How has the controversy surrounding the wait time to receive services affected the credibility of the Veterans Administration?
The short answer is greatly. With that said there is a prevailing stigma associated with the VA for the quality of service provided for veterans. I say stigma because I know first-hand the dedication and commitment of many providers who work for the VA. But the system that manages the VA is rife with bureaucratic processes and procedures which limit access to services vets may receive. In full disclosure I do have a vested interest, as I am both a veteran and a Licensed Professional Counselor who has run into this bureaucracy finding it daunting to say the least.
As the investigations onto these allegations against the VA continue, the depth of the problem will be revealed. As a Navy Veteran who served from 1972-1992 I have my own thoughts regarding these issues. I am skeptical that the VA has the resources on hand to deliver the services required for our nation’s Veterans; the sheer numbers are staggering. By their own estimates the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 31% of Vietnam veterans, 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, 11% of Afghanistan war veterans and 20% of Iraqi war veterans all suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are potentially 3.6 million veterans with service-connected disabilities.
The quality of services provided is inconsistent in the VA system, depending on the regional location As a provider of Mental Health Services in the private sector, I experience frustration when vets are referred into my practice. The referral process is ambiguous and unyielding. If, as a professional, I am frustrated with the process then I can only imagine the frustration the individual Veteran experiences, especially if they are in the middle of a crisis associated with their condition. The VA requirement that only hires Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) to provide mental health services to veterans has been lifted. However, the bias against hiring Licensed Professional Counselor’s as providers to deliver mental health service to Veterans remains.
Recent Congressional interest in the service to Veteran’s is encouraging; however, I believe that once the dust settles that commitment will wane as it has in the past. Once the politicians have made political fodder of the poor service our Nation’s Veterans receive and they have made political points, the problem will persist. There will be no impact or lasting solution. Because it will take money to fix the problem, Congress will be slow to act.
It is imperative that Veterans receive the benefit of all the professional resources available, both through the VA and within the community within which they reside. Veterans serve their country with honor, integrity and valor and it is time the country to give back to them in kind. They deserve a quality, fluid, and responsive network committed to their well-being and adaptable to their needs.
The VA is a microcosm of the greater culture of health care and, like the greater health care system, the VA is broken. The opportunity in this terrible situation of the wait-list failure is that we can change the whole process from beginning to end to include the VA as a valuable member of a team committed to the care of Veterans, but it need not be the only player on the team.