Sunday, December 21, 2014

#DearVA Addiction to Drugs...

#DearVA,

Addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, but more specifically things that move the adrenaline again...

Oh yeah, I am having this topic tonight. I have a friend. He is addicted to alcohol. I blame you as much as I blame him. You see #VA, while he never saw combat, he started getting that adrenaline rush while you trained him in boot camp.

Now that he is a "normal civilian",  he seeks to recreate that rush through drinking, drugs, and several suicide attempts. Where are you #VA? He tells you about these issues, and where are you? You aren't helping him, obviously.

The #NewVA needs to realize how many Veterans get out and seek to recreate the rush. They should be following up regularly with Veterans who have attempted suicide. A Veteran who says that they have a problem with alcohol or drugs should be referred to programs that can help.

Friends and Family are not equipped to be therapists #VA. It is time for you to step up.

PM
Caregiver

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#DearVA,

This week finds me scolding my child for losing valuable objects and nonchalantly moving on with his life as if it isn’t a problem to no longer have those items or to come up with funds to replace those items. In fact, currently those items will not be replaced in order to help him learn to take care of his things and take responsibility for his actions. These are the life lessons I am currently teaching my 13 year old. It saddens me to see how these same lessons don’t seem to pertain to the #VA. I am dismayed at the stories I hear of vets not getting the care that they have earned and even that is specifically noted within their files. It’s disheartening to hear of caregivers reading through their husbands book like medical files only to find critical information that is years old that was never divulged to them. If the VA were my 13 year old, the valuable items would be our vets. They’re not being taken care of and they’re being lost. And nobody is taking responsibility for this. This is probably one of my highest top priorities on my wishlist for #NewVA, accountability.

Accountability doesn’t just mean taking responsibility for your actions but also for your inaction. It means that there should be some recourse for those that are mistreated and left in the dark. I hear stories of vets with issues so large that their only recourse is legal action and yet the VA is such a large organization that you can’t even get legal representation unless you have endless bags of money and no sort of timeline. The #VA is a Goliath and our David has the rocks to throw (in the form of medical records as evidence) but no slingshot willing to hold such a large load. It is unconscionable that this goes on. That vets are mistreated or not treated at all and all they can do is file a complaint with the patient advocate only to never hear anything back. There is no recourse for the staff that leaves them in pain because the #VA can’t afford the loss of staff members. And the staff that does want to help is limited by internal protocols that leave them no options but to deliver less than adequate care.

Obviously I don’t mean that this is happening to every vet every day, but it is happening at an alarming rate and as I said, there’s not much a vet can do about it. What kind of faith can a Vet have that they’ll receive quality care and that issues will be solved if there is a problem. They can’t. I read an article once that stated that most vet’s who are 100% disabled are likely faking it because as soon as they get their 100% rating they stop getting treatment. This is false, the truth is they stop getting treatment at the VA. Once a vet has a 100% rating they often qualify for Social Security disability and are then afforded the luxury of Medicare. Medicare allows them to see doctor’s that are held to a higher standard than the VA doctor’s. Doctor’s that they can file a complaint about if there is wrong doing and there is a much higher likelihood of repercussions. But most importantly, they get to see doctor’s that are much more likely to share openly and freely with them about their own medical status and options without protocols and limitations. They adhere to their oath more stringently than many that work at the #VA. This is the reality that we face. We are literally dying to get care outside of the VA where we have a better chance at living longer and in less pain.

#NewVA Wishlist: Accountability.

Sincerely,
100% Navy Wife 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

#DearVA December 7, 1941...

#DearVA,

December 7, 1941. This date marked our entry into World War 2. Our WW2 vets die at a rate of 550 a day according to your records, and they will all be gone by the year 2036.

Our Veterans came home suffering from PTSD, and you lobotomized some of them. This was your treatment.
I spoke at length with a WW2 Veteran. He was at the end of his rope. His wife had passed, the kids were grown, and his health was failing. He couldn't stop remembering the things he saw and did. He came to you, and you pushed pills at him and sent him on his way.

The #NewVA needs to treat the whole Veteran, body and mind. You need to realize that you teach your servicemen and women to stay strong, be quiet, and follow orders. So when that Veteran gathers the courage to say, "I have a problem," listen. Listen, #VA. Don't just shove pills, treat mind and body.
Listen.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice, all of our WW2 Vets.

PM
Caregiver


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#DearVA

Hello #VA. I'd like to ask why you are skewing your statistics regarding Vet homelessness for the sake of your numbers? Shouldn't the interests of the heroes who gave so much be more important than whether or not you look good?

