The government agency tasked with benevolent care of America’s veterans is, more times than not, more malignant than their disease or disability. Since my release from the Navy, I have lived in many states and been treated in many VA facilities. They are all lacking when compared to the medical/mental health care received in civilian facilities. But, the VAMC in Billings, by far, delivers the most ambivalent, even malevolent, care. Many veterans don’t realize that they are receiving inadequate care. They blindly trust that the VA providers have their best interest at heart. I have met some very good VA clinicians, but they don’t last. They either resign in frustration or succumb to the bureaucracy, blending into deliberate ineptitude.
I suffer from constant, debilitating pain. My disabilities were the result of my military service and have been exacerbated by the treatment plans of my VA doctors and counselors. I am considered indigent and unable to afford civilian care. I spent the better part of 15 years homeless, because I was told that I was not entitled to VA care. It was not until I attempted suicide that the VA finally admitted my entitlement. I was relieved, thinking that I would finally get the help I needed. Little did I know that the care I received would cause more harm than good.
It is my responsibility and society’s responsibility to demand that the VA provide appropriate, compassionate care to every veteran. I was a combat medic and also trained as a surgical technician. How much more difficult is it for the medically naive veterans of Billings to understand and question the care that they are receiving? They instinctively trust that the VA has their best interest at heart oblivious to the harm being done to their physical and mental well-being.
Finally, this concerns us all, not just veterans. The VA spent $138.8 billion last year. We, as taxpayers, should demand a fiscally responsible VA. Appropriate and competent care would result in fewer visits to the VA, which would save taxpayer dollars and, more importantly, help alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering for our nation’s heroes.