In recent weeks, the Department of Veterans' Affairs has received quite a bit of attention. Most of that attention has been focused on the secret waiting lists and long - sometimes months long - wait times that patients have experienced, but what if the real scandal is actually deeper than that?
What if, along with making those who have selflessly served our country wait for treatment, the VA is at times failing to provide them with the type of care they need altogether?
Take Marine Lance Cpl. David “Moose” McArthur, for example. After choosing the Marine Corps over a football career because “short white guys don’t usually make it to the NFL,” Moose dropped 110 pounds in a year in order to enlist. A deployment to Afghanistan and a chance meeting with an improvised explosive device left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which eventually led to his medical retirement from the Marine Corps.
Lance Cpl. David "Moose" McArthur poses in uniform for his last Marine Corps Ball. Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. McArthur
In a recent interview, he spoke about his difficulties in accessing care through the VA in St. Louis, Missouri.
For about two years, he struggled with getting recognition and care because he had an “invisible” injury. Without the extensive letter writing campaign by Moose’s father, David McArthur (local small business owner and occasional Fox News contributor), Moose and many other soldiers with “invisible” injuries would still be fighting to receive the Purple Hearts they deserve. Other soldiers called him “yellow” and “stupid” and accused him of faking his injuries.
Because he had not lost a limb, he also quickly lost priority in terms of receiving care. He was still given access to mental health care and counseling, however. After two years, he lost priority status altogether. Mental health care quickly went from easily accessible to a wait time that was measured in months.
“Can I see someone in mental health?” Moose asked the VA. When they told him that the wait time for an appointment was several months out, he followed up with, “What about anger management?”
The VA responded, “We don’t offer that.”
An improvised explosive device detonates.
And therein lies the problem.
In the last quarter of 2013 alone – Oct. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013 – over 300,000 American veterans were treated at the VA for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the experts at webmd, one of the most common symptoms of PTSD is irrational and uncontrollable anger and angry outbursts.
“Anger is a normal response to trauma. It is what gives you the energy to act quickly.”
But in someone who suffers from PTSD, that anger never really goes away. That person is stuck in a holding pattern that stores that explosive anger right below the surface.
PTSD is not a new ailment in Veterans, though over the years it has been known by different names. After World War I, it was “shell shock.” After the first Gulf War it was “Gulf War Syndrome.” And now it is simply Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So the question is this: if the VA is aware that a certain percentage of soldiers will return from deployment with PTSD and related issues and the VA is also aware that many of them are likely exhibit anger as a symptom of that PTSD, how is it possible that anger management is a service that the VA simply fails to offer?
Lance Cpl. David "Moose" McArthur receives his Purple Heart from USMC Gen. Joseph Dunford. Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. McArthur
In the midst of the secret waiting list scandal, the news has broken that Gen. Eric Shinseki has tendered his resignation as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And maybe that was the right call. But will Shinseki’s resignation put a stop to any further investigation?
There are hundreds of thousands of veterans in the United States today who have more than earned the care for which they are routinely being delayed and in some cases, denied. If this investigation stops with the resignation of the chosen scapegoat, a lot of them may never see that care.
From a nation that owes them so much, that is unacceptable.
Virginia Kruta holds a dual BS in Political Science and History from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, and writes from her home in the People's Republic of Illinois. Find her on Twitter @VAKruta or reach her by email: email@example.com
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