VA COVER Commission wants to know your mental health care experiences


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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 COVERCommission@va.gov. 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

 

Author

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 http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Gerald James Watson    

    I have been seen by many so called drs in the VA system and only one has taken the time to look at my body and he was an American. All the rest look at the computer while talking with me and updating my prescriptions. I have been to VA’s in IL, NC and CA. The foreign Drs can barely understand and makes me just what to mumble to see if they get the message. While an intern in Durham, an employee in a Tennessee VA admitted to rescheduling appointments so that the appointments would not be seen as late.
    The psychiatrist I am currently seeing treats me like a number, one down, one to go. As Viet Nam vet whose days are numbered due to exposure to agent orange and god knows what else, we should be treated like we were treated than we were upon return to CONUS.

  2. Christina Louise Biodrowski    

    The VA in Omaha Ne is a joke with mental health.
    I went in 1 year ago and tried to admit myself for mental health issues and because I was not suicidal they would not admit me. I then went to another hospital and they admitted me to their adult crisis center for a week. At the end of that week I started ECT treatments where I did 20ish treatments and now have memory loss.
    I went back to my local va and asked to switch providers to start back fresh. I was given someone I had previously had as I didnt have a choice it was either that or a resident and I do t like having to change my providers all the time.
    I had 1 appointment and I am honest with all my doctors as I use marijuana to help and I was flat out told she would not help me anymore if I didnt stop using marijuana as it conflicts with prescribed meds. My goal was not to be on meds so I dont know why this was an issue so she, the provider, told me she was going to transfer me to a new provider only for that provider to deny me as I had just been switched to the previous one and you are only allowed one switch per year. I didnt ask for this switch the other provider did.
    I then went to patient advocate and they told em I was eligible for community care then had a meeting and decided I was but offered me telehealth, where I dont feel comfortable dealing with my mental health over a video, and tried to send me somewhere further than I already drive to the va.

    I currently do not receive any mental health care as I am not comfortable with the options they have given me.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. ray Mertin    

    The mental health services in the Salem, and Porland Oregon area sucks, the last 2 Psychiatrist should have there license revoked, 1 had me on a drug that made me think of suicide 247 while I was taking to him about places that have assisted suicide just because he looked at me and said and I quote Maybe you should just go there then! My words to him were not nice as I exited his office. And he’s still there because they can’t get anyone to work there, I took myself off that med needless to say it put me in the hospital a private hospital because and the VA would not take me unless I would say I want to commit suicide and I would not say that because I was not suicidal after getting off that med but my head was really wacked out and I needed help, then by chance I seen a good dr. That got me on the right med and was really helping me then he quit the VA, so now I feel like I’m back out here hanging on a limb, the worst part you get a good dr. Build some trust then they leave because of the VA Bureaucratic bull s#!+, if your a vet dont come to Oregon the VA here is under staffed and about 1/2 shouldn’t even be practicing medicine

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Ron Pitzen    

    The VA Gulf Coast Med Center in Biloxi Mississippi is terrible for mental health concerns. Twice I went to the mental health bldg. The first time I needed to talk to someone about a buddy of mine who committed suicide while talking to me on the phone. I was told to go see the chaplain. The next time I was told ” you are a hateful person get out of my office now ”
    I decided these people cause more suicides than they stop.
    The medical clinics are almost as bad.

  18. PAUL TENENBAUM    

    WHAT MENTAL HEALTH. I AM A DISABLED KOREAN WAR VETERAN AND THOUGH
    I HAVE ABOUT 90% OF KNOWN SYMPTOMS CONNECTED TO T.B.I. NEITHER THE V.A, NOR THE ARMY HAVE RECOGNIZED THE INJURY TO DATE. THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION HAS BEEN AVAILABLE SINCE 2013.

