The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

January/February 2005
PTSD/SUBSTANCE ABUSE COMMITTEE REPORT
 
 

2005: Focus On PTSD

BY TOM BERGER, CHAIR

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times in August, the VA health-care system, with 7.5 million veterans enrolled, has struggled to keep up for decades. At any one time, more than 3,000 veterans are waiting for a first visit to see a doctor. Those whose injuries from battle qualify them for disability compensation often wait six months to two years.

Although the VA has taken steps to cut the wait for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, newly discharged soldiers have waited 54 days on average to get their first veteran disability compensation checks. In addition, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now become terrorist counterinsurgencies that have put American troops into sustained close-quarter combat on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War.

Many mental health professionals say that kind of fighting—spooky urban settings with unlimited hiding places; the impossibility of telling friend from foe; the knowledge that every stretch of road may conceal an explosive device—is tailored to leave lasting psychological scars. And not since World War II have so many troops faced such uncertainty about how long they will be deployed. More importantly in this regard, the Government Accounting Office published a report in September that noted the VA lacked a count of the total number of veterans currently receiving PTSD treatment, not to mention the information needed to determine whether it could meet an expected increased demand for mental-health services as a result of the Afghan and Iraq wars.

That’s why we have titled this column to reflect the PTSD/SA Committee’s commitment for 2005: “Focus on PTSD.” Our efforts during the year will focus on three goals: (1) raising PTSD awareness; (2) assisting our fellow veterans (especially Afghan and Iraq veterans) and their families in obtaining timely access to meaningful PTSD- and substance-abuse diagnoses and treatment programs; and (3) strongly advocating for a significant increase in appropriations for the VA health care system, particularly in the areas of mental health, PTSD, and substance abuse.

What can you do? Borrowing from a recent VVA Communications release, “What you can do is visit the district offices of your Senators and Members of Congress. Don’t ask them about funding of veterans health care—ask them how they plan to do their part to appropriate more money to meet the needs of the veterans who use the VA health-care system today. Remind them of the thousands of critically wounded casualties who will need the expertise of VA doctors.” By doing so, I believe we will be living VVA’s founding principle: “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.”

Contest Winner
I would like to thank everyone who submitted designs or ideas for the VVA/PTSD Awareness poster contest. The winner was John Monaghan of Wilmington, Delaware. A VVA life member, he claimed $225 worth of VVA merchandise. Congratulations, John.

   

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