The Department of Veterans Affairs is being criticized for the shortfall in care for almost a million veterans who can’t get timely compensation and have been waiting hundreds of days for help, often to no avail, reports NPR today.
“Frustration with the agency came to a head last Thursday when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was called before a closed-door meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.”We are aggressively executing a plan that we have put together to fix this decades-old problem and eliminate the backlog, as we have indicated, in 2015,” Shinseki said after the meeting.“So this is a challenge [and] we’re making tough decisions that make it possible for more people to apply for and receive benefits.
“Glenn Smith, a 28-year-old Army veteran from St. Louis, joined the military in 2004.”I joined because I loved tanks, believe it or not,” Smith tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.Smith was deployed to Iraq twice between 2006 and 2010; he spent most of four years in combat. He now has an irregular heartbeat, and attributes it to one of the many IED blasts he went through. The irregular heartbeat, discovered during a routine training exercise, led to him being discharged last spring.
“Smith described an anxiety attack in March in which “things just [closed] in” on him. It’s even happened while he was driving.”I didn’t feel like I had any release or way to break free of it,” he says. “I’ve had memories and nightmares of my experiences while I was in Iraq. Any all that just came rushing to the surface.”Smith also says he has a bad case of PTSD. His PTSD has been so debilitating, he needs help navigating the VA. He submitted his initial claim about a year ago, but still lacks regular treatment for the disorder.
“Once I got back home to St. Louis, I’ve been trying to push with the VA here … [and] trying to get my compensation and also trying to get therapy for my PTSD,” he says. “Recently … I was told my case wouldn’t be looked at for another year or so because they’re backlogged two years right now.” While he waits, Smith is patching together medical care for his PTSD. His heart condition is getting better, but he’s in limbo, waiting for his benefits while he attempts to carry on.”For the immediate horizon, I’m just trying to find a job so I can feel like I have a sense of moving forward and healing,” he says. “And for the fall, I’m actually getting myself into college.”