Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our Story: Falling Short for Female Veterans


My wife is a medically retired veteran of the war in Afghanistan.  Joy served for over 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserves, and was deployed in late 2004 to Afghanistan.  She was assigned as the night supervisor at the prison facility at Bagram Airfield.  Prior to her deployment, Joy was a college student, with no problems with memory, depression, or any other conditions.  In early 2006, Joy received a traumatic brain injury during an attack on the aircraft in which she was a passenger.  She spent several days in a hospital in Kyrgystan before being returned to Bagram and put back on normal duty.  From that point forward, Joy has been seriously affected by depression, migraine headaches, severe short term memory loss, and social anxiety.  Upon her return to the states, she was diagnosed with severe PTSD, and was originally rated as 70% disabled.  Over the course of several years, Joy’s condition worsened to the point she was rated as 100% disabled by the VA.

Joy has been assigned at least five different primary care managers at the VA, with little communication between the doctors as they leave the office to go elsewhere.  Every time a new doctor comes on, Joy is forced to repeat her entire history, even though it SHOULD be all contained in her records.  Joy has great difficulty in replaying the events surrounding her injury, and having to go to new doctors and reliving the event has caused her severe anxiety about going to the VA.  Because she is rated 100%, she should be put at the top of the list when it comes to scheduling appointments, however, on countless occasions she has been told it will be several weeks before she can get in to see her VA doctor.  Because of this, we have primarily relied upon my insurance for her healthcare, to include her mental health care.

Joy has told the VA on many occasions that she does not feel comfortable participating in group therapy sessions, especially since most of the participants are usually males.  There are no PTSD therapists in the VA locally that are female, and that can specialize in the unique issues faced by a female combat veteran.

I am Joy’s caregiver and we have been receiving a stipend in the caregiver program for a year now.  Even though Joy’s condition has worsened, and her medications have been increased by the psychiatrist she sees, the caregiver program decided after meeting with her for an hour that she is doing “better” and lowered us a tier level.  Without supervision, Joy is a danger to herself and struggles with simply daily tasks such as taking medication, cooking, and personal hygiene.

We face daily difficulties due to the injuries Joy suffered in Afghanistan.  While the VA is doing what it can to improve the services available to female warriors, it is falling short.  The military is a male-dominated organization, and unfortunately the treatment offered to and attitudes displayed about female veterans continue to lag well behind those of their fellow male veterans within the VA. 

As I work every day to support Joy, I am also an active duty soldier with our state’s National Guard.  I am in charge of nine soldiers, and am constantly trying to juggle home and work.  Joy had to do her very best to take care of things at home when I served my 2nd combat tour in Afghanistan.  She is a proud veteran and a proud Army wife as well, but the deployment only served to increase her anxiety levels while I was gone.  Because of medications Joy takes, it is often necessary for me to drive children to school in the mornings, and any time there is a requirement to drive at night due to Joy’s vision having been affected by her TBI.  We struggle to balance daily life with the limitations brought on by Joy’s PTSD and TBI.

To learn more about the State of Heroes and Families project, please visit our main site or visit any of the following direct project links -

Why This Started: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-why.html
The Statistics: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-statistics.html
Our Stories: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-stories.html
What We Hope For: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-hopes.html
FAQ About the Project: www.familyofavet.com/state_of_veterans_families-faq.html

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