I spoke to a veteran at Fan Fest on 08.11.22 in Charlotte NC. A retired army guy of 25 years. I noticed his son had a shirt on that said ,”22 Veterans a day”- Suggesting that 22 veterans a day die of suicide.
That is an alarming statistic! A soldier to fight for our freedom, and resources, saving countless lives; only to be taken out by an untreated mental health disorder. It is unacceptable. This is not the first veteran I have asked that question to that answered with the same defeated, disappointed tone.
I asked the gentleman what he believed would be a simple solution he would provide in order
to help reduce that statistic. He said, access to appropriate healthcare, and someone to talk to regarding his struggles. This being a recurring theme when I speak to veterans of all backgrounds. The frustrations in their healthcare system seems to be overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.
But why is that? What is the issue with allowing Veterans access to all medical facilities? If the DOD is paying the staff, overhead, building and medical care, why couldn’t they outsource and make healthcare readily accessible on every corner, like the civilians who have that liberty.
What is the problem? What is the solution?
Access, a timely response, bureaucracy, neglect. A failed VA system who continues to neglect these veterans. I have spoken to a lot of veterans, and their families; they all say the same thing,” It is a broken system.”
The VA needs to address the needs of our nation’s heroes. Claims from local veterans claim waiting excessive wait times to be seen. Many have died waiting. Hundreds of thousands wait to be enrolled in the system. Wait times are incredibly long, estimating an average of 6 months. When I listen to veterans and compare to what head of VA claims for wait time something does not add up. VA schedulers go against regulations, they log when veterans’ documents when a veteran wants to be seen, versus the desired date. We can reference the scandal that came out 7 years ago have not led to change. They select desired date as the appointment given so there is no gap listed. Top priority patients are pushed off based off bias feeling of healthcare providers+. Veteran consults sit stacked up until they disappear.
Why is the only place they must be treated continue to disregard their lives. They say they made considerable progress, however veterans seeking treatment seem to disagree.
One of the key parts of our healthcare system, VA is struggling to offer basic needs serving millions of servicemen and women.
Per nurses on the front line, they fail to provide adequate protection even to their workers to get the protective gear they need since the start of the pandemic. Incompetence, greed, poor planning. This signifies the supply issue in the VA with the reports of rationing of protective gear. Holding onto disposable items for several shifts is rationing, reusing items.
What distinguishes the VA other than being the largest healthcare system. A bad antiquated healthcare system updating data by hand. It was a real mess. The VA went on a large buying spree during the start of the pandemic. Companies were created and awarded contracts, companies with no history. Pre pandemic they were not good at documenting their inventory which led to lack of life saving protective gear.
Personally, I walked with my friend through their VA appointments. I watched a man 100% disability plead for help to his councilor on multiple occasions. After reviewing his medical history, understanding the patient, becoming a caregiver, I learned this individual should not have been left unmedicated and unsupervised by a medical professional. During an appointment I attended after he did share that he was homeless, unable to keep a job due to service-related injury and struggling to make ends meet. Yet there was no follow up, no attention to his needs, no resources provided. The counselor sat there the best she could pretending to listen, with little empathy. I watched this man struggle to get a work note from a separate office after having seizers and having to fight through tears of frustration after speaking to 3 individuals just to get a note. Watching the VA put band aids on bullet holes was painful to watch but I couldn’t imagine having to rely on them. This man struggled mentally, and physically. Yet they treated him like he was a headache. For him to get mental health counseling took months. To address a much-needed surgery took months. This man couldn’t function at work, couldn’t pay his bills due to addiction and overspending, all battling psychosis and seizers. I believe if he had access to healthcare as a civilian he would have thrived.
The honorable Denis Richard McDonough was nominated by President Biden to Lead Department of Veterans Affairs. This was confirmed by the US Senate on 02-08-2021. In his own works, “I will work tirelessly to build and restore VA’s trust as a premier agency for ensuring the well-being of America’s Veterans. “ What has he done since that declaration?
Veterans across America are struggling to get the care they need. The VA is the second biggest agency in the US behind the Department of Defense. The system in its current form is not fixable. 170 medical centers, 1,061 outpatient sites. More than 9 million veterans depend on the VA.
