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Day #133: The truth of VA healthcare

VA Hospital

I’m a disabled Marine veteran. From a TBI to my mental health, I’ve got some serious issues. Furthermore, with the rate of suicide among veterans ever increasing it may be odd to an outsider why this is happening. After all, the government provides us with free healthcare, why are so many of us dying, why are so many of us killing ourselves? The answer is sadly straightforward, although grim, so let’s talk healthcare as a veterans.

I recently had two appointments at the VA (for those who don’t know VA is Veterans Affairs, the people that provide my medical care and is a government run group), they went about what I was expecting. Not great, but whatever. It’s the VA, I’ve come to the sad realization that they exist so that the government can wash its hands of our deaths.

You may not realize it, but several veterans (almost 20 in the span of only a year and across several different VA facilities) have killed themselves IN the VA parking lot in protest of the care we get. Yet the VA pretends it doesn’t know why this is happening. We are dying to live, yet the VA throws its hands in the air acting like there is nothing they can do about it.

Here’s a fun fact, our bloated military budget is distinct and separate from the budget that dictates our (veteran) care. How bad is it? Well the total VA budget for the fiscal year 2020 is requesting $220.2 billion (here). Wow, that seems like a lot of money! I wonder what the DoD budget looks like… $989.0 billion (here).

Keep in mind the VA budget includes things like disability and pension payments and other non-medical VA funding things, while the DoD budget has other funding sources that are not included in the main funding package. Also keep in mind that there are more disabled/injured veterans out of the military (roughly 18 million as of 2019 here) than there are in the military (roughly 1.3 million here). So the VA budget cares for roughly 14 times more people than the actual military budget, but is roughly 4.5 times smaller.

Now time for the cold hard truth of the matter. I am a number. Rather I have a number attached to me by the VA. It represents the amount of money the VA will have to spend on my care over my lifetime. That figure includes disability payments, retirement payments, and the cost of hospital expenses. Hospital expenses like my mental healthcare, corrective surgeries for my injuries, physical therapy, at home treatments, medication expenses, etc. The people in charge of running the VA work hard to get that number to be as low as possible. Do you want to know how the VA can greatly reduce that cost?

By killing me.

See the problem here? The people that are supposed to take care of me also benefit from my death. That’s not to say that the people working for the VA are hoping I will kill myself, most of them are decent people… most. It’s just there are too many of us who need care, not enough people to give us care, and the people that do care for us are over worked, underpaid, and sometimes don’t really give a shit about us. My last mental health counselor firmly fell in the didn’t give a shit category.

Let me reiterate, the person that WAS responsible for my mental healthcare literally did not give a shit if I killed myself or not. He didn’t say it outright of course, but he did give me… let’s call it advice, that would have put me into a downward spiral if I had listened and when confronted about this “advice” he double-down on it instead of even attempting to brush it off as a joke (which would’ve only been mildly better). I’ll be very clear about this, if he was my counselor just a few years ago I might have done it and I would not be here writing this right now.

I switched care to someone only slightly better, someone who, “doesn’t believe in medication.” No, seriously the person I am seeing now doesn’t think medication is the answer. Well I have over 10 years of talk therapy, CBT, DBT, and have been on 20 or so different medications over the span of that time (some helping more than others), but sure why not have the person in charge of my medication tell me that I don’t need it.

I’ve had exactly one good councilor over the years in the VA system, just one. She did the only rational thing you can do when you’re good at your job, she left. The other thing about a VA job is the job security. When I reported the nursing assistant (councilor, whatever we want to call him) who was pushing me to kill myself, you know what happened? I was given a different counselor. Nothing happened to him, I don’t even think he is aware that I reported him. It’s hard to get fired from a government job like that, very hard, damn near impossible.

So there it is, at the end of the day I very much believe that the VA is a slaughterhouse disguised as a hospital. The fact of the matter is they are just patiently waiting for us to die while providing us with the minimum amount of care possible. Now, for the point. Why am I telling you all of this?

Knowledge is power. I can’t change things alone, that is by design unfortunately. However, the more people aware of the problem, the more people who make noise, and the more people who actually care, the harder it is for them to ignore the problem. How many people need to kill themselves in the parking lot of the VA hospital before they get the message? Well, one more as always, I mean it literally is saving them money. Maybe there is a better way. Who knows, maybe you can be the tipping point.

But enough about us, what about you?

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