- An appealing offer: Chiquita merges with Fyffes to make world’s largest banana firm
- Amnesty International says Syria guilty of war crimes for food blockade
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: ‘We are going to crush them’
- Adam Lanza’s dad: He would’ve killed me ‘in a heartbeat’
- North Korea holds election: 100% turnout, Kim Jong-un gets — 100% of vote
- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
Delays beset veterans health care system
Getting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder can be an arduous process for veterans who regularly must deal with administrative and medical delays, health care professionals say.
Alexis, who reportedly had PTSD after witnessing the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, enrolled in the VA system one month after he left the Navy Reserve in January 2011.
But he “never sought an appointment from a mental health specialist, and had previously either canceled or failed to show up for primary care appointments and claims evaluations examinations he had scheduled at VA Medical Centers,” the VA said in a statement.
Late last month, Alexis showed up a VA emergency medical center in Providence, R.I., and another in Washington, D.C., seeking medication for insomnia. After medical exams at both centers, he was given small doses of medication and told to follow up with primary care providers.
“On both occasions, Mr. Alexis was alert and oriented, and was asked by VA doctors if he was struggling with anxiety or depression, or had thoughts about harming himself or others, which he denied,” the VA statement said.
Weeks earlier, Alexis had called Newport, R.I., police to a hotel where he was staying and told them that voices were speaking to him through the wall, floor and ceiling, that three people were following him and keeping him awake with microwave vibrations, and that he had left two other hotels because of that. He also denied any history of mental illness.
Jason Hansman, senior program manager for health at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said there is “a huge stigma around mental health. People don’t want to self-identify as having an issue.”
Mr. Hansman said that veterans returning from war may not even recognize they have an issue, or don’t know where to go for help.
Alexis, however, was never deployed to a war zone.
Of the 2.5 million troops who have deployed since 9/11, only 1.7 million are eligible for VA care, and only half of those will seek care, said J.B. Moore, military and veterans policy and support manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. A little more than half are diagnosed with mental health issues like PTSD and depression.
“That’s not everyone who may need mental health care,” Ms. Moore said. “Every step of the way you are losing people that could be getting help.”
One complication in receiving care is the wait between when a veteran enrolls and the initial evaluation — which varies with how busy the VA facility is, Mr. Hansman said.
“It could happen within a couple of days, weeks or months,” he said. If a mental health issue is identified, the veteran will be scheduled to meet with a therapist, which could take additional days and weeks to set up.
Getting into the system, and into a routine with a therapist and receiving consistent care takes time is the hardest part, especially for reservists in rural areas or veterans who move around, Mr. Hansman said.
“If you’re waiting over two to three weeks for care that’s been promised, then there’s some sort of breakdown in the system,” he said. “There’s still this gap between what the VA provides and what is actually needed.”
The VA operates 153 hospitals, 956 outpatient facilities and 232 smaller clinics nationwide.
Kristina Kaufmann, executive director of Code of Support, a military advocacy group, worries that the Navy Yard shooting will make it even harder for veterans to come forward and seek mental health care.
“These things can impede and serve as a barrier to service members who are dealing with mental health issues — just in trying to convince them to go get help and that they are nothing like this guy and they are not crazy,” Ms. Kaufmann said.
“The narrative of this country is starting to fly back to what it was after Vietnam, which is ‘crazy veteran,’” she said. “This guy seems to have deep psychological problems that were pre-existing. — 99.9 percent of veterans are not going around shooting people.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Kristina Wong is a national security reporter for The Washington Times, covering defense, foreign policy and intelligence affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Despite Pentagon cuts and eye on Pacific, Air Force implored to save the 'Warthog'
- Pentagon welcomes budget deal but says more defense spending needed
- Rep. Hunter to Pentagon: Don't lower combat standards for women
- Scientists raise alarm over plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons at sea
- Hagel renews Qatar defense pact despite differences over Iran, Syria
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Investigators puzzle: How does a 777 jetliner just disappear into thin air?
- Russia besieges Crimea as U.S. seeks diplomacy; Putin remains undeterred by Obama's sanctions
- As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CURL: Today's GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- Adam Lanza's dad: He would've killed me 'in a heartbeat'
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again