One Veteran’s Story

What you are about to read is true. I know the people involved, and I see the pain. I see the frustration, and the toll taken on the marriage, the children, and other relationships.

I have changed names and some details in order to protect the privacy of the people involved. They live in Anywhere, USA. This story, sadly, is repeated thousands of times across the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave, and place of very little refuge for our warriors.

Suicide among veterans is rising. Every day, 22 of our soldiers ,who have returned to a homeland in which they don’t feel at home, take their own lives. They are in despair. There is so little help from the government they fought to protect.

Yes, we have Veteran’s Hospitals, and benefits, and therapy groups. The problem is that the need far surpasses the help available.

Brandon was in Afghanistan about ten years ago. He loved being a soldier, and he was good at it. He loved the camaraderie, and he loved the order of the military. He’d grown up in a home filled with alcoholism, fighting, verbal and physical violence. The army, for him, was his first taste of  feeling as if he actually belonged somewhere.

He and the other soldiers  spent a lot of time guarding the small village near the army base. They got to know the little kids, who, once they learned that the Americans weren’t there to hurt them, would come out every day and ask for chocolate, and to just hang out with the soldiers.

One day, Brandon was ordered to train the gun on the top of his tank onto a busload of women and children. There had been a report that someone on the bus may have a bomb, and Brandon’s superior officer wanted him to be ready to obliterate the bus. At first, Brandon refused.  He knew most of the kids, knew some of the mothers. He really had no choice unless he was willing to face a court martial, and as it turned out, there was no bomb. But that experience  hurt his soul.

Another time, he watched enviously while a dozen of his buddies boarded a chopper to go on some much-needed R and R. An hour or so later, the base was notified that the helicopter had gone down in a sand storm, all lives lost.

And still another time, he had ordered one of his best buddies to take a certain position  during a sweep of the village, and his buddy got blown apart right in front of him.

He himself was hit by an IED. His wounds weren’t life-threatening, but he did sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that went undiagnosed until ten years later. He has horrible migraines now, along with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I also believe there is a strong possibility he has Bipolar Disorder, and I advised him to see a psychiatrist to be evaluated for that.

The rest of the story is one of complete frustration. He has searched for help in the Vet’s Administration, at two different Vet’s hospitals in the area, and even tried an out-of-state facility that works specifically with vets who have PTSD. They wouldn’t take him because of the TBI and because he hasn’t tried to commit suicide within 48 hours of his contact with them.

The Veteran’s hospitals have put him off repeatedly.  They’ve referred him to out-patient psychiatrists who (1) are not taking new patients (2)retired three months ago  (3) will see him only once for a quick evaluation and medication suggestions but will not prescribe. They even set him up with (they said) a psychiatrist who would Skype with him from all the way across the country but who was actually a psychologist and could not prescribe for him. He has to get any scripts from the Vet’s hospital, not an independent psychiatrist. But the Vet’s hospital won’t fill a script for him because they haven’t seen him for evaluation.

Do you see what is happening here?

This man is just one of thousands who cannot get the help he needs within the Veteran’s Administration. He will get a bed in a VA hospital only if he attempts suicide. Otherwise, he’s been told, “Well, Mr. X, because you didn’t follow our recommendations, you’re now being bumped to the bottom of the list.  We’ll call you when we can see you.”

It doesn’t matter that he DID try to follow protocol.  It doesn’t matter that everything he tried was a brick wall.

Thanks in part to an administration that is strongly anti-military, huge hospitals like Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. have been shut down for lack of funds. That one just boggles my mind.  I was there with my veteran husband several years ago while he got fitted for hearing aids, and the place was incredibly busy. Some of the patients there were transferred to other facilities; some were just sent home and told to follow up with private doctors. That’s not always a simple process, either. A quick search told me that 83% of doctors have at least considered leaving the profession because of Obamacare. I couldn’t find a supportable statistic as to how many have actually quit or taken early retirement.

The fact is, when the government takes over anything, there is incredible bureaucracy that results in delays, rising costs, lost records, rules that no one knows about and many don’t understand. Efficiency decreases and the quality of care depends on financing, and we all know how broke the government is.

Well, Brandon and his family are considering a move to a less-populated place near a Veteran’s hospital where he hopes he can get better help.  They’re doing the homework right now to see if this is a good idea or just another effort in futility. In the meantime, Brandon can’t work because of his debilitating headaches. He gets some disability pay. His wife does what she can to bring in some income, but she also has three children and an angry husband to deal with.

This is just one story. I know that it is representative of thousands all across this country.

We need to do better.  We need to restore funding to provide quality help for our soldiers.We need to quit making it totally unappealing for medical people to stay in their profession.

We need to do better.

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3 thoughts on “One Veteran’s Story

  1. Linda, may I copy this and send it to my Senator? One of my senators is on the mission to help our vets, particularly is compassionate about those who are in the suicidal loop and for their families. Sen. Donnelley is a democrat and can’t seem to gain the ear of our President.
    This crush of veterans is bad. You are correct, we need to do better, but until we have an administration who truly cares, it won’t happen.

      1. thank you for permission. I’ll get it done next week even though Congress will be in recess. Sen. Donnelley is not running for re election this year. He is in the next election in the “off” year.

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