February 28, 2016
Why is it that some people only pay attention to things when it is about them? When they need something, they expect it to be there yet never once consider how many people fought for it, worked for it and paid attention all along so that no one would have to experience needing something that wasn't there ever again.
There is no problem in this country our veterans go through that is new. And that is the part that pisses me off everyday.
There was a Town Hall in Cincinnati about troubles with the Department of Veterans Affairs hosted by Concerned Veterans For America.
This is the headline they picked "Veteran Town Hall: "The VA Sucks... Period!!"
Jody Merrill is a mother of a veteran and shared her story.My heart breaks for her but it has been broken for over 30 years for all the other Moms having to bury their adult children after suicide because they watched the suffering instead of rejoicing with the healing.
“I'm a mother of a 29-year-old marine who took his life four years ago because the VA can't get it right,” said Merrill.
Stories like these filled this room at the Millennium Hotel, but no one was more emotional and angry than Merrill.
"I walked in there and said my son is in trouble."
Her son Sergeant Curtis Fike suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Merrill says her son could have been saved, and she did everything she could to help.
"As a family member you can get any information, You can't give them any information,” said Merrill. “I knew he was suffering. I saw what he was going through."
The truth is, an adult child still has rights of privacy. Unless they have given explicit permission for the VA doctors to talk to their parent, they can't. They cannot talk to a spouse either.
We went through all that in the 90's. I went with my husband to his appointments most of the time and he gave permission to his doctors to talk to me.
It took six years for his claim to be approved, so all the talk about backlogs of claims is not new either. As a matter of fact, none of this is. We had private health insurance but as soon as the VA doctor diagnosed PTSD connected to Vietnam, our insurance company would no longer cover his mental health needs. They said it was the government's responsibility.
With the VA denying his claim over and over again, they billed us for his care because until a claim is approved, it is considered "non-service connected."
They took our tax refund every year until it was finally approved and paid back most of the money but in all those years, it was torture for us. Imagine knowing suffering is connected to service and then having to pay for it with money you just don't have.
They kept telling us that once his claim was approved, we'd be ok financially but that extra stress caused my husband to give up but I worked with his doctors to help him get through all of it and thank God, he's still here and we've been married for over 30 years.
His generation fought for everything on PTSD and TBI when no one cared. His generation suffered the same wounds when no one but their families cared.
Generations before his came home with the same wounds but they suffered in silence too ashamed of what combat did to them to ask the government to do for them.
It is up to us to learn what is available to help us as family members to help our veterans and stop taking the easy way out. We should never settle for suffering because something is the way it is nor should we get what we need and then forget about all the others coming afterwards anymore than we should forget those who came before us.
We should never settle for what is going on in this country right now with all the charities screaming on social media for attention and money when we never bother to ask what they are doing with the money or why they even deserve a dime. Especially when you factor in that the outcomes have not improved and no one is accountable for anything including Congress.
Congress? Yes, congress with the jurisdiction over the VA while they never manage to fix anything that has gone wrong anymore than they publicize what has been done right. They control the budget and write all the rules. For Heaven's sake it is almost as if they never heard of C-SPAN covering all the hearings they've had over the last 4 decades on PTSD and TBI and suicides.
This is the link to our politicians holding hearings on all of this happening to our veterans in the House and this one is for the Senate hearings on the VA.
Oh, by the way, they also have jurisdiction over the DOD, yet they washed their hands on all the suicides in the military going up after they spent billions of dollars on over 900 suicide prevention programs at the same time the number of enlisted personnel went down.
They didn't plan on any of the OIF or OEF veterans coming home wounded so they didn't properly get the VA ready. If you think any of this is new then Google VA Secretary Jim Nicholson to discover all the problems reported before he resigned in 2007. Like this one,
"Secretary Nicholson's resignation should be welcome news for all veterans," Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a statement, adding that VA "has been woefully unprepared for the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans."
The trouble is there are resources available and have been in place for decades. It isn't just about OEF and OIF veterans coming home and needing help but about all generations with the same battle borne wounds waiting for the help other generations fought to not just establish but have fought to fix.
In one way or another, the VA has been part of my life all my life. My Dad was 100% and so is my husband.
None of this is new but too many just didn't bother paying attention until it became "their problem" and then they expected everything to just be magically ready for them. When it wasn't, then they paid attention to what all the other veterans and families were already going through, yet they never noticed them waiting even longer.
Why should they care before they needed the VA? Simple. We're supposed to be a grateful nation yet we never pay attention to those we're supposed to be grateful for.
We're constantly reminded of the number of veterans committing suicide with the number "22" but no one is reminding anyone that number is not the truth. It is a big lie perpetuated to fund over 400,000 charities claiming to be raising awareness about something they couldn't even be bothered with to read the whole VA Suicide Data Report which urged caution since it was limited date from 21 states.
What is even more flabbergasting is the number of veterans committing suicide has gone up because raising awareness on an easy number to remember, forgot to also mention how these veterans could heal instead of commit suicide.
But hey, why should any of this matter to all the people getting the attention of the press when reporters seem to have lost their ability to actually report facts?
Nothing will change until everyone cares about what is happening to others and step up before it happens to them.
VA Caregivers Support Group
There is also Peer Support with this piece of information.
Are there resources specific to Veterans and their families?
If you are a Veteran, or are a caregiver or family member of a Veteran, there are resources to help you deal with specific concerns:
If you feel that you or your Veteran is in crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press "1." You can also use the online chat, email, or texting service of the Veterans Crisis Line for immediate needs.If you are a Veteran who wants to share your knowledge and experience with other Veterans dealing with mental health conditions, learn about VA's Peer Specialist and Peer Support Apprentice positions.
Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk to another combat Veteran, or visit the Vet Center homepage to ask about local support groups.
The VA Caregiver Support Line provides services and support to family members who are taking care of a Veteran. Call 1-855-260-3274 or visit VA Caregiver Support.
Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) Outreach Center provides 24/7 information on psychological health and traumatic brain injury. Consultants can help you locate community resources by phone (1-866-966-1020) or email.
For children with parents who have deployed, the Department of Defense created MilitaryKidsConnect (MKC)Link will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site., an online resource for kids to find information and support.
We also have a list of resources on our Help Your Veteran Get Needed Care (en Español).