seem interested in what is the reason for all of this still happening after so much time and money has gone into helping veterans heal.

Veterans Die Facing Mountains of Red Tape
By Lena Groeger
June 29, 2011

When Clay Hunt returned home to Texas after two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the struggle didn’t end. Tormented by flashbacks and post-traumatic stress, he sought medical help from the Department of Veteran Affairs – but faced a pile of paperwork. While waiting for help, he turned his energy towards helping his fellow veterans, raising money for the wounded and appearing in public service announcements for veterans struggling, like him, with the psychological trauma of war.

Hunt took his own life on March 31, 2011. His disability checks arrived five weeks later.

Tragically, Clay’s story is not unique. Every day, 18 veterans of the nation’s armed forces become casualties by their own hands. One thousand more attempt to take their own lives every month. The numbers are as grim for active duty and reserve soldiers: The Army just reported 27 suspected suicides for the month of May, higher than any other month this year.

“Those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg,” Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tells Danger Room. “This is a problem that’s clearly out of control.”

As Obama promises a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is coming to a close, the number of soldiers returning home is only rising. But after fighting for their country, these veterans are forced to fight a health care system that is not sufficiently able to help them. Last month the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals berated the Department of Veteran Affairs for delays in treating veterans who have the combat-related mental injuries that put them at an increased risk of suicide.

“The VA’s unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough; no more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations,” the judges wrote in the majority ruling.

read more here
Veterans Die Facing Mountains of Red Tape