Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The VA is Giving me PTSD

I have a brother who is a disabled veteran and three weeks ago he was admitted to the psychiatric ward at the Tuscaloosa V.A. Hospital for severe PTSD resulting in multiple suicide attempts.

I spent about 4 hours waiting for his appointment and then convincing his physician that he is actually ill and needed actue psychiatric care. It was quite a job. I don't know why really as my brother looks very ill and displays all of the classic symptoms of PTSD, severe depression and admitted to the doctor that he had tried to kill himself multiple times just recently and stated that he had lost all interest in living. He looks like walking death. Finally they agreed and admitted him. He was slated to stay in the psychiatric unit up to 21 days and then be transferred to the PTSD clinic which is a 90 day program.

Now, he called me a few times and begged me to come and get him. He was coming off of all the super heavy narcotics that the VA dopes him with and was having withdrawals. I refused to go and get him because I knew that if he did not detox then nothing that followed would matter. He told his doctor that he wanted to leave and she threatened to have him committed. I thought that was a bit much myself. I also thought that the big burly cops who escorted us to the psych ward were a bit much....they certainly did not promote a feeling of healing if you get what I'm saying, and the fact that they took his snuff when he was admitted was way over the top. But those experiences are for another day.

Right now I am a little confused. My brother called me earlier this week and said they were about to discharge him to go home. I asked him what about PTSD clinic and he said they had no room for him and that the waiting list was months long. I asked him if he could transfer to a private hospital or clinic if we could find one that would take VA CHAMPUS insurance and he said he didn't know. He told me that he really isn't ready to be released as he is still very depressed and nothing they have done has worked to alleviate his suffering. He said he felt that if he came home that he would try and kill himself again.

Two weeks ago they were convinced that he was sick enough to be committed and now they are saying he is all better and ready to go home. Huh? What gives?

I called his patient advocate this morning to ask some of these questions but didn't get far. The man I spoke with seemed to have trouble understanding the meaning of my questions. He did tell me that I was free to stop by the pool and chat with him if I liked because he had to go and that is where he would be. I tried to tell him that I am clear across the state from Tuscaloosa so I wouldn't be able to intrude on his relaxing swim...but he seemed unable to understand that either.

I have spent the last hour trying to get one of my brother's doctors on the phone with no success. Apparently the operator, who answers the phone with, "Tuscalooser V...A.." (really slow drawl) followed by a real slobbery and dispirited sigh, does not understand plain english either. I asked for Dr. Ban and got transferred to the voicemail of Becky Terry...whoever she is. I called back and asked for Dr. Toshkoff and kept getting a busy signal and then transferred back to the operator who sounds like he might have a bad case of Down Syndrome. The last time he didn't transfer but hung up on me instead. There is no phone directory listed on their site so I am at the mercy of a guy who sounds like he might have trouble wiping his own ass. YAY! I LOVE dealing with government agencies. It is always so much fun!

So, then I decided to contact my Senator and US Congressman in Washington about this. However, in order to have them open a file and look into this I need my brother to sign a release form and mail it to them. I can't get to Tuscaloosa just now and by the time I can and get the form mailed back to them he might be dead.

I finally got through to someone on his ward who couldn't tell me anything other than there is no discharge order. I said I knew he had not been discharged yet but that he said he would be by the end of the week. I then asked her if CHAMPUS would cover treatment in a private facility, assuming one can be found for PTSD, and she said "I don't know that's a social worker question."
"Well, can you transfer me to his social worker?" She gave me a sigh that sounded like having to push a couple buttons on the phone might kill her dead and said, "Haaaaang Ooooon." Hell what choice do I have? I got his social workers voicemail and left a message. Let's see how long it takes her to call me back.

How can my brother be ill enough to be threatened with being committed two weeks ago and be well enough to go home now? Is a soldiers well being measured by how many beds are available? How come the PTSD clinic at the Tuscaloosa VA only has 15 beds? Surely to god there are more than 15 veterans with PTSD in this state, seeing as how we supply more troops in battle than any other state. Shouldn't there be more beds? And if all the beds are filled how come treatment at a private facility isn't automatic? Can they really send him home when he is clearly telling them that he is suicidal simply because he has stayed the maximum of 21 days in the psychiatric ward and they do not have room in the PTSD clinic? Can't they put him somewhere else in the hospital until a bed in the PTSD clinic becomes available?

I just got the extention for Dr Ban's secretary, got her voicemail and then a message saying it was full...but to hang on and I would be transfered to someone taking messages for her. Guess who I got? Why, Mr. Down Syndrome of course. I fucking hung up.

By the time I am done with this I am going to have PTSD!


Bitter Old Punk said...

Hi Loretta. I don't have a comment on this post, other than to offer whatever support I can muster and to tell you that you have a friend in Birmingham who'll help in any way he's able to.

I did want to let you know that there's a discussion just posted to MetaFilter on US prison policy that you might want to jump into.

Loretta Nall said...

Thanks BOP for the words of support. I'll also check out the prison discussion.

Mike Mann said...

Speaking as someone who had PTSD I know it's not an overnight fix. I spent a year in therapy going daily for a while and during those times when things were bad. And I dont know if it ever totally goes away but it becomes manageable. Good luck with the government boobs (no pun intended) who work at the VA. I hope something comes open someplace for your brother. Our soldures deserve far better treatment than what they get.