08 Jun Veterans Struggle to Receive Mental Health Care Benefits through the VA
Post-traumatic stress disorder – otherwise known as PTSD – is a very serious mental illness that can lead to relationship instability, joblessness, homelessness and even suicide. Yet, despite the severe consequences of such an illness, the VA continues to make it harder than ever for veterans to receive the mental health disability benefits they need to get better. According to Military Times, more than 75 percent of veterans seeking mental health care had to wait up to 26 days after their initial appointment to receive a follow-up appointment; others waited as long as 279 days. While 26 days may not seem like a lot to some, to individuals on the verge of a mental breakdown, 26 days can mean the difference between life and death.
Veterans Face Several Obstacles When Applying For VA Mental Health Care
Veterans suffer from higher rates of homelessness, substance abuse, mental health problems, depression, and anxiety than the rest of society. Fifty percent of combat veterans suffer from PTSD. 40 percent are chronic abusers of alcohol and other substances. And while veterans represent only one in 10 adult civilians, they account for one in four homeless people (American Public Health Association). Despite the disproportionate numbers, however, up to 87 percent of servicemen that suffer from psychological distress report never receiving psychological help. How can this be?
Qualifying for standard health care through the VA is difficult enough, what with the long waitlist for care, the shortage of healthcare providers, and the “rating system.” Furthermore, one must be honorably discharged or released, and have served 24 consecutive months or the full period for which they were called to active duty to be eligible. Servicemen who were released before that time was up – either because of an injury incurred in the line of duty or because of mental hardships – are ineligible for VA health care benefits. With that in mind, the two largest barriers to mental health care for veterans with psychological issues are the rating system and the manner in which one is discharged.
Because of a limited budget and continuous budget cuts, the VA has to ration out its health care by “rating” the level of disability present in each returning servicemen. Eight tiers make up this rating system, with top priority going to veterans with 50 percent disability, second priority going to veterans with 30 to 40 percent disability, and third priority going to prisoners of war and medal winners. Because it is hard to qualify the level of disability that psychological issues present, many veterans are placed on the notoriously long VA health care waitlist, while others are simply prescribed medications that may or may not make things worse.
Then there are the servicemen who are never given a chance to receive mental health care at all. In the military, there are five categories of discharge: general, honorable, other than honorable (OTH), bad conduct, and dishonorable. Unfortunately, servicemen with combat-related PTSD are far more likely to commit acts of misconduct that result in an OTH, misconduct being anything from substance abuse to committing acts of violence outside of the line of duty. More unfortunate is that these men and women are unable to receive the care they need because of the OTH, and go on to commit acts of bad conduct outside of the service, further aggravating their psychological conditions.
Get The Help You Need
If you or a loved one is struggling to get the mental health care you need to get back to living a healthy, happy, and normal life, and if you continue to run into the same barriers with the VA, it may be time to hire a South Carolina veterans’ benefits attorney. Whether you need help overturning an OTH, or need assistance in qualifying for a higher disability rating, our veterans disability attorneys use their knowledge of the civilian and military law to help you receive the care you need and deserve. To receive the mental health care benefits you have been wrongly denied, contact Klok Law Firm LLC at 843-216-8860 or online today to schedule your consultation.