You posted this letter on your facebook, but these numbers are based in fallacy. http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/16323/employment-most-veterans-doing-better-va-offers-online-assistance-tools/


#NewVA isn't it time to just put an end to the games? Let's lay all the cards on the table, admit that there are problems and find a way to solve them. Hiding things, lying, making stuff up so the administration looks better won't make the lives of these people better.

It's time to step up VA. Let's do this.

KB

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#DearVA Can You Please Consider...

#Dear VA,

Can you please consider making a program that helps your staff understand PTSD? Actually UNDERSTAND it and what kind of impact it has on the hero as well as the entire family?

A training course per say, that doesn't involve just reading through a book for theory and some actual hands on practice.

Tell me how you would feel VA if in the course of a year, at a facility that is there for your care, the following things were said to you or your loved one.
  • a physicians assistant who says "oh I have that too, but you just have to not let things bother you"
  • The psychiatrist that says "I don't understand why you just don't come to your appointments" (Poor memory, inability to follow through, problems with handling simple every day things like appointments)
  • A nurse who laughs and says "well you better not leave the house again!"  when you explain that he stopped taking his meds when you were unexpectedly not home for a couple of nights and now he's unstable and doesn't think he NEEDS the meds(emergency hospitalization of my own)
  • The nurse that said "I don't know what kind of drugs these guys were doing over there, but they all come back with kidney stones" (Um... excuse me? My husband has never done drugs... and if they are all coming back with kidney stones I suspect a study should be done)
 
All of these things cause issues in any patient. For a patient with PTSD, it makes what is already a hellish appointment for them and their caregiver into a nightmare.
 
 
#NewVA, what can we do about this? Is there a type of specific program or training that could be given to your staff? Shouldn't it be? If it has already happened, whatever form of training you are utilizing isn't very effective. Let's rethink this.

K


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#DearVA,

It’s getting late. I’ve been at work all day today. I leave my home at 7 and I get home around 5:30. It’s not every day that these are my hours at a job outside of my home, but it’s often enough to make it a struggle. And every single time I do this it is frightening. You see, I leave my warrior home alone during these times… and sometimes he’s left with our children. It’s not that I’m worried he’ll hurt our children, that’s never been a concern. It’s that I’m worried that he’ll be overwhelmed and simply “check out” due to the stress and difficulty of having a 13 year old and a 4 year old. The 13 year old remembers when Daddy wasn’t overwhelmed and upset so easily. The 4 year old will never know those days. You see, Daddy was diagnosed pretty much about the time we realized there was a problem. The problem and difficulties getting help at the #VA are why there will not be any more children. It’s still a hard pill to swallow. You see, I can’t handle any more on my plate. I already take care of my family, heart wrenchingly entrust a person that I know is in need of my help to care for our children when necessary and I just can’t be away from work if we were to have another baby.

This didn’t use to be an issue. Once we were really struggling and I was very fortunate to be one of the first people in our area to become a VA Caregiver. But just like the doctors and nurses at the VA, they weren’t prepared for the need and the Coordinators became overwhelmed. Many of us would try to call the #VA and get answers or help or advice… but often we didn’t get answers. Sometimes we were simply given answers of no because the coordinators didn’t know the answer and were so overwhelmed as to not feel that they had the time to find the answers. What’s worse, and an issue I’m very hopeful that #NewVA will address, was that the program started to be administered based on very limited information and opinions. There isn’t any oversight and no guidelines to follow. When we caregivers raise questions we often face backlash and downgrades or removal from the program. I know this happens because it happens to me. And advocating at the #VA is a dangerous game. Once you’ve angered the powers that be locally, you run out of options. No vet should have to contact their congress person or Senator for help dealing with the organization that’s supposed to be helping them. We know the problems are big and that the fixes are difficult and won’t be overnight. But caregivers are a necessary thing and the VA is served mightily by their knowledge of the vet’s real daily habits and issues. Vets get better care when they have somebody available to help them, remind them, guide them and speak for them when necessary. 

I wish you a shorter and less stressful day, but we all know that may not be the case. Please keep fighting and fixing the issues that plague our system.

Sincerely,
100% Navy Wife

Friday, December 12, 2014

#DearVA As a Spouse Of...

#DearVA,

As a spouse of a #USNavySeabee #veteran, I am happy to hear of the new plans and goals being put forward by Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald at the #NewVA.  His long career serving in the military gives me hope that he understands the challenges that current and future #veterans face, and that this will be a strong motivation for him to meet and exceed these goals.  One challenge that my husband and many other veterans experienced could benefit from your attention.

With very little warning, my husband was honorably discharged 01/09/2010 after eighteen years of active duty service.  He received notice 12/2/2009 that his two year extension/reenlistment was denied, and he was given 30 days notice of his discharge.  Within those 30 days we had to vacate our home, remove our children from their school, and find other employment and a place to live, right in the middle of the economic recession.  The next two years were very difficult on our family.  But, good or bad depending on how you viewed it, we had strength in numbers;  many other veterans and their families were living the same experience.

