Where the VA Falls Short, White Heart Works to Pick Up the Slack
When we are talking about the care of literal war heroes, good enough isn’t enough. If any one of us were injured on the job, say, falling out of our desk chairs or spilling coffee in our laps, we would expect first-class medical care to be provided through our employee benefits. And likely, many of us would get it.
So why aren’t our Veterans getting the same fast, efficient, and expert care civilians are getting through their private insurance or government programs like Workers’ Comp. For one, there are a lot of us. Roughly 2.4 million active and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces have left the military and returned to civilian life. In the next four to five years, another million, most of whom served after 9/11, will join them. And the VA is obviously struggling to keep up.
The White Heart Foundation’s Warrior Network is committed to addressing the individual needs of every Veteran we come in contact with. And the most important thing about us is that there is no ambiguity when it comes to your contributions. We guarantee that 100 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to the much-needed health care of our Veterans.
Part of White Heart’s arsenal is the One Life program, which provides medical care from world-class doctors free of cost to our network and links wounded Veterans who have not received proper care through government programs to premium doctors who are willing to provide their time and expertise. Essentially, One Life picks up where the VA or other programs have historically fallen short.
And these short comings have not gone unnoticed by our Vets. Nearly half of all Veterans who were badly injured during service after 9/11 hold a negative view of the care provided to them by the VA, according to a 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center. But here’s where the badassery comes in—of those same severely-injured Veterans who were polled, nearly all said they were proud of their service, and would encourage young Americans to enlist in the Brotherhood of Barrel-Chested Freedom Fighters.
George Washington once said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
It’s no secret that Veterans coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated far better than those who were met with hostility and contempt upon returning from Vietnam. But misconceptions, ignorance, and insensitivity are not uncommon occurrences.
A friend told me once that he was walking through the VA in Los Angeles, frustrated after waiting for hours, and leaving with nothing but a bottle of Vicodin in his pocket. On his way out, he passed two women in the hall. One turned to the other and made a complimentary remark about his tattoos and physique, and, without missing a beat, the other responded with, “Yeah, but he’s probably all fucked up in the head, though.”
Unfortunately, treatment of serious injuries sustained on the battlefield is only the beginning. Chronic pain and/or adjusting to a disability comes with the risk of depression, opiate addiction, and, most concerning, suicide. The risk of suicide is actually 19 percent higher among male Veterans when compared to men who have never put boot to ass for old Uncle Sam, according to a report released by the VA in September 2017.
In response to that report, VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin said, “I am committed to reducing Veteran suicides through support and education. We know that of the 20 suicides a day that we reported last year, 14 are not under VA care. This is a national public health issue that requires a concerted, national approach.”
Well, if this many Veterans are suffering, why are so few seeking out the care they need? I have a guess: torrential wait times, apathetic or overworked staff members, redundant documentation practices, bureaucratic red tape—oh, I could go on. And let’s be clear, most Vets are not looking for charity. Most would tell you to take your hand out and shove it. What they want is compensation in return for what they have already given to this county.
And that’s what the White Heart Foundation is trying to accomplish. We want to give back to the men and women who have given so much for us. We want to meet the need. Not out of a sense of pity, or even compassion, but out of the same sense of duty, loyalty, and appreciation we see reflected in the men and women our programs aim to help.
Alec McPike is a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently a freelance writer and blogger living in Los Angeles.