Veterans who are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are not getting prompt help or treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to testimony at a Senate committee hearing last week.
USA Today covered the proceedings before the Senate Veteran’s Affairs committee, and it was not good news for war vets.
According to witness Michelle Washington, a PTSD-care coordinator for a VA hospital, in some cases veterans are told that it will take six week before they can get an appointment with a mental health professional. After such as long wait, some of these vets either give up on getting mental-health care or their PTSD gets much worse, Washington testified.
USA Today cited data from the non-profit Wounded Warrior Project, which found that 40 percent of the 600 Iraq-Afghanistan veterans it surveyed had difficulty getting help from the VA. And of those, 40 percent never got any therapy, according to USA Today.
The VA’s goal is to treat patients by 14 days or less. But USA Today analyzed data, which “showed that new mental health patients at about a third of department hospitals wait longer than the VA’s goal of treating patients within 14 days or less,” according to the newspaper.
Washington was a whistle-blower of sorts. She is the first VA employee, and had authorization from her union, to talk frankly about the problems her agency has handling the overlaod of vets with PTSD. There is a lot of pressure for VA employees to hit the 14-day deadline, and therapists are not being given the time to treat vets who need contining counseling, USA Today quoted Washington as saying.
There will be issues “as long as scheduling continues to be driven by clerks pressured by management to make the numbers look good,” according to Washington.
Meanwhile, a VA mental health official wouldn’t even acknowledge that the agency was having trouble serving the needs of vets.
Let’s hope the Senate committee does something about this issue.