This is a new style of letter I’m writing you today. I’m hoping that #NewVA responds with understanding and an eye for the future. You see, we’ve not had a good go with #VA, it’s been long and hard and it’s still going some 5-7+ years later. Please don’t misunderstand, we’ve encountered some wonderful people at the VA. Our Primary Care doc has always been the same and has always really made us feel welcome and has taken the time to address any and all of our concerns. We never felt like we were scheduled for 10-15 minutes so hurry up already! Our struggles have been with the mental health side of things. We’ve encountered a lot of hurdles and varying accounts of “requirements” for help. Let me assure you of one thing, help is definitely what we need. I don’t understand how a person can be seen for a mental health issue and yet they’re expected to behave as though they have no mental health issues? And to be punished for displaying their mental health issues, well, that seems a tad unfair. It’s like telling a person with a cold to come back when there’s no danger of them sneezing.
You see, #NewVA, my husband has PTSD and we’re pretty sure that he’s got a TBI as well but we’ve never been able to actually get tested or evaluated because it all seemed to get swept away when the PTSD was determined to be 100% disabling. My husband works really hard every day to try and appear normal. He tries to give our kids a normal life but they know that it’s not. They are accustomed to having to leave places when Dad is wary of something. They are accustomed to attending functions with only Mom because Dad just can’t do it. They are accustomed to Dad having “bad days” when he’s just grumpy and grouchy and not as nice as he should be. Dad barks commands and complains about perceived problems and Dad disappears into his room (to try and keep from snapping at them) and we all miss him. But when he goes to the #VA he gets in trouble for complaining and expressing himself. Yes, he’s angry about all the medications. And he’s upset that the VA says he HAS to do group therapy before he can get individual therapy. He doesn’t like the groups where he feels like everybody is trying to compare their experiences. He doesn’t want to hear a dozen stories of more bad experiences, he wants help getting over his own story.
The really surprising thing, the thing that #VA doesn’t know, is that Dad/my husband is really exceptionally good at helping others when they have these problems. He has helped so many of his fellow vets in their time of need. He’s talked them through questions like “why am I so mad all the time?” and “why can’t I just be happy?” And he lets them call, encourages them to call, any time day or night! He chats with them online to be sure that they know that somebody is out there, somebody is listening and somebody understands. Oh how he wishes he didn’t understand, but he’s so grateful that he does because when he had questions and when he’s feeling low he knows that he can find others that understand too and that wasn’t always how he felt.
I guess if I were to make a complaint, it would be about the barriers to mental healthcare. Yes, I know you guys are trying to hire more doctors. But I also know how arduously long your hiring process is and that the entire nation is experiencing a shortfall of these doctors. I know that your current doctors are overwhelmed with their heavy caseloads, but that doesn’t make it okay to throw pills at vets and say “it’s the best we can do.” I wish the VA were making better use of the new therapies that are proving helpful. Yes, Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers are now approved but have you actually tried to get into one… sometimes it feels like you’ve asked for a ticket on Airforce One. It needs to be more readily available and the VA needs to understand that it can’t be intensive therapies that are stretched out over months and months and months. If it’s supposed to be 8 treatments in 2 weeks, that’s what needs to happen or you’re just throwing more money away! And yoga or meditation, tai chi! These are all shown to be very helpful with anxiety disorders, depression disorders and even sleep disorders. Why are they not offered at more locations? Why can’t we have some sort of outpatient program where the VA pays off site providers. Make it a reasonable amount available to vets and if they don’t use the services then they aren’t authorized anymore for that particular person. If my husband could get some of those therapies locally (not necessarily at the VA hospital because that’s not been a happy place for him and he doesn’t like going there anymore) then he could make more progress and leave behind all these pills.
I’m not asking for more and more and more from the #VA. I’m asking for better options and solutions. I’m asking that there be more than one way to approach mental health and Vets who suffer with invisible injuries. We’d gladly swap the expensive medications you supply for some Oxygen and Yoga. It’s a good trade really. Healthier for everybody and really, shouldn’t that be everybody’s goal?
100% Navy Wife