I joined the Army out of California in 2005. This was right after my high school graduation and a little over a year later I would be fighting in Iraq, serving my first deployment during the “surge.” I served a total of 38 months in both Iraq and Afghanistan as an Infantry Scout and as a Blackhawk helicopter crew member. After nine years of service, I was retired with 90% disability, pending an increase to 100%
I attempted to contact local mental health professionals for several weeks. None of them returned my phone calls or voicemails. In June I declared having a mental health emergency with the VA. After going to the clinic and filling out paperwork, I waited a week until I was processed and it was several days before my scheduled appointment. I was given an appointment six weeks after that. I was told my appointment was canceled on the date of my appointment and not until after I arrived. I blew up over the fact that I had been on the verge of killing myself for months, barely able to hold my life together, and I had to see a primary care doctor to say I have PTSD and need a referral to mental health treatment, when I am retired with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury. Bipolar disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder both appeared as a result of my PTSD and TBI. I have tinnitus and it is both pain in the ears and difficulty with balance. I have fibromyalgia and have not had a day without pain since my first deployment.
My request for immediate care went unfulfilled and I threatened homicide in the clinic and left. This only warranted a call to my wife saying that I was crazy and was probably on my way to kill her and my children. I have tried since June of this year to resolve this problem with the Veterans Affairs clinic.
Later in July, I will have another incident at the same clinic while waiting for the same treatment. This incident is discussed in a separate letter. I apologize for the length, but it is important to try and paint a window into the treatment that veterans in your State receive.
I contacted the Patients Advocacy department, I contacted the Patient Safety department and was told investigation would be launched immediately into the incident, I have the emails as proof. If I was not being lied to directly, I was ignored.
I contacted my local Congressman. The office sent a request for an investigation into this incident with the VA. I was told a response was given after some weeks. I was told it would be sent to me within a few days. I had to contact the Congressman’s office repeatedly for that letter. A month passed before I was told that a “virus,” wiped out all of the Congressman’s aids emails. I finally received the response and was dismayed to find that a high-ranking official in the Los Angeles VA responded with a statement that the entire event did not happen, but if it did, I was completely at fault for not accepting their treatment. My Congressman’s office proceeded to take no action on this. It is hard to imagine how the VA came to this assessment seeing as they never once contacted me before sending the letter. It would appear they are more concerned with internal feelings then obtaining an actual investigation that might benefit the veteran. I brought this up several times and it would take many attempted communications to be offered a chance to speak with the Congressman. I had to decline due to a medical emergency with my wife and newborn daughter.
I had contacted the new White House VA hotline and was given a deadline for response, which came and went with no response.
I have tried every approach I can think of, I am left with throwing out a line to anyone on the shore willing to listen. Veterans are dying and it feels like no one is looking out for us as if we were abandoned by our nation. We are a minority of the population that only seems to be touted when it comes to the national anthem, which a number of us do not care about. We care about getting treatment for the horrible diseases we contracted because of our service in the Middle East. For the injuries sustained by gunfire and Improvised Explosive Devices and toxic air and toxic sand. No one has ever jumped on a grenade shouting “for the flag,” or “for the anthem.” No one in combat cares about that, it is about the men and women you deploy with. Once that deployment ends the “band of brothers,” mentality is gone.
I want to know what happened in the VA. Why have they continued to block every effort for me to obtain proper behavioral healthcare? Am I on one of the infamous “death lists,” because I spoke out against the VA. I told a Patient Safety nurse that she had failed at her job, apparently people do not like being told they are not doing their job.
We are greeted with the VA and their “wait until they die,” approach. We can see that the VA has consistently engaged in this tactic. It must end. It cannot be accepted that those of us who stood up to defend ideals were left behind by our government the moment we are no longer valuable. The more controversies that come out of the VA and the scandals they have aimed at ignoring the ailing population of veterans, the less young adults in the nation are going to sign up for military service.
Everyone will realize that the speech my class given during high school in 2003 by the Army recruiters about all the benefits that the military offers in all the ways that they will take care of you for the rest of your life if you are injured. Every one of those pledges. This turned out to be a lie. We signed a blank check for our futures and our bodies. The one we received in return has bounced.
There are those of us that cannot just stand by idly while even in 2017, the VA is trying to deny Agent Orange claims to Vietnam veterans who have suffered for decades. We see the pattern continue. They deny Gulf War illness. They deny burn pit health hazards. Against all logical and scientific data. Everybody knows breathing and burning plastic is extremely bad for your health. There is a reason why firefighters wear oxygen tanks when they go inside a burning building.
I will not allow my children to join this military. And I will try to stop everyone possible because this is unjust and unbelievable.
Veterans time and time again have commit suicide in front of VA clinics, yet no one talks about this. It is my understanding, the state of California does not report veteran suicides, nor does the state of Texas. These two states could easily increase the number of veterans who commit suicide, which right now is 22 a day, the realistic view is more like 30 – 45 a day. The neglect from the VA is leaving behind fields of dead veterans whose only crime was to sign up for service.
We ask you to use your platform as a representative of the people and of the veterans. Help ignite the fire that will bring about the change needed to take care of the nation’s defenders. Help us succeed in our treatment so we can enjoy the freedoms we fought for. I have not left my home for over 70 days because I cannot stand human interaction. We need help. We are a population without a voice and currently lacking enough champions to change our deteriorating situation. We need as many voices as possible to shine a light on the problem.