For years I have kept on my desk a copy of a workup done in 1973 by a very insightful psychiatrist describing the case of a 26-year-old Vietnam Veteran.  At the age of 20 this young man had been drafted into the US Army, serving for a year with an infantry unit in Vietnam.

The work-up describes numerous patrols and ambushes in which unit members were killed and injured, inadequate words describing horrific realities. After returning from Vietnam he married his high school sweetheart. They had a child. The marriage unraveled as his drinking increased. Jobs came and went. He avoided crowds, living in isolation on the outskirts of his small town.  He was “jumpy and nervous”. Sleep gave way to nightmares. He reported frequent “hallucinations of events, sights, sounds and smells” that had occurred in Vietnam.

He met all of the criteria for the clinical diagnosis of PTSD, but it would be another seven years before the term PTSD would enter the medical lexicon.  No one could have understood then that his “hallucinations” were actually flashbacks of traumatic events. The work-up concluded with these diagnoses: maladjustment, anxiousness and depression with psychotic features. Regardless, there were few effective strategies or established treatments to help this Veteran in 1973.

I thought of this Veteran while giving a talk on VA health care at an international conference in Seoul recently. I began by saying, “VA medical facilities have provided services for over 1.2 million combat Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the past decade.” My colleagues’ jaws dropped. They had been caring for Canadian, Australian, German and South Korean Veterans who had deployed with coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, but their combat Veterans numbered in the thousands or tens of thousands.

“Our combat Veterans are all screened for PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury, alcohol misuse and for case management needs. All had post deployment health assessments done in the military that I could access from my VA computer. Over three quarters of them were seen in VA clinics that had integrated post-combat care teams: primary care providers, psychologists, social workers and various specialty care providers in rehabilitation medicine, traumatic brain injury and pain care.”  I continued, “There has never been a time in human history when Veterans returning home from war have been greeted with such a systematic and comprehensive approach to their assessment, treatment and reintegration.”

During deployment, these individuals benefited from the fact that battlefield medical care has never yielded such high rates of survival and long-term recovery. In the Civil war if you were injured on the battlefield, you had a 50 percent chance of surviving. In WWII your chances were 65 percent, in the Vietnam War 75 percent.  In Iraq/Afghanistan if you were injured on the battlefield you had a 90 percent chance of surviving.

I reminded my international colleagues that our understanding of PTSD and other mental health conditions, traumatic brain injury, burns and devastating physical injuries and our approaches to the management of these conditions have never been more sophisticated and effective.

Unmentioned in the 1973 workup on my desk was that during his year in Vietnam the Veteran had spent much of his time in terrain sprayed with Agent Orange. Exposure to this dioxin-contaminated herbicide contributed to health consequences that would often be decades in emerging. Sadly, there were equivalent delays in our acknowledging those risks and responding to them. In the past decade, however, increasingly proactive policies and appropriate resources have been made available to Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

A group of people in a hallway.

VA Puget Sound Deployment Health Clinic team: An inter-professional team of health techs, program support personnel, nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, polytrauma specialists: it takes a team.

The largest group of new Veterans enrolling in VA over the past several years has been Vietnam Veterans. What many of them experienced when they returned home from their deployments from Vietnam 50 years ago reflected failures not only of VA but of us as a nation. Many of our Vietnam Veterans, treated so shamefully and unconscionably when they returned from Vietnam, are at last “coming home” to the support and appreciation that their service and sacrifice warranted, that they so deeply needed decades ago.

I told my international colleagues that I could not think about the Agent Orange exposures in our Vietnam Veterans without also thinking about the numerous exposures faced by Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War.  Our delay in acknowledging their Gulf War Illnesses resulted in delays in care and unnecessary suffering for them and their families. Once again our response reflected our lack of understanding of the nature of combat and the impacts of war on the health of those whose lives are touched by it. Many concluded in 1991, “Since it was only a four day ground war, these Veterans probably won’t experience many significant combat related health concerns.”

