Amazing Letter from Iraq Veteran About VHA Future

4032e2d72a05467a912d28bc0ac6ffed-4032e2d72a05467a912d28bc0ac6ffed-0This letter was sent to the Commission on Care at the VA by an Iraq veteran.  It has been redacted to protect his or her privacy.  It is amazing.  Please read it.

From: left out to protect privacy

To: Commission on Care
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Iraq War Veteran Date: Sunday, April 17, 2016 1:57:49 AM

Dear Commission on Care Members

I writing this in hopes to make you understand that the VA is more than a place that Veterans just get their health care at. Also I hope that my story will make you understand that the VA is more than worth saving because the VA saved ME! My name is and I am a Army OIF/OEF Veteran and have been getting my care at the Clement J Zablocki Va Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI since 2008. While I do understand that the VA has many issues and flaws but the issues are worth fixing by keeping Veteran health care within the VA system. First I want to start by saying that being a veteran is a brotherhood and going to the VA keeps us connected to each other. The VA is the only place that some of us feel safe and not out of place. The VA is the only place where I can always find someone that understands me and what I have gone through. Going to the VA is bigger than my health care but is is a place where I am never alone and hopefully my story will give you some understanding because it was the VA that made sure I knew that.

My VA story begins with me coming home from Iraq in 2007. After coming home from Iraq I was s member of Army Reserve and on a drill weekend we were told to report the drill hall because there was staff from the VA Medical Center that wanted to reach out and sign up anyone that has just return for combat for VA benefits. When I went though my demobilization process I was ordered to do this when I got back home so I did. Because I already signed up for care I didn’t think that I need to see them but they wanted to meet with me regardless. They were both mental health providers and wanted to ask about my transition home. I began to rant and rage telling them that I thought I was going crazy. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what. I knew something in me changed and I felt like a stranger to myself. I couldn’t sleep at night, I was hearing gun fire in my sleep, waking up looking for my rifle, getting up and putting on my uniform during thunder storms. I was angry all the time with inappropriate outburst, having crying spells. My brain was always going and I couldn’t figure out how to shake this out of my head. Because I didn’t understand myself and didn’t know who I was anymore, I started to drink to try to cope with this person I have become. One of the providers was a nurse that has served in a combat hospital in Afghanistan and could that I was in pain. He told me that he would have someone follow up with me to get started in my care and sit down with me to set up what I need. But all I thought was that I needed to just suck it up and drive on.

One day I received a call from an amazing social worker informing me that I was assigned to him and that he wanted to set up an appointment to get me started in my VA care. So I set up the appointment with him knowing that I didn’t want to come in. I didn’t want to come in because I was on a path of killing myself and I didn’t see the need for VA care. On the day of the appointment I was mark as a no show because I was drunk and in my basement. The next day I received another phone call from the social worker informing me that I missed my appointment. He informed me of the importance of making my appointments and that I needed to come in. So we set up another appointment and I did the same thing and no showed again. Again my social worker called me and said the some thing “I need to make my appointments and so forth”. I did this process for about over a month with me no showing and him calling. Finally I had enough and said okay I will come in if

you stop calling me. So I made the appointment but this time I showed up because that weekend I found myself drunk in my basement with a rope around my neck ready to kill myself. Standing in my basement not knowing what is happening to me “I told myself why don’t I go to this appointment and see whats happens before I end it”. And that was the start of the VA Health Care Saving my life. Not just mine but many Veterans like me that I met on my journey at the VA of figuring out who I was and what happened to the person I used to be.

Now you know a part of my journey with the VA Medical Center. I want to ask this committee since we know whats wrong with the VA do you know what is right? What is write is that my experience is something that comes with much sacrifice and the VA is the only place I feel safe with it. I am surrounded by men and women that know what serving our country really means. the VA is the place that I am surrounded by men and women that really understand the cost to keep this country safe. I like to remind you it was a combat veteran provider that saw my pain because he knew where I got it from and knew the journey to help me find some peace. With all due respect but this will be dishonoring the men and women that are willing to lay down theirs lives for this by taking away or closing locations that belongs to them. While I do agree that the Va needs reform but how about hiring VA executives that truly understand what it means when Abraham Lincoln said “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan”. How about increasing the number of VA executives that are Veterans because they understand what being a veteran mean and what is takes to become one.

So to your solution of sending us to private healthcare providers is the wrong direction because the VA is filled with veteran and staff that have raised their right hands and said!

“I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

There is no private health care provider office that can can offer me this type of care. So just fix our VA because it belongs to us not to the private sector.

Thank You Iraq Veteran

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