Suicide Note (03:36)
Howard Somers reads a letter from his son Daniel, an Iraq War veteran who killed himself in 2013. His words detail the mental and physical pain he has endured and allude to unspeakable acts he participated in while in combat. He calls his death a mercy killing and asks his parents to be happy for him. (Credits)
Failure of Federal Government (02:18)
Congressman Beto O’Rourke wanted to run on a campaign meaningful to resident of El Paso, Texas. He learned that veterans in Texas are waiting too long for mental health services. In January of 2012, the VA told one man to call back in 2013 because all appointments were full.
VA Healthcare Scandal (04:34)
Deputy Inspector General of Veteran's Affairs Linda Halliday admits that 800,000 applications are unprocessed, over 10,000 applications were destroyed or lost, and 307,000 veterans in the backlog died waiting for care. Since 9/11, over 100,000 veterans have committed suicide.
Social Contract (04:11)
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is the second largest department in the government; its issues are highly politicized. Critics say that billions of dollars are not being spent properly by the VA. Soldiers risk their lives and should be taken care of with the best medical care.
VA Funding (03:34)
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is separate from the Department of Defense, which puts it further down the list of the media's focus and the government's budget. Congress determines what benefits veterans receive and the VA's budget—two numbers that often do not match. It has not been determined who should receive government provided care.
History of VA (04:45)
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs was created in 1930 because there was not a system in place to care for soldiers coming home from WWI. After WWII, General Omar Bradley created a partnership between medical schools and the VA. The majority of doctors receive some training at a VA facility.
Aging Veterans (04:38)
The VA is never prepared for the number of vets returning from war and the issues they face: psychological issues, homelessness, addiction, physical illnesses, etc. The VA changed eligibility requirements to entice people to visit VA offices. Congress authorized outpatient clinics throughout rural areas, but did not provide sufficient resources to hire staff.
Newer Veterans (01:47)
America is not prepared for all the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan because veterans are spread out, there are women soldiers, and more vets are surviving injuries. There is a crisis at a VA in Phoenix. Congress increased expansion of the VA, but did not increase funding appropriately; management was enticed with bonuses to see patients more quickly, which led to cheating.
Stories of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (05:56)
A veteran talks about his PTSD after returning home from the war; he could only see a therapist once every three months. Another soldier’s parents talk about their son’s PTSD as a result of war and his eventual suicide because he was not able to receive help though he tried multiple times. Over a period of five years, the VA did not provide that veteran a new doctor.
Growth of VA (03:45)
The cost of caring for veterans peaks decades after the war is over: WWI in 1965, WWII in 1986, Vietnam has not peaked yet. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is the fastest growing department going from 200,000 to 350,000 vets returning home, and the budget has tripled. It will cost a minimum of a trillion dollars in the next four decades for the VA alone, and there is no money set aside for that bill because the cost of the VA is not discussed when talking about the cost of war.
VA Care Process (04:02)
The process veterans have to go through to get benefits when they return home is lengthy and difficult. A recent veteran will receive five years of free care, but beyond that, he or she only gets care if it is service connected and if he or she meets certain criteria. If someone has an appeal to a claim, he or she can expect that claim to be seen in 2022.
Politicization of VA (05:06)
The media blames corrupt or uncaring bureaucrats when the VA has problems. This view is beneficial to liberals because Congress is defunding a social service and it is beneficial to conservatives because they say it is an example of failure and why the VA should be privatized. A doctor says if the VA were privatized, veterans would have longer wait times, they would not see someone who was equipped to work with veterans in a specialized way, and medical research would plummet because for-profit institutions do not make money off research.
Care at the VA is good, but there is not enough staff to care for veterans who need care. There is little accountability and not one resolution for the plethora of problems within the VA. The government needs to account for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs when they are assessing the cost of war; it is not just planes, tanks, and missiles, it is the cost of veterans returning home after war.
Possible Solutions and Prologue (02:50)
Beto O’Rourke says that if America does not care for its veterans, it might have a difficult time recruiting soldiers. The wait times for care should be labeled at every recruitment center, so there is truth in advertising and people know what they are signing up for. Twenty veterans die from suicide every day, thousands of staff positions remain unfulfilled; in 2017, the Department of Defense planned to send an additional 3,500 troops to Afghanistan, and the war is in its 16th year.
VA: The Human Cost of War (00:40)
VA: The Human Cost of War
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