In retrospect it seems inconceivable that anyone would have come to that conclusion for a group of over 700,000 military personnel who spent six or more months in the desert, often in very austere or hostile physical environments, anticipating combat and possible death at any moment, enduring frequent Scud missile attacks setting off chemical alarms and scrambles into cumbersome protective gear. Individual physiologies were further jolted by multiple concurrent pre-deployment immunizations, prophylactic medications and exposures to petrochemicals and a variety of other toxic agents.

Between a quarter and a third of these Veterans had health concerns causing significant impairments in quality of life following deployment. Once again, our responses as a VA and a nation were reactive rather than proactive and while programs and resources were eventually put in place to support these individuals, the delays took a toll on another cohort of combat Veterans. More lessons painfully learned.

So I described to my international colleagues in Seoul the Burn Pit Registry that has been established during the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. (link to Burn Pit) It is a much more proactive approach to deployment related exposures, allowing Veterans to document their exposure concerns immediately upon returning from deployment and receive a medical evaluation to assess for any health conditions related to these exposures, ensuring timely diagnosis and treatment of associated health conditions, streamlined access to resources and more dependable and responsible long term follow-up.

Resources including educational opportunities, training programs, vocational rehabilitation services, housing, financial assistance and caregiver support have never been more comprehensive and accessible than those available to our most recent group of combat Veterans.  The 1.2 million combat Veterans who have received care in VA facilities represent approximately half of the 2.5 million individuals who have been deployed since 2003. Those seeking care and support from non-VA sources have had a wide array of options including the DoD facilities, community providers, non-profit organizations as well as a burgeoning network of federal, state and local community based efforts sponsored by governmental, business and non-profit groups to support Veterans and their families.

We have taken enormous steps forward in our approaches to post-deployment care as a VA and as a nation. This progress has been made in part as a consequence of painful lessons we learned from our inadequate, misguided and in some cases unconscionable responses to our Veterans returning home from earlier conflicts. Though we have made considerable progress in our approaches to taking care of returning combat Veterans, what we have accomplished is not nearly good enough; there are gaps, there have been obstacles to access, there have been too many failures in care at both the individual Veteran level and the broader systems level. We have done well by many Veterans on many occasions in numerous locations, but that is not good enough. As a nation and as a VA, our goal must be to support every Veteran and every Veteran’s family, every time.

That said, if we do not see what we have accomplished, if we do not recognize and acknowledge the work that has been done and the progress we have made in our post-deployment care in the DoD, VA and the broader community, if we do not build upon what we have learned and implemented over the past decade, the well-being of combat Veterans returning from deployments in the years ahead may be at great risk.

With the recent reduction in the numbers of service members being deployed, there may be a temptation to shift our focus away from post-deployment care and Veterans’ health care in general. This is not the time to “turn the page” or “move on to a new chapter” or dismantle in any way the systems we have in place to care for our Veterans.  It is a time to make the shift from “times of war to times of peace” in a way that strengthens these capacities even as we scale them down to align them with diminishing numbers of newly returning combat Veterans.

It is important that we make this shift in a manner that ensures the retention of established models and nascent systems for post-deployment care that can be scaled up during times of war. It is crucial that we take this opportunity to create institutional memory for how to provide good post deployment care as a VA and as a Nation, to ensure preparedness for the inevitable deployments that will occur in the future. And this is a time to reassure our current Veterans that we will be there for them not simply on the day of their welcome home parade. We will be there for them and their families over the long haul.

Our Veterans deserve no less, every one of them, including our Vietnam Veteran described in the 1973 workup sitting here on my desk, wherever he may be today.

Stephen C Hunt MD MPHAbout the Author: Stephen C Hunt, MD MPH is the Director of the VA Post-Deployment Integrated Care Initiative

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Published on Jun. 2, 2016

Estimated reading time is 8.3 min.

