Monday, February 02, 2009

The Tampa, FL Veterans Affairs Hospital

The VA... So I was convinced about a year and a half ago to begin going to the VA for PTSD. That was quite a feat in itself, and at first I was pleased with the service provided. That was until I actually began seeing the doctors there. Now the VA I am talking about (I can't mention ALL VA hospitals, because I have only been to one) is the James A Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa Florida. I began there with an orientation, they stated that all Afghanistan and Iraq vets were to be awarded with something like 5 years free VA medical service.

Yeah, this was bull shit as I have begun receiving the first bills. I have said this before, and I will say it again, I am a survivor. While surviving at times is just that... Making it to the next day... I will not now or ever give up. But is that really a way to live? To just simply survive? I begun to seek help for PTSD and have been awarded a meager compensation (yes very meager) for my disability (PTSD).

So it was a shock when that bill hit me. Now I have my own medical insurance, and for me to see my own doctor instead of a VA doctor (as I have been doing since I was assured it was free) it is actually cheaper for me to pay my co-payment instead of the VA's co-payment.

All of this would not alarm or bother me so much if I didn't have other friends who were also going to the same VA hospital. They are not being charged and they are receiving better care than I am. I am grateful for the fact that they are getting the help they need, but I must ask, where is the help you promised when I first came?

I can get a PTSD appointment maybe every 3-4 months at best, and have begun paying out of pocket to see a private therapist because it just ISN'T enough... Every 3-4 months? Really? Part of me wants to take this to the national and local press, but part of me just wants to get better. To put Iraq behind me... Then I think to myself, I am probably not the only one being charged by the VA to get the help I need, the help I am being compensated for (in the form of disability payments) and the fact that it IS service connected should make it free right? Why should I and other's like me suffer? This is not right.

I think back to my friends who have suffered next to me as they both witnessed death and caused death in Iraq. Are they getting the care they deserve? Should they be forced to pay the VA for care that is service connected? Should they be forced to pay out of pocket like I am just because the VA isn't providing it? This is wrong on so many levels.


griffin2002 said...

I've got a question for you, have you joined COV yet, Community of Veterans, it's a network of Iraq and Afghanistan Vets, you might want to look into it, they have lots of useful information, possibly even free counseling (outside the VA) for PTSD.

Anonymous said...

Dear Zack,

Staying with relatives after Christmas, I read an issue of a magazine targeted to retired military officers. I wish I could recall the name of it for you, but my short term memory is too horrible. It's a miracle I remember the trip. Anyway, this magazine featured an article about the very thing you are referring to - vets NOT getting the medical care they have been promised. I don't get why vets are so reluctant to make this issue known. Is it something to do with a suck-it up; no whining culture? I don't know, but the opinion of this civilian is you should tell people. Tell the press, tell your neighbors, tell the congregation at your local house of worship. Don't have a house of worship? Even better, just circulate to them all. Stand up uninvited and let people know. Tell everyone. Tell anyone who will listen. Maybe if enough people know and get ticked off, maybe some improvements could be made to this situation.
On a more personal level, I agree seeing a therapist once every 3 to 4 months is a ridiculous level of under treatment. When I was in grade school, my school was taken hostage. When the little Amish girls were taken hostage and murdered, I started having nightmares. A neighbor convinced me to go see a therapist. She (the therapist) wanted to see me every single week. It had been next door to forever since we were taken hostage. We were only held a few hours; no one even died. So, I think, God yes, you should be seen more than once every 3 to 4 months.
Also, you posted a piece to the Sandbox affiliated with the Doonesbury strip that had me very worried. I'm relieved you're being proactive about taking care of yourself. And I talk (write/post) too much. So take care,

Michele Rosenthal said...

Zach - You brave soul! On so many counts I admire you. (And you have a great writing voice, too, by the way.)

I'm a trauma survivor who struggled with undiagnosed PTSD for 25 years.

Two things strike me in what you wrote:

1. You are utterly right that you need care and you need it NOW. The longer PTSD goes unchecked the greater and stronger it becomes, as I'm sure you know. I'm glad to hear you being proactive about help as so many of us with PTSD become so mired in the dissociative and depressed experience of it that we become inert. I write a healing PTSD blog and am in touch with many resources. If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know.

2. You sound on the verge of advocacy and I want to support you in that! None of us receive the care we need from a voluntary society. In my own civilian world there were no PTSD resources when I needed them. Now that I'm healed (I'm into my second year of being completely PTSD-free) I am avidly working to advocate for the awareness, education, treatment and healing of PTSD. The intersting part of this is how much it helps further enforce my own healing journey. PTSD takes so much of our power from us; healing and advocating returns it. If you have the time and focus to give back in that way I hope you'll do it. If we each raise our voice - for our own circumstances and for each others - we will be heard.

I wish you much luck in your healing. If I can be cured after 25 lost years there's hope for everyone! :)

mamaworecombatboots said...

Hello Zach

I would urge you to write to your representatives (all of them--House and Senate) and then write to Patty Murray. She is from Washington State but is member of the subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. She is a bulldog for vets. Here is her contact info.

You might find it helpful to look for older vets to talk to. Many have been able to work through their issues and can relate to what you've been through.

I am glad you are dealing with it. Trauma won't stay buried--if you try to stuff it down is just comes out the cracks. Fight on!

Halla said...

That is simply outrageous!! The VA needs to take care of all our vets properly not by halfway measures. Allot of our vets are dying after they came home and that is not acceptable.

