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Gaps prevent veterans from accessing physical and mental health care services
Posted in Advocacy, Mental Health - 0 Comments

Three years ago, a whistleblower at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospital in Phoenix revealed massive problems at the site, including the deaths of at least 40 veterans who died while waiting for appointments and care. According to the Congressional Research Service, at least 6 million veterans use the health system.

The revelations resulted in an investigation by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General. Further probe was also done by the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the White House. Former president Barack Obama even signed a legislation in August 2014 for reforming the VA.

However, even after three years, little appears to have changed in Phoenix.

Another alarm results in fresh investigation

Earlier in January 2017, a whistleblower informed the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) about extensive problems at the Phoenix hospital, leading to a fresh investigation.

Some of the findings of the OSC report were:

  • Patients wait an average of 75 days for an appointment with a doctor.
  • In October 2015, nearly 3,900 appointments were canceled – 59 of which needed to be rescheduled.
  • One patient who later died of cardiovascular disease never received a physician-ordered cardiovascular exam.

The whistleblower, later identified as VA manager Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez, told NBC News in Phoenix that he was being subjected to harassment, including surveillance and impossible workloads.

Apart from the serious gaps in general health care for veterans, the scandal also raises the issue of gaps in mental health care for them.

Veterans and mental health 

According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), veterans have higher than average rate of mental illness and trauma – particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A study, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 2013, found that many veterans who reported psychological problems after deployment never received mental health care. In addition to stigma and discrimination, APHA cited long waits for care as one of the primary problems preventing veterans from receiving appropriate psychological care.

But PTSD is not the only issue affecting veterans’ mental health – traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a frequent injury among veterans. A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that nearly 15 percent soldiers in Iraq had received concussions or other mild TBIs while on duty. The study also found that many of these soldiers were more likely to have PTSD as well.

The situation seems bad for females. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), female veterans are more likely to have mental health issues, with around one in five female veterans reporting PTSD related to military sexual trauma, a term which includes a variety of acts from sexual harassment to rape. The APA also cites data showing women make up the fastest-growing segment of America’s homeless veteran population.

Seeking treatment

Trauma can create serious, life-long physical and mental problems if left untreated. Sovereign Health’s Chandler, Arizona, a treatment center for women specializes in treating the survivors of trauma and abuse. Our patients receive evidence-backed, effective treatment in a comfortable, safe, home-like environment as they gain the tools they need to defeat their problems. A healthier life can start today – call our 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at news@sovhealth.com

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