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  1. Quinn E. Urban DAhlstrom June 14, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I served the US Navy from 1961-1966 and have been trying tell the VA and congress and the whole world that before Agent Orange could go abroad they stored the drums in the warehouses across the United States. Not only that they used agent orange to spray weeds around the bases as they did in Brunswick, ME and Norfolk, VA. I was exposed to this when the drums were leaking. But deaf ears seem to go on the VA and since I can’t prove this (redacted) I am denied benefits. Even though I had lesions on both legs and my health records show that. The Navy didn’t know how to take care of it then. It took experiments to get the lesions to dry up and go away. I have diabetes 2 and no one in my family has ever had diabetes, But the VA board turns their eyes and ears into a dark shed and can’t see the writing on the wall. Oh and I have diabetic nerve pain and retinopathy– Thank you AGENT ORANGE

  2. Angel Nazario June 12, 2016 at 9:02 am

    VN 68-69 MACV team 28 Tuy Hua .
    I was diagnosed PTSD a few years ago by a VA doctor ,in PR VA clinic and have been denied because it has not been diagnosed . My Dr. could not believe it ,because everything is in my VA medical record !!! I have given the case to a lawyer firm and hope to be approved before I pass away !!!

  3. Tom Pappas June 9, 2016 at 2:31 am

    60% of the claims problems result from Service Officers that do not understand the VA and how it works and
    thus do not understand how to present a claim.
    I have helped a veteran get a claim granted for Ischemic Heart Disease in 27 days without a C&P and a
    PTSD reconsideration (appeal) done in 5 months because I understand. Just helped a “sandbox” vet get his
    PTSD claim done in 4 months. I screwed up or it would have been 3 months. Every vet that I help MUST be willing to help themselves. I do not babysit veterans!!!!!! If you want compensation, then you must help gather the needed documentation. It makes no sense to ask the VA, your enemy, to find needed documentation!
    Few Service Officers understand that you use the claims process to get an initial diagnosis and then with
    that diagnosis you go to a private doctor for an honest evaluation having that doctor fill out the appropriate
    DBQ. You then use that DBQ to file a Reconsideration Claim for an upgrade resulting in the claim being
    granted in 5 months or less. You use a DBQ for an initial clam, that is how you get it granted in 27 days.
    You list all needed documents on the 21-4138 and only submit the page or pages with the required sentences
    and highlight those sentences. If the VBA wants to see the rest of that document, it is available to them on the
    computer. I.E. make it simple for the federal employee to determine if all needed documentation is included.
    Our Service Organizations, Legion, VFW, AMVETS, DAV are a large part of the problem. They refuse to understand
    that they are responsible to represent their membership not partner with the VA. They are not pushing for
    veterans to have a Choice when it comes to healthcare outside of the VHA. They don’t understand that
    illegal immigrants and those on welfare are being treated better than America’s veterans. I don’t want to drive
    75 minutes to a VAMC when I have 6 private hospitals within a 30 minute drive, but our Service Organizations think
    that is okay because Sec. McDonald says the private sector is not versed in our specific healthcare needs. Yet in
    a Feb. 2016 Press Release he admits that 70% of private care doctors were trained by the VHA.
    Lastly, veterans are their own worst enemies. Too many just sit around and complain. They don’t take the initiative
    to do research and define what solutions are to their problems. They don’t actively take part in gathering documentation
    for claims nor hold their Service Organizations accountable.
    I was USAF 66-70 and Nam May-Nov of 68.