The initial challenge my husband faced was the sudden transition from the life and career he knew and loved for eighteen years, to a world that was only vaguely familiar to him.  With his very short notice, he had very little time to benefit from the Transition Assistance Program (#TAP) (now called the #TransitionGPS). All the counseling and training on resume writing, employment search, #healthcare, #VAservices and #VAbenefits, etc. was concentrated into one week for my husband.  It typically takes 9-12 months for each #servicemember to go through the TAP program.

Once he became a veteran, and was still in need of these services, he sought them out at the #VA centers.  However, they were very limited or non-existent.  Other veterans looking for the same assistance were either unaware they were available, or found it difficult to track down these services as well.  Many of the #VAemployees were also unaware these services even existed for veterans, or where and/or whom the veterans could contact for these services.  And it was not isolated to one VA center.  We had moved three times within two years and my husband used the services of four different VA centers, in large or major cities, and the experiences were the same or similar.

Bridging the gap of these services from active duty to veteran needs to be addressed.  In addition to increasing the budget and staff for the Transition GPS programs, the program should be made available at each and every VA center in this country.  It should be part of the initial indoc process for every veteran in the VA system, be tailored to the location of each VA center and the needs of the veterans they serve, and a continuing service with no specific end date.  

Transitioning into the civilian community is unique only to those who have chosen to serve this country.  And with everything the majority of today’s veterans live with, Transition GPS services should be a key component in making civilian life more manageable.

Sincerely,

CDZ
Spouse of a US Veteran


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#DearVA,

Continuing our talk about PTSD... I have had the pleasure of speaking with Veterans who suffer to overcome this demon daily. We can't forget about those who lost the fight though.
December 11, 2008.

On this date we lost a man who battled those demons. He left behind a family. What did you do #VA? You spit on this soldier's family. When they needed you most, you turned your back on them. His family deserves survivor benefits, yet you say no.

The #NewVA needs to care for the Veteran and his family. A widow should not have to fight for benefits for her children. If a Veteran passes away, and it was related to his service, the #NewVA has an obligation to care for his family. You have a chance to become something great, and you can't afford to blow it this time.
Our hearts are with Kevin and his family. Where is your heart #NewVA? Are your hearts with the 22 a day, or must their loss be for naught?


PM
Caregiver

Thursday, December 11, 2014

#DearVA I Have Recently Been To...

Dear #VA

I have recently been to the Boise VA, while my mom was there, she had a left breast mastectomy, due to breast cancer.  It is a stage 2 aggressive cancer, which was in the milk ducts. All of her Drs and social worker and the cancer care coordinator all have been wonderful. They all have gone above and beyond for my mom.  She is a Vietnam era veteran that has to fight for travel pay, because it is not automatic for her. Her nearest clinic is 60 miles away and the Boise VA is 185-200 miles away. She will have to make that journey to Boise from Challis every 3 weeks for a year while she is doing chemo and h-therapy.  She is on a limited income, she and her husband bring in $1700 a month, but yet that is too much for travel pay. We fought to get her the hardship travel, but she shouldn’t have to fight for it. She has a long road ahead of her, and will need lots of help. Home health care and some mental health to help deal with the fact she has lost part of her. Support for her husband and her family.  When all this is cancer stuff is done she needs a hip replacement.

 That is something the #New VA should look into, our veterans no matter what era should get travel pay no matter what. That could be why some don’t seek treatment, it is too far to travel, and the price of gas is not affordable for long trips.


The daughter of Veteran
Tam


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#DearVA,

I was looking through your website today for information about healthcare for our family, and I realized that any information you provide is so confusing and convoluted that I think you are chasing away Veterans and their families.

I wonder if you plan on chasing people away so that you have fewer to help. The #NewVA needs to make information easier to find. Our Veterans are coming home injured, and you throw forms at them. Enough is enough.

PM
Caregiver

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#DearVA It Took Me About 10 Seconds...

#DearVA

It took me about 10 seconds of reading the Road to Veterans Day Action Review from November 6, 2014 to determine my topic of the day, Rebuilding Trust.

I won’t lie; the road through the #VA treatment experience has been difficult.  There were times during this process where my husband had appointments every single day of the week.  It CAN NOT be said that we have not tried.  We tried for treatment, for normal, for relief, for sanity… forever.  

The first VA system #IllianaVA found nothing, and couldn’t get any of his symptoms treated effectively in 2 years.  Diagnoses he ended up with were hopeless; Migraines, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, PTSD.  His records from this time are incorrect, among the most obvious and egregious inaccuracies include records that are clearly from another veteran; information that he lived and served in places he’s never been, and stating that he has children that we don’t have.   

