National PTSD Awareness Day 2014
I have been in a battle with The San Diego VA hospital for a long time trying to get treatment for my service related PTSD. UNFORTUNATELY I have not had much luck. The doctors always seem to come up with a convenient reason why I can’t be seen at this time. So I am once again put on a waiting list of 2 months. This has happened more times than I can count. My case has been passed around from department to department : first the PTSD clinics ,then to the anxiety clinic where I was given yet 3 complete different reasons why there is no room at the inn for me to be seen. About a week ago I was talking to a VA advocate via Facebook. The advocate managed to get some co-director from the mental health department to give me a call. His sarcastic and condescending tone and comments set me off in the first 20 seconds of the conversation. I cut him off from continuing with his sarcastically toned comments and told him exactly what he could go do with himself. I hung up the phone. Texting once again with the VA advocate, I found out mister important co-director was pretty bent out of shape. I really don’t care what your job title is especially with the long waiting lists and the amount I have learned about how the VA operates. Take for instance the 22+ suicides of our veterans every day of the week. I started this blog post May 2011 so I ran the numbers at 24,090 suicides in the last 3 years, and to learn of the bonus pay for the people in charge at the Va. So I went to see my congresswoman Susan Davis, better late than never , I was able to state my case and left her office feeling hopeful. That was about a week ago. I know the congresswoman is just as busy and is dealing with hundreds, maybe thousands, of different problems so I knew this would not be a quick fix, so again I need to sit back and wait my turn. It’s National PTSD Awareness day 2014 and I was content to just stay in the house and try not to acknowledge this day. What’s the use all the work I have done and none of it seemed to make a difference? The government is just too big and full of talented speech writers and excuses on why we still have long waiting lists for our veterans. Half way through the day I was really disturbed. I was not seeing or hearing anything on the news or on Facebook about PTSD awareness day. Than I got mad because I was giving up on the day, the topic, and the fight. So I decided to go fly a sign in front of the VA here in San Diego during Friday night rush hour. I stood up, went to the depths of my closet and found my old BDU’s (camouflage uniform)and my American flag. When I put it on it felt like I was putting on a protective shield. To me the uniform stood for great power and a sense of pride. When I put it on I smiled, first because after 20 years it still fit but I also felt I was ready for battle, not to go and hurt anyone, that’s not in my nature, but the overwhelming feeling of confidence that I could do this. I stopped by my local Staples print department in Rancho San Diego whom I have used for the last 3 years when I needed something printed for my cause UnderstandingPTSD. I informed them on what I was doing and 5 minutes later I had a coupon. My sign was free. Thank you Staples. Sign in hand I head to the VA hospital. The first 10 minutes standing in the sun on the corner I remembered how hot the uniform was. I forgot to bring water with me. I was not really suffering from thirst but it is what I chose to focus on, after all, I was alone on a busy corner in San Diego with my service dog Scrubs during rush hour. I remembered the many many many funerals I participated in and how uncomfortable I was in the heat and the cold, thirsty or trying not to shiver, but when you are in the military you learn to suck it up. I just had to take off the uniform shirt. It was taking me down memory lane to a place I did not need to go. Many people honked at us, I am guessing as a sign of support. About an hour, maybe a bit longer, 3 very well dressed VA employees came down to talk to me. A woman and 2 men. My first thought was, “look who drew the short straw and had to go talk to the crazy guy on the corner waving a flag and a sign” This was the damage control crew. They were polite and very courteous to me and told me if I came up right now I would receive treatment and the help I was asking for immediately. I agreed and the three damage control met me at the front doors with a forth person who stuck with me for the rest of my visit. I was taken to the 2nd floor and had a nurse who was a Navy veteran assure me he was now in my life and he isn’t going anywhere. If I have a problem he will do everything in his power to help me. After telling my story and complaints to yet another person I was then escorted to a doctor’s office. For the next hour or so we talked and was promised I will be seen in a week or so and treatment will start in less than 2 weeks. I was told ” We are not back logged and have no waiting list”. So I was not actually able to receive treatment that day but yet again put on a waiting list. I received some insight on some of the notes in my medical records and informed them some of what I was hearing was a down right lie and that’s not what took place. So two weeks from today if I still have not started treatment of some sort I will be on that street corner every day, all day long.
This process of receiving treatment started 3 years ago with my now ex-wife and my mother, then the minister of my church Rev. Bill Peterson, awesome man, I might add. He got me to the VA. Then I found out I should go to the San Diego county VA advocate office. They did the voodoo that they do filling out loads of paperwork on my behalf. A year later I was denied benefits for my PTSD. They say the army as lost my service records. 3 years fighting this battle is not a long time from what I have been told by other veterans, some being victorious with their VA claims. Others have just given up and to this day have not received treatment, some ending up taking their own lives, some ending up on the street flying a sign “disabled homeless vet anything helps God bless” . The person who talked with me the most was a UCC Chaplain named Nancy Dietsch. She is a Chaplain at the VA hospital in San Diego. In my opinion the chaplain office is the best kept secret the VA has to date. What a valuable resource. I was never once told about the chaplains and the resources they are able to provide. I got that info while I was in Florida at a convention. I was never told about the caregiver program for a family dealing with a loved one battling the side effects of shell shock aka the thousand yard stair aka combate fatigue, aka PTSD post tramitac stress disorder . I bicycled across the country speaking to thousands, and went to speak at two conventions on both sides of the country. We were on NPR ,Fox News, and countless news-papers and public speaking engagements, none of which seemed to get me any closer to some real help. What helped was the news of the treatment our veterans were receiving in Phoenix, AZ. But it all came down to this old hippie and his dog standing on a Friday afternoon on a very busy street corner with a free sign that said SD VA denies treatment to vets PTSD. Stay tuned. Let’s see what happens over the next few weeks.