  4. Anthony D Morris June 8, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    This is to my fellow vets and their families, including Mark, Roland, Donna, Victor, Joe, Larry, Michael, Bill, and Gerald.
    Thanks for your tremendous sacrifice, your gift to our nation, and an undying belief that ‘we all’ gave a gift of freedom that ‘we paid’ and thought would be appreciated. The problem lies in Washington DC and is two fold. The culture in DC is to award anyone who works there no matter how lousy they do there job,will not only get paid, but with a bonus. Once you set a precedent on paying rewards,,, no matter how small,,, after a few years of a run-a-away train, the limit on spending and patting all their buddies on the back becomes free money to them.
    Now along comes the Federal Employee’s union and they are now driving the train. No matter the condition of the Dept. no matter how many complaints they receive, no matter how many Vet’s have died, they (the unions) claim that has no bearing on bonuses. In fact they all say it was negotiated and we deserve it. How much money would fix the VA? $20 million, $40 million, how about $75 million or $100 million? For the year 2014, the Dept of Veteran affairs paid out to their wonderful employees a record $142 million in bonus’ When I was in Vietnam 69-70, receiving small arms fire, rocket attacks, sapper attacks… making about $168.00 a month, I don’t remember getting a bonus for doing a good job. Even working security at the ICBM missile site in ND during the cold war as a young NCO,,,, you guessed it, NO bonus.
    See folks, as a recent candidate for president was quoted “At this point, what difference does it make” For us winning is not an option. Failure is built in to the system’ and unless we get someone in Congress who cares it will remain the same, saddly. Take a look at the Justice Dept scandal, the IRS scandal, the Housing and Savings & Loan scandal, Fast & Furious and on and on. How many went to jail or paid a fine? ZERO. Vets are at the very bottom rung of the ladder.
    Hopefully it will change befor I die, but I dont have the strength to cross my fingers anymore.
    I love this country, my family has been in every conflict starting with The War of 1812 up to and including the first Gulf War. If it were up to me, every single person in DC would serve One term only. If you can’t do your job in four years, send in the next guy.
    God Bless our Country and all Veterans who defend it !
    Sgt Anthony D Morris USAF
    12th SPS CRB, RVN 69-70

  5. Gerald L Collick June 8, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Sir. your letter was over whelming, I thought for a minute that you were reading my life record. I served in The US Military in South Korea. I landed July 18th 1976. I recieved my orders and I was assigned to Infantry Unit 2nD Divison. Camp Hovey. My company went on red alert 30 days later. 4 Officers were killed on the DMZ, they were axe murdered by North Koreans. This was International news dated Aug 18th 1976. My company answered the call going towards the DMZ. They refused to give me a weapon of which I had a right to have to protect my fellow officers, company members as well as myself. After I realize without a weapon I Began thinking the worste to happen to me was death. I ve been thinking this way ever since with flash backs, sound, smells and sleep that emerges into night mares. I check my doors and windows at laest 10 times a day. I ve separated my self from my family with a number of excuses in fear that i will be rejected if they knew I had shell shock BKA PSTD..if they knew I was seeing a psychologicalist for years I wonder how would they act towards my medical records in South Korea you will find that I have at lease 3 medical referrals to see a psychologist for problems acuring to me in South Korea while in the Army. I did not understand my illness therefore I received article 15s because I could not explain myself. I became a escape goat. After I ETS in Maryland In 1989 I ran into one the most unspeakable things you could imagine. A new war accures in Veteran Hospital and VA Administration while seeking diisability. Medical and Mental Health issues of which i did not understand nor did any doctor explain to me while the time my condition has gotten worst. As a Veterans feel abandon and left to ssuffer just to over dose on medication. Most Veterans die off of the medication before they can recieve benefits. In the State Maryland we call it “The conspiracy against Veterans in wartime or in conflict” I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. I have over 40 jobs in 38 years. Its a shame how Veterans are treated. If we fail one we fail all Veterans because it took the effort of us all to protect this Blessed Nations of ours. I ve been in pain and often times I have to suffer with pain because the medication will kill you in the long run or put wholes in your stomach. I was just wondering if you could speak on my behafe with some type of input towards the Judges in Washington DC where my file is. I want my rank and honor restored as well as the article 15 release because of my illnesses. Pvt Gerald L. Collick

  6. william r. whitehead June 5, 2016 at 9:30 am

    good luck to all AF vets who served in Vietnam. Due to agent orange exposure I developed a sarcoma cancer in my thigh,which destroyed part of my femur,which developed osteomyleitus, and a hip replacement. I get around barely but constant pain. All of my surgeries were done at Vanderbilt University hospital,how would one get a motorized cart from the VA? Thanks Bill