The last straw for me occurred when he was hospitalized for VA negligence in medication management.  Which sounds benign, possibly.  This particular event consisted of intense abdominal pain. Pain, that caused him to writhe on the floor of our bathroom.  He was crying out in pain.  He was holding his breath so that he would pass out to stop the pain.  Pain that the triage nurse on the phone was clearly upset by.  

So, we have a choice.  Drive over an hour to the VA emergency room, which is through the middle of nowhere, or drive to the local emergency room where I will have to fight more than a year to get the hospital bills paid by the VA, and to this day we still get harassing phone calls from the hospital.  The hospital also reported it to the credit agencies damaging his credit, even though it is paid.  Fabulous(sarcasm).  All this before I mention that taking PTSD to the emergency room is always a trial.  He ends up testing positive for Pancreatitis. So, he is asked repeatedly and continually, by the commercial hospital, and by the VA hospital once he is transferred there, how much he drinks.  He doesn’t drink.  He doesn’t smoke.  Nobody believes him, or me.  I bring in the outside sources.  I have evidence that his medication dosing in way too high, and in conjunction with another medication that limits his ability to process the first medication.  He is on 10 medications at this point; he is on 10 medications currently.  The medical student at the hospital is willing and able to listen to my information and understand what the problem is.  The doctor, however, is unable to hear anything.  She wants to remove his gallbladder.  He hasn’t eaten anything but ice chips for 5 days.  He is still in pain despite the morphine derivative IV.  He gets pneumonia.  We learn nothing and he is discharged, with his gallbladder.  That VA is FIRED.
The VA has a long road ahead of them to regain my trust.

Thank God for the #RoudebushVA #IndianapolisVA 

My Veteran wasted too much time with the IllianaVA to be considered for the STICC Clinic for OIF/OEF/OND Veterans in Indianapolis, which I feel partly responsible for and that breaks my heart.  But, he was able to get in to mental health there.  He has a provider that he is starting to trust, and my personal VA hero, Denise Leisure, has gotten him straightened out on his medication to a point where he can smile sometimes again.  Providers there, except for his primary care, believe him when he tells them what is going on with him.  The VA in Indianapolis offers spousal support in the form of the PAIRS program, retreats and research studies.  During our participation in a research study a VA employee scooped me up and enrolled us in the Caregiver Program, which has been a Godsend in so many ways.  

One way that the #NEWVA could bolster my trust would be to have the care teams meet.   Mental and Physical healthcare combined so that providers communicate and make one treatment plan.  If a treatment team could “see” the whole veteran and treat the whole veteran that would be tremendous! Include input from the Caregiver, provide self-reports for evaluation at home between appointments.  Use us!  Do NOT underestimate the commitment we have to our veteran’s health.  Most of us have given up our lives to care for our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, or children.  

We have all chosen to stay and we are in it for the long haul.  Personally, I made a promise, including but not limited to ‘sickness or health’ and ‘better or worse’ until death.  Can the VA match or exceed my commitment?  #ICARE  

EB

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

#DearVA I Wanted To Take a Few Moments...

#DearVA

I wanted to take a few moments today to talk to you about the concern I have for my kids. It's already been shown that children who grow up in a household with a parent with PTSD have a higher instance of behavioral and emotional issues, self-esteem problems as well as increased periods of depression. 

Under the current #VA setup, there are no provisions for my kids to receive screening or care for this based on his DX. 

I think that it would be beneficial to families as a whole if the #NewVA considered a covered program for the children of Veterans suffering from PTSD. It would help to have resources to teach coping techniques, guide with issues that may occur on a case by case basis as well as screenings for depression and developing emotional problems.

Thank you for listening.
A Mom as well as a Veteran's wife.


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#DearVA,

I read a short while back that PTSD Service Dogs are not covered by your Veterinarian Plan because PTSD can not be measured. I would like to respectfully disagree.

You see, my Veteran, he has PTSD from his service in Operation Desert Storm. Many of his brothers also have PTSD.  They all can measure their PTSD, and as a Spouse, I can as well.

I measure his PTSD in sleepless nights. I measure this demon by the bruises I carry from his nightmares, when he strikes out. His son measures it by the anger at minor things. His family measures PTSD by his hypervigalence.
Understand #VA, these are just a few ways that we can measure his PTSD. There are so many other ways. So when you say that his PTSD can't be measured, you are wrong.

We would like to see the #NewVA cover all Service Dogs. They provide a very valuable service for our Veterans. It is time that you cared about PTSD. 22 Veterans a Day says it is time that you cared.

PM
Caregiver