The War at Home: Veteran's Mental Health Care

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With the war over in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan coming to a close there are over 2,300,000 veterans that have served in the War on Terror. (Martinez. Bingham) Many of these veterans would not have survived without recent advances in medicine. With that being said, their wounds are much more difficult and expensive to treat than any other previous generation of veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that the cost for providing medical care and disability for returning veterans is between $589 billion and $984 billion. (Lifetime Cost of Treating Latest Generation of Veterans Higher than Predicted) Over 300,000 of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from psychological wounds such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injury. (Tanielian. Jaycox.) The Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for treating these brave men and women and their host of complex issues after they return home from deployment.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, suicides in the military have become a major issue. According to a study done by the Huffington Post, one veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes, this adds up to 22 lives a day. The number of service members who took their own lives last year outnumbered the amount of combat related deaths. (Military Suicides: One U.S. Veteran Dies Every 65 Minutes) Coming home from a deployment can be extremely stressful for service members and their families. Often service members must learn to cope with the very disturbing and traumatic incidents they have seen while on duty. These can range from battlefield injuries to the loss of very close comrades in the field. Not only must the veteran learn to cope with the traumatic and unsettling events that have happened overseas, they must also learn how to reintegrate back into the civilian lifestyle. This integration can be very difficult for some veterans. Many veterans feel that the lack of readily available mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs has been a major result of the high suicide rates that are seen within the veteran population.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has responded to the alarming rate of suicides by investing in 24 hour hotlines for veterans that are in danger of taking their own lives. Live trained professionals are always available for counseling. The veteran crisis hotline has been responsible for over 745,000 calls since it was created in 2007. (About the Veteran Crisis Line) Even with this progress, many veterans feel it is not enough. Many of these hotlines are considered by veterans and their family members to be a very quick fix to a much bigger issue.

The Department of Veterans Affairs serves easily over a thousand veterans and their family members. They have numerous different services ranging from physical therapy, surgery, and mental health. They hire a team a very dedicated staff many of whom have been in the military themselves. However, the Veterans Affairs is facing an immense bureaucratic mess when dealing with the new population of veterans coming home from both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Many veterans with severe psychological health problems are extremely frustrated with the Veterans Affairs lack of open appointments. Many have complained they have yet to receive their screening let alone an actual appointment. The Department of Veterans Affairs claims that it takes every patient very seriously and tries to see each patient for a mental health screening within the maximum wait time of two weeks. (Scotti) Despite this report, the Veterans Affairs inspector general found that employees responsible for making appointments often entered misleading information into their computer system. Some employees were recording the next free appointment date as the patient’s choice of the appointment date. This resulted in veterans that had been waiting for several weeks to be seen to show up in the VA’s computer system as having no wait time leaving many...
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