Vets weigh in on VA’s mental health care

By Cozette Gordon

Recently there has been a spotlight on how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is handling mental health care. The Veterans Health Administration reports that 22 veterans commit suicide daily.

President Barack Obama took notice of this issue and signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act on February 12th to make changes to how veterans are treated for their mental health issues with the VA.

I took to the streets, well, an event called the Maricopa County StandDown that provided numerous services for veterans. The event took place a day after the president signed the Clay Hunt SAV Act and ran through the weekend.

The question I presented to the veterans and volunteers who have family members who are veterans was, “What could be done to improve health care and the veteran community?” I received more than 20 responses to this question. Here are a few:

Chuck Ashby is a counselor and an action plan advisor for MANA House, a transitional living place for veterans. He is a U.S. Air Force vet who believes the VA could improve on training, outside resources and veteran services.

“Medical personnel at the VA need much more sensitivity training concerning veteran’s emotional and psychological needs. Outside medical resources need to be utilized. A true partnership between the VA and outside providers should be developed. Veteran services related to education, employment and integration back into civilian life need to be increased greatly.” – Chuck Ashby

Matthew Mixon is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who understands the hard transition from a structured military life to civilian life.

“They feel useless out in the real world and the VA just gives them medication as a solution.” – Matthew Mixon

Andria Prayer is also a veteran of the U.S. Army who says suicide can be prevented with the help of other veterans.

She says, “It’s not for me, it’s for we.”

Prayer feels that there should be more events like the StandDown, which provide resources for veterans all year long. Other veterans at the event suggested that helping or giving back would make veterans want to better their lives.

What do you think would help improve mental health care for veterans? Share your perspective here.

For help with any crisis call the VA’s national hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go online to the Veterans Crisis Line’s website by clicking here. 

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