VA COVER Commission wants to know your mental health care experiences


With more than 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA health care and about 1.7 million of those Veterans receiving mental health services, veterans’ mental health is a perennial concern. The Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery (COVER) Commission wants to hear about Veterans’ past and current experiences, as well as learn what services Veterans think would improve mental health care in the future.

The COVER Commission was established under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) to examine how VA is serving the mental health needs of Veterans and recommend ways to improve mental health care, including identifying ways to more effectively leverage complementary and integrative health care approaches.

To meet this goal, we will be talking to Veterans in cities across the country during COVER Commission-hosted focus groups on mental health services. We want to hear not only from those who receive mental health care at VA facilities, but also those who choose to receive care at private-sector facilities in their community.

The commission seeks to consider a broad scope of perspectives. With that in mind, we are looking for Veterans who have received mental health services, regardless of their age, gender, race, or combat status. If you are a Veteran who has received mental health care and you live in one of the places listed below, we need your help. To learn more about participating in a focus group, email In the subject line, include the date and location of the focus group in your area.

  • 8/13: Baltimore, MD
  • 8/13: Richmond, VA
  • 8/14: Philadelphia, PA
  • 8/14: Ft. Belknap Reservation, MT
  • 8/15: Miami, FL
  • 8/16: Virtual (ND, SD, NE, IA, MN, AZ, NM, PR, VI)
  • 8/16: Denver
  • 8/19: Virtual (HI, Philippines, Guam, American Samoa)
  • 8/19: Cleveland, OH
  • 8/19: Sacramento, CA
  • 8/20: Virtual (ND, SD, NE, IA, MN, AZ, NM, PR, VI)
  • 8/20: White River Junction, VT
  • 8/21: Canandaigua, NY
  • 8/22: Chicago, IL
  • 8/22: Valley Coastal Bend, TX
  • 8/22: Seattle, WA
  • 8/28: Nashville, TN
  • 8/28: Atlanta, GA
  • 8/28: New Orleans, LA



VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at


  1. Paul Whitmer    

    I’m 100% service-connected disabled – majority is ‘TBI” – with occasional “PTSD” appearing on my VA records. 3 x Iraq, 2 x Astan. I received a fully trained PTSD support dog from a non-profit in the fall of 2018. It changed my life. I had been on as many as 6 meds – now I am on one. I was trudging through each day like a robot zombie – totally void of emotion and feeling – never cried, never laughed. Now I am interacting with others – my relationships with family and friends is improving dramatically. I’d encourage those of you interested in a service dog to explore this route. Mine was given, all expenses paid, by an org called Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs – you can apply online. There’s others providing them as well.
    It worked for me – really worked. The VA offers a stipend to help with pet insurance and food – of course I was denied. Go figure.

  2. Patrick Alan McKern    

    I suffered many years from what is now recognized as PTSD and found this out after being called on by my wife for a mental health check. Sheriff gave me an option of handcuffs or not on way to hospital. This resulted in VA help. On active duty I had similar issues which resulted in negative time and option of other than honorable discharge or return to service. Not really an option. Today I am involved in celebrate recovery which has been very helpful along with a licensed person specializing in mental issues and my pastor has helped. Unfortunately there is no cure for what wails some of us and we just get through life. Cannot go back and undo the past.

  3. H. J. Holmes    

    I served 36 years, 21 Active Duty and 15 in the reserves. Service includes 15 1/2 years Active Army, and 5 1/2 in the Coast Guard. Upon retirement I went on to obtain my MA in Human Developmental Counseling from a CACREP Certified Program (required by the VA) through U of I. I am licensed and Nationally Certified. I am also rated at 90% disability which puts me in a prioritized hiring position. I went back to school to achieve this, not because I want to make a killing, trust me, Counselors do not make a lot of money, but for my brothers and sisters who served and got F’d up during their service.

    After hearing all of this rhetoric about how they care about our mental health, I have applied to the VA and guess what? Here I sit, not hired. I don’t want to go work at a substance abuse center, unless it’s for Veterans, I don’t want to sit in some college hearing some 19 year old complaining about the stress over a paper and too much homework. I want to be there for my Veteran Family. I can speak the language of both ground and sea going forces, and I have the vast experience to understand where, how possibly why. I want to help you men and women work through things and get you to a full and happy life. Yet I can’t even get an interview from the VA. If I ever get hired, I will be here for each of you. Thank you for your service – one and all.

  4. Victor Eizenga    

    real smart to send it out 2 days after it started one way to assure low response

    1. Marcus Jordan    

      Thank you! And keep trying! We need more qualified veterans to get involved with our recovery support.

  5. robert k morrison    

    every time over the past 10 yrs I have tried to complain about the VA in Louisville KY they have tried to cover it up. I am just talking about having a complaint processed also they have denied me a explanation of there complaint process in writing I say there’s because what littlie information I do have they don’t follow. I have also tried to file complaints about abuse with no results. The last ten years in therapy have been mostly a waste of my time the tax payers money and my money time and sanity I have actually suffered a nervous breakdown dealing with VA. Just because there trying to cover up complaints and they don’t care if it harms a vet in the process. This problem goes from the social worker to past the director to who knows where. There is a lot of good people at the VA but making them try and cover up complaints and abuses is hard on them also. Please help me! I am being abused and can not get my complaint processed. IF YOU ARE BEING ABUSED YOU WILL BE HELPED IMEDIATLY! Where is this person who is going to help me not at the Louisville VA.

