Department of Veteran Affairs exempt from budget cuts

Story by Rita Fay, Staff Writer

This past week, a former Navy SEAL and one of the most lethal snipers in US military history was shot and killed by another war veteran.

Chris Kyle was shot at a shooting range by Eddie Ray Routh, who was captured a few hours later at his home in Dallas. Although the police still have no motive for the killing, Kyle had spent much of his time helping fellow soldiers deal with traumas after returning from war.

It is suggested that Routh is dealing with a mental injury from the time he spent being in military and perhaps Kyle was helping him.

This incident is a small look at a bigger picture happening in America. Hundreds of veterans are coming back to the States, only to be faced with mental illnesses that are difficult to
diagnose, treat and overcome.

According to a study done by the University of California-San Francisco, the most common disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder, followed by anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, depression and substance abuse disorder. All of these disorders have been proven to disrupt the daily lives of veterans.

While America is facing budget cuts in almost every governmental department, President Barack Obama has said the Department of Veteran Affairs, in charge of providing aid and benefits for veterans, will be exempt from budget cuts. According to a New York Times article, the department spends $3.2 billion a year on mental health care.

It’s important the V.A. receives no budget cuts because it is imperative veterans receive help when they return home. Unfortunately, the V.A. has a reputation for making veterans wait weeks and months for services.

According to a Huffington Post article, the V.A.’s mental health facilities are crowded and the average wait for a veteran to be seen is 50 days. Sessions are often only scheduled once a month simply because the V.A. does not have the personnel to handle all of the patients.

The V.A. has a suicide hotline which receives 17,000 calls a day. It has a staff of about 24 professional counselors according to a Huffington Post article.

This should be an easy fix. The V.A. should hire more workers and counselors and open more clinics. If that means increasing their budget, then I’m okay with that. I may not support everything the military does, but I’m willing to stand behind any man or woman willing to fight for my freedom.

The V.A. has a history of using an outdated and ineffective system for filing claims. The online news site The Daily Beast found “… that while the number of veterans who have been diagnosed by V.A. doctors with PTSD is 247,243, the number of them who are actually getting disability benefits is 137,911. In other words, 44 percent of post-9/11 veterans diagnosed with PTSD are still not getting their benefits.”

It’s common for V.A. departments to lose records and claims or set them aside for indefinite amounts of time. There have even been alleged instances of shredding some documents, according to a New York Times article.

The number of veterans coming home from the war is only going to increase in the next few years and the V.A. should be there to help those people. The murder of Chris Kyle is a fatal example of an experience many people face when they come back from war.