PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee Update May/June 2018

BY THOMAS C. HALL, PH.D., CHAIR

Accountability, it has been said, is “the glue that ties commitment to results.” The PTSD/SA Committee is committed to accountability from the VA to achieve the best possible results for all veterans.

In the current climate, some of our congressional leaders are confused by veterans’ embrace of the Choice program, believing that somehow it is a cry by veterans to privatize the VA. This could not be further from the truth. This mantra of privatization comes from certain political leaders and private investors who want the VA just to pay the bills that are most often far more expensive in the private sector. To this end, they are pushing hard to destroy the VA. We find ourselves in a fight to sustain the VA while continuing to hold the VA accountable.

VVA has testified before Congress and met with the former Secretary and top VA officials to discuss the issues to ensure that the VA delivers on its commitments to those who served. VVA has developed a respected voice—often loud but always focused and rational—particularly in the realm of behavioral health that is heard by VA leadership.

VVA’s Government Affairs staff follows the lead of the PTSD/SA Committee, which has been a force on such issues as evidenced-based treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD and substance abuse, suicide prevention, and mental health care for veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, to name but a few. We also have a grassroots voice—heard by legislators—that addresses the shortcomings in the system. For instance, take the Choice Card. Despite start-up confusion and the inability of TriWest and Health Net to seamlessly operate the Choice program, it has helped reduce some wait times for some services and has cut down travel to appointments and access to specialists not available at the VA. All this is good.

What makes this private/public partnership work is the commitment to results veterans have brought to the process. The VA is not perfect. Find one massive medical center that is. No other health care system was built on the now-hallowed words of President Abraham Lincoln: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

Agencies such as the National Center for PTSD, which is sponsored by the VA, funnel their findings into a veteran-focused system. Privatization would dilute the dissemination of new findings to a few clinicians in disconnected hospitals across the country, with the veteran not getting the results from a system whose sole focus is to treat those who “have borne the battle.”

The PTSD/SA Committee’s focus has been, and always will be, to ensure that commitments made by Congress and the VA are implemented. Currently we are working with a health care system dedicated solely to veterans that understands the interplay of physical trauma with behavioral issues. As veterans, we have the ability and the responsibility to advocate for and, indeed, demand that the VA continue to address all the wounds of war and improve results for all veterans. Try that with the massive civilian health care systems.

Demands alone don’t achieve results. It is the hard work of veterans, committed to results and unwilling to leave their fellow veterans behind, that improves the delivery of our care in a system designed and built for us.


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