  6. Jerry Waxer    

    Have never seen a Lake City, Fl or Gainesville, Fl VA location listed for meetings or focus groups.
    I am VN Vet with disability and am lucky to have a psychiatrist at Lake City VA who really listens and truly cares about my entire health; he is a retired Navy Captain and understands vets.
    Too bad my primary care physician can not be like him; primary care is useless, always complaining he has no time; never listening; asked several times to refill my BP meds still no refill authorization on my health vet…. I give up with asking him.

  7. Timothy E Peterson    

    I received mental health care at the Boise Idaho VAMC 8 years ago, and was evaluated for PTSD at the Salt Lake City Utah VAMC last year, I was terribly disappointed with the evaluation process, or rather the lack of one, at Boise and I disagreed with the PTSD evaluation in SLC. Yet neither of these centers are on the above list. I would like to provide my input on the mental health care I received. I am a VietNam veteran, and have been pleased with the rest of the medical care I have received from the VA. How can I go about giving my input? Sincerely, Tim Peterson

  8. Brian Dexter    

    Never got any “real” help from anyone at the VA (Tulsa, OK and Richmond, VA) regarding mental health care. I was told directly by a counselor ” I’m here to make sure people aren’t malingering.” and have had other vets report the same type of “treatment” from their “counselors”. I have asked MULTIPLE times for referrals to a long term program to help me with my reoccurring issues. I keep getting the same doe eyed look…..There’s nothing for you…good luck..hope you get help.

    Ever wonder why Vets are so pissed at the VA?

    Thanks for nothing.

  9. Daniel B    

    I was prescribed Yoga for six weeks for my PTSD. I drove 120 miles once week to do yoga with other patients dealing with side effects of pain killers. PTSD is not an addiction. This occurred in Fresno

  10. John S    

    The VA mental health care in the Hopkinsville Kentucky could use some improvement. The VA clinic is inhabited by contractors. The doctor they had there for mental health quit . As did many of the other clinic staff. Even the regular clinic doctor quit. There is a air of indifference their.

    The VA clinic in Vera Florida ( outside of Melbourne) is by far the best. The VA should use that clinic as a standard.
    Tri West insurance (used so a vet can see a civilian doctor) will not pay the doctor bills. So many doctors are dropping Veterans care altogether.

    1. Paul Whitmer    

      Amen to that – TriWest has served as nothing but a “filter” between me and my VA health care team. They consistently send “requests for additional information” back to my VA Doc when I am attempting to get an authorization for care outside the VA. This adds weeks (if not months) to the timeline between diagnosis – and treatment. Someone really needs to make the case as to why we need TriWest at all. Care In The Community (CITC) is also hobbled by TriWest – again, constant requests for “additional information”. This seems to be the way to delay, delay, delay – and it’s working.

  11. John Jurgy    

    How exactly do you choose who can participate? Just like Mental Health, take care of some and leave the other’s to rot.

  12. Johnny Payne    

    Once again rural America is forgotten. As a Chaplain I will relay to you what veterans have told me.
    1. They need doctors who are Americans and can speak English better so we can understand them and they us. Most of these doctors are from Pakistan and the middle-earth, you cannot understand what they are saying.
    2. Get doctors and social workers who actually listen to you and stays off their computers and cellphone when you talk to them.
    3. Get doctors who are veterans who can relate to what we tell them. Everytime we talk to them they just want to go over the horror and carnage. I been coming for 10 years and we still have not gotten passed that. How can you heal if these doctors and social workers will not let us?
    4. What with all the pills? You see the psychiatrist for 3 minutes, they don’t listen to you and just give you more pills, they don’t care. In group you might talk but with them [psychiatrists] it just popping pills.
    5. We been telling the VA for decades how to improve mental health but they do not listen. They only want to run you through to get to the next patient.

    There is more but this is a broad overview. You really should go to the smaller VAs and talk the veterans, not just the Administrators, Directors, Social Workers, Doctors and Nurses.

    Thank you

    1. William Hollern    

      My goodness John, you have nailed it on so many points. When I was going through my time of need, I was at least fortunate enough to become involved with a great social worker. The doctor I was assigned to was a pill pusher, detached, and, no disrespect intended, of foreign decent. I eventually walked away from it all and struggled through my problems on my own. Years later things got a bit rough and my primary doctor made me an appointment with the assurance there was a new mental health doctor on staff. I was with him less than 10 minutes and could already see he was no better than the last. I just sat on my chair and told him everything was rainbows and sparkles, got the hell out of there and never went back. I still have my days, but share the company of a great friend (a German Shepard Dog) that gets me through the rough patches. Besides, if you walk through mental health facilities doors in the climate we have now of days, you may very well be setting yourself up to be marked as a social deviant the rest of your life.

  13. Derrick Stancil    

    I would have loved to see something for NC, Fayetteville,Durham so we could put our two cents in.

    1. Terrica    

      Seriously, I was hoping for the same.



  15. Ronnie Hoffman    

    The closest focus group is 200 miles from me.Can I attend online?

  16. Daniel L Kibbee    

    Attention Cover survey group ! You are missing input from a LARGE group of Veterans…. VISN 22 GREATER LOS ANGELES DESERT PACIFIC . Why would you want to miss a grassroots group. On the WLA Campus alone see how mental health has evolved. Just a thought.

  17. Daniel Bailey    

    I went in to the VA Medical thinking I was having a heart attack and found out it was mental illness. Dallas VA did a great job in finding out what medication was best for me. I went from $20k per year to $100k per year, changed my life. I was in a very dark hole and one day the medication turned on the lights and the world was clear and amazing. Thank you, Daniel in Dallas

    Note on WEB CAM appointments: WORKS GREAT. My first Doctor retired after having a VET fall on her, breaking her hip. I think for the protection of the Doctor, they need the Web Cam System. For the Vets. YEA – I do not drive. Do I need to say more.

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