You are a good writer, have been following you since you started the war, and I also urge you to start writing about this. Why not contact your local or national newspaper or the AP and see if you can write a piece about your experiences?

Anonymous said...

Your VA has a team of people who are there to advocate for you. They are:
OEF/OIF Program Manager Nolan Hinson (813) 972-2000, ext. 3825
OEF/OIF Seamless Transition Coordinator Steve Preston (813) 972-2000, ext. 6173
Transition Patient Advocate Vince Conti (813) 972-2000, ext. 3858
OEF/OIF Case Manager Bridgett Smith (813) 972-2000, ext. 5565

Call them! Tell them your thoughts. They will make sure you get your appointments more regularly (it's their job!!!). If not, go to a vet center or contact a Veterans Service Officer ( They are there to advocate for you, as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you've seen, but I've seen things as well, and I really can't get any help. I'm not sure what happened to me, but the VA is really the only people that can help me. The only problem is I don't necessarily qualify for the VA. When I was a senior in high school, I ended up involved with a female teacher of mine who was about 62 or 63. I was a fighter and had fighters eyes the whole time so my short-term memory was fawked. I had no idea what was going on back then. Anyway, her husband was 30 year military who made a few phone calls, got some people flown out for me to spar, one of the guys I sparred was Special Forces and moved his family here to train me. He didn't end up training me though. The person who really ended up training me was my uncle who had been SF in Vietnam and had done recon as part of the CIA's Phoenix Project. He was the one that trained me. What actually happened, during that time in high school I was out of it with fighters eyes, and what happened when I went out of it w/ fighters eyes again 5 years later in college is anyones guess. Nevertheless, I have 3 sets of eyes now. Normal eyes, regular fighters eyes, and fighters eyes with mind control eyes(which several people confuse as military eyes). Though, the mind control eyes I have effects me in the same way as military eyes effect other soldiers. When I have mind control eyes I see things in shades of black, I've experienced battle sickness with those eyes and raped females, etc. I go to a local mental health facility, but I can't tell them shit about anything because they don't know shit about anything. They don't understand anything about fighters eyes and won't listen when I try to explain fighters eyes to them. I can't tell them I can remote view when I have mind control eyes because they'll just say I'm schizo eventhough about any shrink at the VA hospital could tell you that elite Special Forces guys are usually always psychic and use remote viewing to watch their backs while their in CQC to make sure nobody sneaks up on 'em and slits their throats or something while they're knifing people and stuff in front of 'em, etc. The local mental health facility don't understand mind control, programming and deprogramming, etc, but the VA hospital programs and deprograms people all the time. Yet, I never signed up for the military so I don't qualify to be able to go to the one place where I can get the help I actually need. Military people fucked me up, and I think the military hospital should fix me. They're the only ones truly qualified to be able to help someone like me who was raped, mind-controlled, turned into a sex slave, programmed with martial arts and advanced military techniques, etc. Not to mention all the battle memories I have and stuff. You think u got problems? At least you have the possibility of getting help. The one place I can go to actually get help I'm not qualified to get help from. Otherwise I'm stuck dealing with know nothing ass wipes that'll just say I'm schizo and put me on zyprexa w/o actually trying to help me w/ my actual problems. Now everytime I get fighters eyes, I immediately start walking with a Special Forces walk and not even realize I'm walking that way. If you piss me off enough when I have fighters eyes, and bring out my mind control eyes, my military training will kick in and I'll start doing funky shit.

Anonymous said...

I left a comment about being mind-controlled and the like. One of the things I was trained to do was line fight. I'm not sure if you're familiar w/ that, but that's where a relatively small # of soldiers can go in and take out a very large formation of enemy soldiers, primarily, with fighting. Basically, what you do is u start out w/ a formation of soldiers. You start out on the far left of the soldiers. My technique was I'd always start w/ a left hook to the one on the farthest left to the chin, then spin to my right and uppercut the next to the nose, then spin to my right and straight right the next to the throat, then spin to the right and hit the next one in the stomach and as they bend over jump in the air and drop the point of my elbow to the base of their skull, then spin to my right and uppercut the next to the nose, etc. As one member of the squad is spinning to the right killing enemy soldiers on that line, one or more members of the squad are dragging bodies from the line the one fighting is on so that way when they get to the end of the line, they can spin back to the left going down the next line fighting and killing people. That's a highly advanced military strategy. Also, another thing I remember of my training is that when someone comes up from you from behind and puts a knife to ur throat, u don't resist. Instead, u put ur inside hand up to keep the knife away from ur throat. The reason for the inside hand is so that way they can't use their free hand to pull ur hand out of the way so they can get the knife to ur throat. Then, you stomp their foot, bash 'em in the face w/ the back of ur head, flip 'em, and the moment they hit the ground their chin will be turned toward you. Before they hit the ground you should already be running toward them to be ready to hit them in the chin when their ass hits the ground and their chin is turned toward you for that split second. Then you hit 'em in the chin and knock 'em out. I'm definately for real, and I have been trained, but I don't know exactly what I know. I don't know the techniques I used to do all the things I've done, but I've done them. From memory though, that's what I've been able to recall about what I'm able to do. Otherwise, my training just comes out of my ass at the time I need it. I don't know what I know how to do until the moment I need to do it. Then, suddenly, the training I've had comes out, and I do something, and it works though I don't know what I did. If that makes sense.