  19. Robert Gaspar    

    Hello and you said you want to know how is our mental health and my health, will let me till you like it is, but ( who ever reading these my life health, if you been in the army then you understand ) I was dratted then and volunteer from active duty to 1973 to April 30 1997 honorable discharge.
    1. 1st you dont know how i feel being 70% combat disability, and the money i recieve is not worth it the pain i deal daily in my life. the pain daily, cant go to sleep, thinking over and over of all what i encounter during before, during, after my duty. why these thing happen , sometime i feel doing bad of my life, we serve and protect these country USA, most people in USA do not appreciated of our service, but I believe continue my service, after all , but at these time i am on pain,think crazy over and over what went wrong to serve these country for freedom? and why? I want to live and so turn around to God will help me to over come my pain. and also think what my father teach and advice me, ( that there is no replacement of positive attitude.)
    2. During my time serve and protect these country for 25 years , 19 days and 5 hours, always believe that when I take my oath as said I always protect these country, which I did. during my army time for 25 years we trained how to kill the enemy and protect our self, to be a good soldier which during the training no matter what is the weather conditions we accomplished the training. is hot, cold, rain, snow, dust storm and others , we in-hill bad air pollution, we cold food, drink water we dont know if safe water to drink or not,, during the training no sleep and very tired, and do my duty in good manner, bottom line is I am very much disturb.that is some people do not respect who serve these country. Again during the active duty that went we get sick we go to sick call and give as a pain killer, but for me during my tour during the training I feel chest pain number of time but no doctor x-ray or checked why I have a chest pain and also number of time feel high blood pressure and never longed in to my health records. At Fort Knox Ky, on the way home after training I pass out while I am driving due to my cold, and over fatigue
    3. here is all my assignment from 1973 – 1976, i was station in Germany town of Gaisen, and duty was maintenance/recovery .during these tour of duty to secure the .west German border, which few meter away the distance from east, we in the west German side and very scary that is at anytime the enemy can kill as in few meter distance. and we get paid for private salary is about over 100.00 dollar a month. we do a 100% duty and now I saw and think over and over about all my duty was so sad and not appreciated why? and I go crazy?. all my life is dedicated to my service in these country to protect the freedom.
    4. Duty assessment 1976 -1980 Fort Hunter Legit, CA was detail for lazier experimenting and we encounter all kind of health problem and training to get the job done, we encounter of all health problem the weather rain or sunshine hot weather and where we sleep or live is not standard of living is very poor and these situation the chain of command aware of,( BUT WE DO OUR DUTY) I am not complaining and I am telling the facts/true of what we did as a soldier, During these tour of duty is individual to coop with the situation the condition where we sleep is ww two building, and we eat what ever in the chow hall serve. Again what we did and support these laser experimental is mission accomplish and we never told as what is the results of the experiment, I re-enlist again to go back in Germany.
    5. Again I was station in Amburg west Germany, assign to 2nd Armor Regiment 1989 to 1990, near to the Czechoslovakia border, duty is more is very much hard due to 100% mental and fitness, 30 day tour and Locke down in the barracks and always ready in few second and ready for duty, and everybody knows there duty/responsibility with no mistake is ready to execute to kill the enemy, during the tour of duty our equipment’s 100% combat ready and we all have a secret clearance others is top clearances. During the locked down in the barracks is very much to coop because the situation, your mental situation must be 100% mission oriented, ( YOUR LIFE EITHER YOU LIVE OR DIE) is very much so hard to understand if the situation occur, and so i was thinking all those time is very dangerous situation and it drive me crazy, while we are assign to guard these area, the Pres directed to new mission Oct 1990 we are GOING TO IRAQ , Nov 1990 my unit 2nd ACR get ready IRAQ mission,Every received physical, my situation is I am having a sinusitis, having chest pain ones a week and border line for diabetes, so we went to Saudi Arabia first to processed our equipment before war IRAQ, these duty is 100% mental and fitness. being ( MSG Sgt E-8)
    is very much mission oriented how to accomplish and ready for WAR,.that all those training I received and used to engage the mission for WAR, Before the war started we are engage to get our job ready example, we paint all equipment’s for brown over 1000 equipment’s.and we are in the IRAQ/Sudi Arabia Border, while we are getting ready for war that is we encounter for these 1. when we paint all shipments for brown, with no paint mash while we are painting, and smile that carp paint is bad for your health, 2. we smile pit smoke is smile bad, 3. smile dust and during the dust storm we must stop working and cover your entire body specially my head and my face cover with my towel still smile dust , Now in my situation every week the doctor eject my nose to clear my clogged, i feel very much sick, have a chest pain, head ache , sinusitis, i feel so bad but we continue the mission, ALL THESE HEALTH PROBLEM-WAS NOT RECORDED TO MY HEALTH RECORDS, BEFORE DURING ,AFTER THE WAR, there is no time.
    6. During the war , we go crazy that we encounter all these bad area and no choice but take it, there is no way to turn around back and do the job that your life is endanger, we smile bad air black oil smoke, smile daily bad smoke and when the have dust storm is very bad, we see number of dead human there body was spread cut, I have the photo which i give you a copy
    during the war, I see deed body,smile bad air, i feel and smile dust storm, my hear was damage for big artillery boom sound, jet big sound that travel fast enough, burn pit smile, and more, during the war i feel bad and i dont relay care any more of myself, what ever being a soldier we fight, either die or survive we really tired and fatigue, no sleep, when we eat the dust is on your food, ( yeah 1990 November and we have a thanksgiving turkey and it really look good and while eating the dust storm arrived and my dinner was sad and i through away my food because is full of dust, i was crying and sad because my family thinking about me how is my thanks giving if we have a turkey. i told her my food is looks good but went the dust storm arrive screw or spoiled the whole thing and through my food away.
    7. During the desrt storm we the 2nd ACR all soldiers experience and encounter all those problem that i mention these letter and now when we return from the war we went home and take a physical and some of the soldier have a physical problem, now here is the problem when we apply for disability the VA inform as is not combat disability and is not in our medical records, and these is how i am having a a big problem and my question is why? During the war we en-hill bad air, smile pit smoke, smile oil smoke ,we eat food with dust, we drink with dust, we smile dust and encounter deed body smile , smile deed animals and is all in our brain will not be remove and always there the rest of my life, we did our duty and before during after those we smile and all encounter is not in our records because we are in combat and no time to record these situation. I feel so bad we did the job and i feel taking my life away because we accomplish the job and return home safe for others. that is so bad and then the VA will not understand , during the gulf war i am having a problems already, these illnesses following our life. these MSG E-8 need help want to live for few years.these is my part of my life being in the army i will till you more next email. I was so mad because i apply for my disability for my heart that i have a coronary problems which 2015 I received 4 stent at the Fort Lewis WA, and June 2019 again received 2 stent have a heart problem and i apply again the VA reason is not combat disability and disapprove my rating heart problem, or I spend 1,200,000 pesos or 24, 000.00 dollar for my saving for my two stents.
    which i pay my own saving money which the VA will not help me nor give me assistance , and its sad in my situation and i was thinking that i wish during the operations of my heart i be deed so no more pain and now i am having difficult problem and thinking so much. thank you

    robert gaspar

  20. Ronnie Hoffman    

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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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