Returning from military service back into so called normal society continues to be a challenge for many veterans. It doesn’t help if they have difficulty getting Veterans Administration Services. In Wyoming, the two VA hospitals have been criticized for the amount of time veterans need to wait to get care. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports that social service providers say they are trying to provide adequate services to a growing population of vets.
David Allhusen is a Senior Social Worker at the Casper V-A clinic, one of the satellite clinics set up to address the growing number of veterans who returning civilian life. He says veterans often face similar problems.
“It’s difficult for me to work, to go to school, to be with my family, and I need to know what’s going on.”
In Sheridan, another VA social worker, Deb Stevens says PTSD and other trauma related issues aren’t the only problems.
“Some people find themselves lost one they no longer have that mission that drives and once you are kind of cut lose from that, sometimes it’s a little hard to find your grounding there.”
Veteran David Poley knows this all too well. Poley is being treated in Casper for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and other mental health issues two years after ending his military service. He says when he came back he had four jobs in the first nine months and found it difficult to succeed in the workplace. Poley says it was equally difficult to integrate into society.
“It feels like you have been throw into something and you don’t have the instructions to get it done.”
After years in the military Poley said that he remains on edge.
“Always on watch, the idea that danger is lurking around the corner.”
Another veteran, Amanda Huckabay is still dealing with the trauma she faced as a member of the military reserve. She was sexually assaulted twice and if that wasn’t traumatic enough, she said the way the military handles such cases added to it.
“In the civilian world we have rape shield laws that protect victims and that does not exist in the military justice system. It was more of an interrogation of me and that was not a pleasant process to say the least. “
The incident led to severe PTSD. Huckabay has gotten care, but she is concerned that some important services are not available in Wyoming. She has to travel to Colorado Springs to be part of a wounded warriors support group. Huckabay wants such support groups available in Wyoming. Travel is a big issue in Wyoming and veterans say it limits access to care, but Social Worker David Allhusen said that they are starting to address those concerns with telemedicine.
“Yesterday as an example I saw veterans in Gillette, Worland, and Evanston, just in the course of one day.”
Allhusen said that they can provide assessments and emergency care this way.
Wyoming U-S Representative Cynthia Lummis says even with technology, she is very concerned about whether the VA is adequately providing services for all Wyoming veterans. She continues to be concerned about wait times for VA care and says her office has taken matters into their own hands.
“When we receive a call from a veteran who’s been on a waiting list or whose health is deteriorating we are trying to stay in touch with them and get them services. Because they don’t need sympathy they need services.”
Lummis said that she believes that the VA has to do more, even if it means looking outside the administration for help. For example, by providing vouchers for private practitioners across the state so vets can get the care they need. Lummis saysas the Veterans Administration undergoes more scrutiny in coming weeks, she hopes the organization takes a close look at how things can be improved in Wyoming, so that veterans in the state get the care they need.