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The VA has to Want to Help Itself

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Nearly two decades to fix problems and the Department of Veterans Affairs is failing in the clutch.

A new Government Accountability Office report shows the VA hasn’t even followed its own ideas for improving mental health care for returning vets. Rep Lane Evans (D-IL) requested the study. He says it confirms his concerns that the VA is not prepared to meet the demand for mental health care created by the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

The VA set up a Special Advisory Committee after Vietnam to come up with a plan to deal with war-induced mental health problems. They came up with 24 recommendations.

But the GAO found the VA will not have 23 of the 24 in place until 2007 or later — even though many of the recommendations were made nearly 20 years ago.

Back in July, the New England Journal of Medicine surveyed 6,000 Iraq combat veterans and found 1-in-8 already showed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On January 26, the Pentagon announced a new clinical program that would check up on returning troops three to six months after they got home from combat. The Defense Department’s learned from experience that PTSD symptoms sometimes don’t show up for weeks or months after the trauma happens.

But at the VA, the GAO found administrators at six of seven hospitals said they were unprepared to meet an increase in demand for mental health services. And the Special Advisory Committee reported in 2004 that the VA’s ability to deal with PTSD had seriously eroded prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (GAO & House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs)

[Crossposted at Watching Washington]
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About Terry Turner

  • RJ

    Hmm. The VA is unlikely to get much more money than in presently does, now that the President appears serious about cutting the deficit…

  • RJ

    “than it presently” I mean… :-/