One Veteran’s View of the Veterans’ Administration
Here is one Iraqmire veteran’s account of his experiences with the V.A. It’s written by David Botti, who served as a rifleman with the Marine Corps in Iraq in 2003.
On his first post-deployment evaluation at a VA hospital, he was screened by a nurse because the doctor was “too busy.” Halfway through his interview the nurse “suggested I change one of my answers, or I would be spending all day waiting to speak with doctors in the psych department.” He walked out as soon as the “evaluation” was over and never went back, realizing this was the wrong place to be looking for help.
What country is this again? One of the most appalling things about the Soviet Union was that political dissidents were sometimes locked up in mental institutions. Are we making progress or what? At this rate, Russian conservatives will be saying to their own demonstrators “yeah, why don’t you go over to America and try that?”
Botti doesn’t slam outgoing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. He says Nicholson inherited a terrible situation at the VA and his successor probably won't make much difference either. Nicholson is (was) one of the few members of the Bush Administration who isn't a chickenhawk; he's a Vietnam veteran with a Bronze Star and a Combat Infantryman Badge. But in a way this makes his failures even more maddening (unspeakable conditions at VA hospitals, the identity theft from millions of veterans); veterans are supposed to take care of other veterans.
Botti seems jaded about how fucked up and hopeless the VA is. “Secretary Nicholson's departure is significant only in that it will hardly make a difference for the average veteran. He will leave, someone else will come in—the confirmation hearings may or may not be heated—and in the end nothing will really change.”
At the end of his article, Botti gives a heartbreaking account of one of his fellow veterans and the hard times he's fallen on. And then he says “Do you think he cares who the secretary of Veterans Affairs is? I doubt it. Just get him some help.”