  7. Michael David Herring June 5, 2016 at 7:03 am

    The VA publishes such self-congratulatory blurbs that infuriate those of us who have been battling the claims process for Agent Orange exposure – in my case, over seven years. While I get excellent care from the VAMC’s and CBOC’s in my area, I cannot say one good ting about the claims process. The VA touts its mission statement, but the real attitude of the VA when it comes to legitimate claims is, “Delay, Deny, and Wait for them to Die.”

  8. Byron Menendez June 4, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    i have had only great experience at my little clinic in oakland and in the big hospital in Lahoya ca.
    i think a few vets fall thru the cracks, i have had , amazing care and at 93,i need lots of care.
    if the critics better funded the VA, some trying to destroy it, it could be even better. byron

  9. Anthony D Morris June 3, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    I served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, and arrived in-country about a year and a half out of highschool. As a young man I’ve seen parts of our base blown up by sappers, dead bodies in the road, and worked for 36 hours straight. The very next day you were back at work doing the patrols & what not. No time to decompress or barely think about what happened.
    It wasn’t long after I got out of the AF and the night terrors started, afraid to go to sleep, often times sleeping on the floor in a different room, I didn’t recognize myself anymore.
    Depression, anxiety, anger, marital issues, yes I had it all. I understand how suicide is the easy way out, I’ve been there & moments away myself and my heart goes out to every vet and their families for the guys that didn’t get help. I have been fighting the VA for 10 years for my PTSD. The last four shrinks I have had, either retired, transferred, or was recalled back to active duty. Currently in NW FL, the VA has no shrink working. I seek mental health outside of the system at my own expense because their ‘so called’ Choice Program has so many loopholes. Folks, if this were a company and you needed an engineer you would call everyone you knew to find one,,, why isn’t the VA doing the same for us ??? When so many Vet’s need help or need assistance and need care,,,, we were TOLD, ‘You Earned It’ !
    Nothing against refugees, undocumented workers or whatever the political correct term is now, and they do deserve ‘some assistance’ why are all these folks getting so much care right from the start? Did they earn it, did they fight for this country, did some of them die for our freedom? Someday a lot of Vets are going to just say… We ain’t gonna take it anymore, and Washington DC will have a Veterans Million Man March. How will they answer the question to all the families of Gulf War vets that committed suicide, all the VN vets that have fought for twenty plus years & received denial after denial. Most vets do not realize,,, after the VA telling them send in all your documents, have all the correct forms signed, yet the average claim is looked at and examined for 5 minutes, maybe 10 at best. I have just about run out of gas & the VA has stalled me like so many others just save a few thousand dollars to give to the guy who is just today arriving at our borders. Welcome Home and God Bless our Veterans.
    …p.s. For the Vets that say they have had great care at the va facilities…. great for you, but you know what? That’s their job. They are suppose to be giving you great health care…. YOU EARNED IT !!

  10. Larry Bell June 3, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I agree with Mark Cinco. I served 4 years in the Air Force with one n Thailand. Next door to Viet Nam and very much a jungle. We had agent orange sprayed all around the perimiter. I have several problems that I believe are related but VA says since I am not diabetic no deal. I have several friends that are diabetic and was never near agent orange. How can the VA explain this ? I think the VA is happy to save the government some money by denying myself and many others due benefits.
    I will probably go to my grave knowing I have been scamed by my own government.

