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A Veteran’s Story: Why Is It So Hard to Get Mental Health Care?

veteran mental health care

At his request, we are keeping this brave service member’s name confidential.

I am a United States Marine Corps Veteran of 10 years and two tours to Iraq. I am not in any manner a HERO or an extraordinary member of the military. I served my nation and my Marines with pride and honor for 10 years with many ups and downs throughout my career. I was never ever a poster child Marine as I have two sets of office hours. I have never attempted to misuse my service or that of my brothers ever to either of our benefits. I do occasionally miss appointments but always call when it’s related to mental health and reschedule.

Something that has been eating at me, and I am sure my fellow brothers and sisters in arms, is that of our access to mental health facilities. We are always told that whenever we need help with our veteran mental health care all we have to do is make ONE CALL!…Well, let’s talk about that one call…

First step is to call into either the general numbers for any VA Hospital or if you have the direct line you can phone in that way. The second number is not always so easy to obtain depending on which VA Hospital. There is a third option in the VA Crisis line…ALL and I mean ALL of these lead to a human being on the other end who seems to be about as interested in your mental stability as a lead post!

Someone with empathy and compassion should be expected to answer the phone instead of an abrasive ignorant employee who clearly just wants to hang up the phone and get back to doing whatever it was they were doing before your call interrupted their free paycheck.

My story is rather long and drawn out with social workers and three different psychologists and 12 months of seeking help from the mental heath department at Jesse Brown VA…Then reaching out to Hinds VA and still hearing nothing back.

My doctor I had for almost four years finally retired in December 2019. He was a wonderful man and great listener. I never trusted anyone the way I trusted him in a session. When he said he was leaving, I was extremely concerned because I had gone through five doctors before finding the one that finally understood me.

I knew that I would be getting a new doctor soon so I waited for them to call me like they said they would do. By March, I still hadn’t heard a thing from the VA either in a letter or a phone call. The pandemic was just starting to lockdown the country and I decided to phone in and ask for mental health. I was connected and told because I had “waited” so long that I had to start my entire mental health intake process over again. Meaning I couldn’t just see a new doctor, now I had to be “reevaluated” and then assigned another Doctor…This is not a quick or enjoyable process. I have been seen at the VA for about 10 years and to make me start all over again with the same questions I have been answering for 10 years is beyond frustrating.

APRIL: I went through the hoops and was was assigned to the worst Doctor I have ever had in my entire time at the VA…She was rude, condescending, aloof, dismissive, and simple did not listen. Any time I would use a curse word, her only comment was to my language and not my mental stress…it was the equivalent of an xfinity service representative.

Everything I said she took as a personal attack and after telling her she wasn’t listening, I demanded a new doctor; she did nothing for me and never contacted anyone. I had to contact a patient advocate and waited four months for a new doctor to reach out to me and check on my mental health.

Once I had finally been assigned a new doctor (AUGUST), he finally got in touch with me because I had been begging my social worker at the VA for help as well. My social worker was also trying to get a doctor to call me back without starting the entire process over AGAIN…My social worker has been aware of my situation for the entire time as well and was equally disturbed by the lack of effort by the mental health department.

So finally by May I had a “NEW” doctor and he followed up with me twice in four months AUG/OCT. I spoke to him briefly about issues and asked if we could talk more sooner than the five week in between. He responded yes we could and NEVER CALLED ME to follow through on his word.

By October, I had not heard from him in a few weeks and started to make calls to the VA and ask for veteran mental health care …their phone would ring and ring and ring without ANY ANSWER… I am not joking, I thought it was me and called my social worker and he had the same problem.  This went on for nine weeks!!! Finally my social worker got a direct message to my doctor and he called me in December.

Of course, I was not in a great mood after trying to reach this guy for months and being blown off as if I didn’t matter so I opened with “WHERE THE F*CK HAVE YOU BEEN”??? He responded…BLAH BLAH BLAH I don’t have to listen to that from you goodbye! Hangs up phone!…Mind you I was having a mental health crisis and thinking of harming myself…PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY FOR MY WIFE!!! She was able to handle my crisis and calm me down so I could relax and not harm myself. I still haven’t spoken to him since that day and had to reach out again to my social worker who also helped calm me down and clear my mind. My wife and social worker are absolute saints and have been so solid when the VA seems to be absent as a ghost.

Still no doctor to work on cognitive behavioral therapy or Bio Feedback therapy or any therapy…what I can’t tell my wife I can tell my social worker but that’s not really his job…yet he steps up and does it not just for me…He is a really impressive man and I love him for what he has done even though he doesn’t have to. But he knows his main job is to help veterans and if more people at the VA worked like this was I am sure the problems we face would be nil.

The emptiness and abandonment that the VA seems to get off on is going to lead to only a few outcomes….more dead veterans by suicide, threats to VA workers at the hands of Veterans who will just snap into oblivion for being treated like trash.

VA employees fundamentally do NOT comprehend what a VETERAN is and how we talk…we are crude and curse but to assume that will ever change is insanity. We are very demanding and at times extremely impatient.

Men and women that have gone through the trauma we have will never let someone tell us how to speak! It’s a violation of the rights we risked our lives for and it’s why we tend to defend them with more voraciousness than the average American.

To date, I have not heard from any doctors at the VA regardless of my outreach.

They will say we can still come in if we need help but when you go now because of the pandemic, you don’t feel welcomed and like they want you out of there as fast as possible.

I am 39 years old and 100% service connected through the VA.

Again this is my personal experiences at the Chicago area VA facilities.  I am sure I am not the only one…

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