Survey claims 40 percent of wounded have problems receiving VA care

Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital. Photo credit: Department of Veterans Affairs

According to the Wounded Warrior Project’s annual membership survey, nearly 40 percent of their members reported having a difficult time getting care from VA physicians.  No access to mental health services was a problems for 35 percent.

The Navy Times reported that while the survey is not reflective of the veteran population as a whole, it is a good indication of what they all go through when it comes to VA care.  There were 21,120 respondents, all of which were post 9/11 who were injured or have become ill since serving in the military.

Veterans often seek assistance from advocates such as WWP, but even then they face difficulties.  Reliable care and getting quick appointments are often an issue.

“We just keep seeing the same problems over and over again,” Josh Renschler, peer mentor for WWP, said.

These difficulties show evidence of the recent VA scandals that have caused many to stop seeking VA care.  Often veterans feel hopeless and lost in the system.  Long wait times, no regularity in follow-up and all the frustration makes them give up on the system.

According to the Navy Times, Renschler, a retired Army sergeant who was wounded in 2004 in a mortar blast, said the survey responses show a tendency to avoid VA services for many members despite evidence that such care can help recovery and despite assistance from WWP officials.

“The journey it takes to get many of these vets to go to a hospital to get help in the first place is incredible,” he said. “These are guys who are naturally inclined to suck it up and drive on. So when you throw up obstacles to getting them care, it can scare them away for good.”

Since the start of the WWP survey four years ago, respondents cited VA as the primary place where they receive mental health services.  Previously, the majority said peer support or speaking with another Iraq or Afghanistan veteran served as their therapeutic outlets.

“This was a little surprising, given the challenges we’ve seen the VA have over the past several months,” said Jeremy Chwat, Chief Program Officer at Wounded Warrior Project.

Even though many of these veterans suffer from severe health problems, many of the members surveyed said they were concerned about the stigma of seeking mental health care to help with these issues.

“Nearly 75 percent of our warriors are still struggling with memories related to combat. This is probably not surprising but it’s significant. Overall, the population is struggling to reintegrate,” Chwat said.


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