  11. Joe Fargo June 3, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I’m a Vietnam Vet. I served in the Naval Air and was assigned to a helicopter squadron. I also served on 2 Aircraft Carriers, USS Intrepid and USS America. We most did Sea-Air Rescue. I’m a person with very bad PTSD. In the last few years the Mental Health Dr.’s has made it almost impossible to have the meds that one needs for PTSD, and I’m one of them. I have been on Klonipin and Zanex, not anymore. It seem that you have to have all of your teeth pulled and give up your 1st born to make any progress with the meds used for PTSD. Now it seems that I cannot get resolution in this matter on a local basis. I’m now driven to write the Senators and Congressmen that we elected to represent us in Washington. My PTSD causes me to have major anxiety and major panic attacks on a regulated basis. In the last 3 months, I’ve had 3 different Mental Health Dr.’s that have treated me like a Pin Doll. Over the past 8 years I’ve witnessed a big decline in the Mental Health Department. Sad but true…..

  12. Joe Fargo June 3, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I’m a Vietnam Vet, I served in the Naval Air and was assigned to a Great Helicopter Squadron. My squadron served on 2 Aircraft Carriers, USS Intrepid and the USS America. I had 5 billets and most of our work was Sea/Air Rescue.
    I have PTSD and now it is very hard to get the meds that actually help this condition. The way I see it, I’ll have to go above those that are in Mental Health and get to my States Senator’s and Congressmen in Washington and bring this to their attention. Hopefully, they will form a committee to look into this mess. PTSD lead to High Anxiety and Huge Panic Attacks. Somehow the VA Medical Center make you pull teeth and give up your 1st born to receive the meds that one needs with PTSD.

  13. Victor Sellers June 3, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Having been lied to, deceived, manipulated, and intercoursed just about every way possible for the last 45 years, I realized that I know nothing about twisting the truth, manipulation, deception, but I do know about getting screwed over and over and over again.
    If DAV got you 40%, you probably deserved 80%. The medical board in Vietnam wanted me medically discharged because I was no longer deployable due to permanent damage of all organs and systems, so the Army kept me, but never treated me back to health, or compensate me. The did deceive me very well though, denying all benefits and treatment for the permanent illnesses. Left to rot is the correct motto!

  14. TERRY COBB June 3, 2016 at 11:50 am

    In 1994 I was treated at the San Diego VAMC for alcoholism, in the ADTP. Through the VA and Vet Centers, which are aligned with the VA, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I had spent 18 months in Vietnam as a paratrooper with the 1/503 Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. With the treatment that I received I was able to give up drugs and alcohol after 28 years. I no longer had flashbacks, and refused to accept VA compensation when it was offered because I was able to pursue a lucrative job in my chosen trade. In 2008 I was having an eye exam due to being diabetic. The person doing the exam explained that I might be eligible for compensation due to exposure to Agent Orange while in-country. My DAV officer was able to get me 40% disability within 6 months. In 2010 I had a heart attack, and learned that Eschemic Heart Disease, better known as CAD, was also presumed to be from Agent Orange. The DAV re-opened my claim and I now get 70% compensation. I would not have known about any of this except for those at the VA telling me about what I was entitled to. I think many vets, who refused to see a doctor for 50 years, now want to bring all their ailments to the door of the VA and expect to be paid for them. Throughout all this I have never had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment, whether it was with my Primary Care doctor or a specialist. When I needed a walker the VA st me down with a book and told me to pick out the one I wished. Any service or therapy I need I get within 30 of a request. I am sorry so many vets wish to bash the VA, but they have given me a quality of life better than what any doctor I used while on private insurance from my employer. Keep up the good work!

  15. D.B. June 3, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I sympathize with every Veteran that has to ask the VA for help with their WAR INJURIES because the VA will just say that it did not happend to you or your type of “DISCHARGE-DD214” is not good enough for benifits. Look at it this way, the war injury is the reason for the unapproved discharge for benifits!!!!!! I do not see where a type of discharge has anything to do with a physical war wound. I spent 1&1/2yrs. In Vietnam and came home with all kind of war injuries. 1-flashbacks 2-nightmares 3-depressions 4-gittery moods. 5-loneliness 6-bone deterioration in my shoulder(I say it came from Agent Orange, they say no). 7-alcohol & drugs abuseive(these has cause me to sustain head injury, ankle injury, and flat out feeling of being worthlessness of myself and all these thing (and more) has and still ls happening to me. Yet still the VA is not doing anythin in the lite of financial help for me because of my “WAR DISCHARGE-DD214”. I volunteered for the Army but not for the war. I was told that I had a choice of places to be station after all of my training because I was a volunteer and not drafted. That lie showed up on a deployment roster to Vietnam. I did not protested the “ORDER TO REPORT”. My war story is for real and not exaggerated. There is more that I can tell about my experience in the war but it saddens me to talk about it because of it and The VA cruelty to us war wounded Veterans because of a “WAR-DISCHARGE”!

