The healthcare services offered to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the most disorganized, understaffed and heavily criticized agencies of the government.
On average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide, according to Task and Purpose, a veteran-run online newsletter. What’s not said about this is that the majority of the people who take their own lives are older than 50. It’s not necessarily those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VA is not adapting with the times. They are focused on those returning home and forgetting about those who served previously. They are not seeking their needs. So when veterans feel abandoned, they tend to feel that no one cares about them, resulting in them taking their own life.
President Donald Trump recently signed into effect a suicide prevention Task force on March 5, 2018. This is the first time the VA is seeking to do something other than push pills. The VA has seemed to be about a quick fix and not a long-term, permanent solution.
One submariner living in Minnesota spent the better part of a decade high on pain pills rather than being given physical therapy and pain management. His quality of life drastically declined because he was unable to attend school. He would forget what to do during the day because of his pain medication that he needed to take to be able to function.
Through the years, his body built up a tolerance to the point that a 30-day supply of pain pills was only lasting him 15 days. It got as bad as only lasting 10 days. The VA did not refill his prescriptions because of fear of addiction, but addiction had already set in.
It was not until the VA started allowing veterans to see outside doctors that this veteran was able to seek physical therapy for his injury pain management, as well receive counseling and many other medical services needed for him to live a normal life.
This is not a stand-alone story. There are many other stories like this out there, and I don’t believe this is the way veterans should be treated for the sacrifice they put forth. They need better healthcare when they return home, whether they served four years or 30 years. They need better healthcare options, and they need more treatment than just pills.
Aside from the VA just being pill pushers, they left $6.2 million set aside for suicide prevention. That’s money that could’ve been used to hire more counselors or staff and improve the VA clinics. There are many things I could do with that money, but they just let it sit there.
All hope is not lost, though. The new VA director seems to be going in a new direction, allowing people to see doctors outside of the VA clinic in a timely manner instead of having to wait months for appointments. He has increased awareness of the suicide prevention hotline, and has made counseling more available for more service members.
No government entity will ever be perfect, but it’s nice to see one trying to get better.