The organization admits they cannot keep up. For example, when most of us think of corrupted and broken VA systems we recall the scandal of Walter Reed, Phoenix AZ with the allegations of neglect and mismanagement. This facility was under VA control. A secret waitlist of veterans, several thousand veterans died waiting for an appointment.
When did things go wrong? 1930 signed an executive order establishing VA care. -Cost of war lingers long after the war ends. In fact, payments from Vietnam war are pending today. There is a massive backlog of veterans waiting to receive benefits. An average 125 days waiting period for a result of their claims. It can be a very long legal process after service. A lot of veterans are surprised when they encounter the VA and learn the importance to have representation. 1988 President Regan made a move to make the VA a full cabinet level department. 2001 the VA implemented a staffing increase to 150k. While we still address the issues from the 17-year war in Afghanistan. Demand is higher than supply. 2018 83k benefit claims on backlog.
No one wants to be on the wrong side of this. It is not a political issue. We have a problem and if we don’t meet that problem with urgency, we will have a bigger problem.
US Department of Veteran Affairs launched Community Care Program: major expansion to decrease wait times access to healthcare. Did they over promise and under deliver with unrealistic expectations and offload responsibility to the private sector? Veterans Choice another program which allowed veterans to private care, following the scandal in Phoenix. This allows veterans access to urgent care and promote holistic health.
The VA needs to do a better job of overseeing their care.
Mental health problems are enormous. Suicide rate is still disturbing at an average of 22 veterans per day. Statistics showing most of those veterans do not actually have access to the VA and has not enrolled. Would that number be different if it wasn’t such a stressful process to become enrolled+?
Our job is to begin a national conversation. Take a hard look at addiction and the medication prescribed to service-related injury. The indoctrination of drug pusher vs healthy healing options is despicable. Leveraging status with big pharma rather than honoring the oath to taking care of patients.
Open the aperture for financial support and address this issue. Outreach, telehealth, prioritizing mental health, healthy solutions, national conversations, accessibility nationwide.
Also, Homelessness: broadly, a newer phenomenon among veterans. A part of the continuum to address our veterans. The number was hundreds of thousands until some states partnered with nonprofits. Today we are looking at roughly 42k. Some locations have eliminated veteran homelessness by partnering with VA, and non-profits. 42 k is too many especially with the impending recession, increase in unemployment, and poverty rate increasing. When Charlotte, for example is a wealthy city, full of apartments on every block, yet I speak to homeless veterans stating the cost of living being too high, and the housing offered is undesirable to say the least. Why can’t properties donate 5% of their apartments to housing homeless veterans? Shouldn’t the county step in and make this a requirement. These apartments hardly offer affordable living, so they can afford a 5% write off.
Veteran groups are saying the responsibility is with the VA, not the private sector. I believe this nation is in charge of taking care of the ones who have taken care of us. Whether that is private sector, private citizens, or the Department of Defense the issue still remains unsolved as we argue about who is responsible.
Men and women who have been injured by virtue of service to country are not being properly cared for. It is about time we put an end to that narrative and offer proper support.
But first: the facts, Access to healthcare includes a variety of concerns, including how close Veterans live to VA healthcare facilities, and whether they are older, disabled, and/or chronically ill and so may experience difficulty traveling. Veterans’ programs that meet coverage requirements
If you’re enrolled in (or are a beneficiary of) any of the programs listed below, you’re considered to have qualifying health coverage under the health care law. This means you don’t need to get additional coverage.
- Veterans’ health care program
- VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA)
- Spina bifida health care benefits program
If you’re a veteran without VA health care, visit the VA health care website. (https://www.va.gov/health)
You may learn that you qualify for VA coverage.
For more information about the affordable care act visit https://www.va.gov/health/aca/
What is the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care law, was created to provide more Americans with access to affordable health insurance, improve the quality of health care and health insurance,
and reduce health care spending in the U.S.
Enrollment in VA health care means you have:
- Medical care rated among the best in the U.S.
- Immediate benefits of health care coverage. Veterans may apply for VA health care enrollment at any time.
- No enrollment fee, monthly premiums, or deductibles. Most Veterans have no out-of-pocket costs. Some Veterans may have
- to pay small copayments for health care or prescription drugs.
- More than 1,500 places available to get your care, as in urgent care. This means your coverage can go with you if you travel or move.
- Met the new requirement to have health care coverage that meets the minimum standard.