STIGMA KEEPS MANY NEW VETS FROM SEEKING MENTAL
HEALTH CARE. As you read the article below you can see where, once again, Vietnam veterans are being left behind, cast aside and, for all intents and purposes forgotten in the VA system.
I have nothing against today's young soldiers getting help, immediate help, as that is what they deserve and earned through their service to our country, but what about those of us who have been waiting for years for such help as this article reports? How many of us have died awaiting such help? How many of us will continue to wait and die before the VA and other government officials say, "Hey, what about the Vietnam vets, without whom we may have never known about PTSD and it's effect on soldiers in the first place?"
Thousands of Vietnam veterans are waiting, and many have been waiting and fighting for their just benefits and adequate treatment for untold numbers of years, and still we wait for the VA to do the right thing. Since our war was an unpopular war, one that Congress chose to walk away from, we are considered a pain in the side, to be nice, to the VA and Congress who now rallies around the young soldiers of today but pays little, to no, attention to the plight of Nam vets. We still continue to fight for our just benefits and treatment, but in addition, it is we who initiated the fight for veteran to receive treatment and compensation for PTSD. Today the powers that be speak of traumatic brain injury due to explosions, bombs, do they consider or even give thought to the fact that bombs, booby traps and the like were, also, utilized in Vietnam, thus, we too, and likely do, suffer from traumatic brain injury? Once again we are all but forgotten! When will this disgrace end? Will it only come to an end after we are all dead and gone. Seems to be the most likely scenario!
NOTE: All Emphasis added by
Waiting room fills with young vets
Chronicle Staff Writer
Four years after the start of the war in Iraq, Dr. Karen Seal took a job at the San Francisco VA Medical Center to work in the liver clinic, treating patients with hepatitis C.
She noticed the veterans in the waiting room. Most of them were from the Vietnam era, in their 60s and older.
But over the months, the faces began to get younger. The waiting room was starting to fill with young men in their late teens and 20s, the first trickle of Bay Area soldiers emotionally and physically injured by the war.
Seal, a primary care physician, began working with them, taking their medical histories and directing them to the right care.
"At the time, I had never heard of PTSD," Seal said. (Can you believe any doctor working at any VA hospital, especially after 4 years as stated above, had never heard of PTSD!?! )
Now she knows how post-traumatic stress disorder contributes to the alcohol addiction and depression she sees in many of her patients.
She made referral after referral to the mental health wing of the VA hospital, but heard from colleagues that those initial patients never made it. It was too much of a stigma - especially in military culture - to walk across the campus to the mental health ward.
So Seal and colleagues got an idea. What if there were a special clinic just for Iraq war veterans that combined primary care and mental health checkups in a nonjudgmental setting? (Emphasis added - note the "just for Iraq War veterans"!)
There were only a few other places in the country that do such a thing - the Department of Defense has a one-stop veterans clinic in Washington, and there was a similar one in Seattle, but it took anyone from the first Gulf War to the present. (Again, nothing mentioned here about Nam vets.)
Finally, in April 2007, San Francisco VA opened a clinic just for Iraq war veterans, calling it the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Integrated Care Clinic.
"Now, we see three to seven veteran men, and one or two women, a week," Seal said.
Visitors can drop in and be seen by a primary care doctor and a combat stress specialist. They are screened for post-traumatic stress, depression, alcoholism, and brain injury. If they need help readjusting into civilian life, there's someone to assist with that.
About 1 in 5 is discovered to have post-traumatic stress, but now only 15 percent miss their appointments with mental health workers.
"This job is a gift," Seal said. "To be able to tell them it's normal to jump when they hear a balloon pop or to get nervous on a crowded bus. I can tell them that a lot of their buddies are experiencing the same things."
E-mail Meredith May at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Original article posted by VA Watchdog)