Why VA Accountability is so important
By Scott Owens
On March 4, 1865 in front of tens of thousands of American citizens, President Abraham Lincoln issued this edict: “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.” That statement later became the motto of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. But the VA has a problem reaching that goal. We hear daily on the news about how the VA is failing the veterans. The problem has been identified, but no proper solution has been made. To throw some salt on an already bleeding wound, I am going to share my experience getting into the VA and how the lack of VA accountability almost cost me my life.
2009, was my last year in the Army. After a lot of research trying to find the best VA facility, I chose to relocate my family to a town near the Bay Pines VA. As soon as I relocated, I immediately registered for treatment from the VA to continue my treatment the military had been providing me. I was dealing with PTSD and symptoms suspected to result from Traumatic Brain Injury. I provided the VA with the information required and was told someone would be in contact with me soon. In an ideal world, I would have been assigned a case manager through the OIF/OEF/OND program, and called in to have my situation assessed, however that was not the case. Months went by, with no contact. I called and was told that I had not been registered into the VA system and that I would have to wait. Those months turned into a year.
I was beginning to hit rock bottom. I could not find a job, I didn’t know how to deal with my issues, and I was not able to take care of my family. Then one day I said aloud what I had been feeling for weeks- I wanted to end my life. My wife called the VA helpline and was lucky enough to get someone that cared. They sent the Sheriff’s office to assist my wife and find me some help. Luckily one of the deputies happened to be a Marine veteran. I credit him and my wife with saving my life. I was stuck in the red tape of the VA bureaucracy with no way out, and being forced into the system was my way into the VA. It should have never come to that but it did. The folks hired to perform that task of registering newly discharged veterans into the VA where not doing their jobs and no one is holding them accountable for their actions.
Looking back today, I will make the contradictory statement that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Everything that should have happened from the beginning was now happening. I started treatment for PTS and TBI. I was referred to some amazing organizations that helped me get on my feet. But most importantly it opened my eyes to what was really going on and why the number of veterans committing suicide was increasing. I realized that I was not alone, took my personal story and turned it into a tool to bring awareness to the overall situation.
Today I travel across the nation sharing my personal story hoping that it saves someone else and encourages them not to give up. That is how I got involved with CVA. The views and concerns we share have allowed me an opportunity to make my voice heard.