  16. Donna Graves June 3, 2016 at 10:31 am

    My Husband, Captain George W., a 100% combat wounded Vietnam Veteran was repeatedly and wrongfully denied the handicap improvement grant. He was wounded by a land mine and had to use a cane to walk. After his first open heart surgery in 2009 (aschemic heart disease) he had to use a walker and wheelchair. Still the VA denied him. We took on the expense of making our bathroom handicap accessible. The VA refused to reemburst us. We applied again for the grant because our hallway was to narrow for the wheelchair and we needed handrails! On November 10th 2013, my husband fell and after almost two months of much difficulties he passed away as a result of this fall.
    it is the VA standard practice to deny all claims hoping their endless and confusing appeals process will discourage all older Veterans from pursuing the help they need. I lost my husband, our children lost their father and the world lost a real Hero because of this wrongful denial of benefits he earned with his blood in Vietnam and the shrapnel he carried in his body the rest of his life.

  17. Tom Reilly June 2, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    I spent four years in U.S. Army, 1969-73. One year in Vietnam. When I was discharged and began to suffer symptoms like panic attacks and depression, I went to the John Cochran VA hospital in St. Louis. I talked to a government psychiatrist and he laughed at my symptoms. I never went back and spent the next eight years drinking and taking prescription meds for anxiety and depression. After 45 years, I have somehow managed to build a pretty good life but not with the help of VA.

  18. Beth Trimmell June 2, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I agree that there has been much progress made over the past 6 years that I have been personally dealing with the VA. Where it continues to be lacking is: 1) in the mental health field. It is hard enough for these men to admit that they need need help but then to have a new case worker or Doctor each time they go in and have to repeat their story and their issues yet again is enough to make them give up. Moving from Doctor to Doctor increaces suicide rate!!!! This isn’t rocket science. High turnover has to stop. Also, men do NOT want to talk to women about wartime issues and most of the mental health professionals are women. 2) I understand HIPA… However, no one knows these service members like their family members (wives, live in girlfriend/boyfriend) and for the mental healthcare provider to not reach out to them (with the service members permission of course) is a great disservice to the the servicemen or woman and their family. My spouse was doing things in his sleep he didn’t even know he was doing and I thought he was coherent but wasn’t.
    Unfortunately our story ends in a failed marriage, he stopped going to the VA for his metal health visits after the 3rd or 4th Doctor. He quit his meds and instead went back to alcohol and is now a quadrapolegic due to an accident while drinking. Our son has spent half of his life visiting his father in VA hospitals and will be starting kindergarten this fall. Believe me I often wonder what it may have been like if Craig had gotten consistent mental health support. But personal accountability also has to looked at.

  19. Roland Earl Trimmer June 2, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Dear Sir….EVERYONE at VA, especially those with the Comp. & Pen division
    need to read this, then read it again and then again before they examine every
    PTSD patient. They are the problem in the VA system.

    Roland Earl Trimmer
    Combat Wounded American Vet
    U.S. Army Vietnam War 1968-69

  20. Mark Cinco June 2, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    The presumption that veterans applying for disability compensation DO NOT DESERVE the benefits we seek is absolutely disgraceful. The notion that vets who did not serve in combat are LESS DESERVING of any benefits is disgusting. How is that not obvious to EVERYBODY?

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