307,000 Veterans Died While Awaiting VA Care

As of September 30, 2014, 307,000 veterans have died while awaiting care and it has been almost a year, so it is safe to assume that the number has since increased. The report by the VA’s Inspector General found over 800,000 pending cases in the VA’s backlog of applications for mental and physical health care.

The VA’s Inspector General report states, “As of September 30, 2014, over 307,000 pending ES records were for individuals reported as deceased by the Social Security Administration (SSA).” One veteran’s application had been pending for 14 years, while another veteran died waiting for his 1988 application to be processed, still to this date, according to the investigation.

The House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs’ investigation request prompted Wednesday’s report after a VA employee alleged VA employees were improperly handling applications. The results of the investigation were disheartening for veterans and Americans alike, not to mention a poor management of government funds. The VA carried over $450 million in funding from 2014 and they received $54.6 billion this fiscal year.

The VA’s Inspector General also found several disturbing cases of mismanaged paperwork and veterans’ applications. 10,000 applications were deleted in the last five years alone. VA employees were found to have neglected processing procedures in 2010 by hiding veterans’ applications in their desks.

Scott Davis, program specialist at the VA Health Eligibility Center, commented on the investigation to CNN. He noted that thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans are returning home and being placed in the VA’s backlogged system. Many of them will lose their eligibility for care after their five-year eligibility period is up.

VA care is more crucial than ever, with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at an all-time high among veterans returning from overseas combat zones. According to the VA statistics, PTSD affects 11–20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 12 percent of Gulf War veterans, and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans. These statistics are from the same government department that requested $168.8 billion for the 2016 fiscal year.

Suicide is commonly associated with veterans suffering from PTSD. A study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (2009) found, “Similar to findings from other studies, our results indicate that PTSD is the most common mental disorder among OIF/OEF veterans seeking VA services. High prevalence of PTSD in OIF/OEF veterans underscores the importance of our finding that PTSD is a strong risk factor for suicidal ideation in OIF/OEF veterans referred to mental health services.”

With the VA system backlogged, what can veterans do to combat PTSD? What can anyone do to combat PTSD without medication or the insurance runaround? People suffering from PTSD are always searching for new, alternative ways to ease the often chronic symptoms. Meditation and yoga are on the front lines for decreasing PTSD symptoms.

Yoga breathing (pranayama) has been found to dramatically reduce stress, a technique used to overlap meditation, which is effective for enhancing physical well-being, awareness and enlightenment. A 2009 study published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found, “Clinical evidence for the use of yoga breathing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters.”

Loving-kindness meditation, a type of meditation that enhances your kindness and compassion toward others has also been the topic of recent research for decreasing PTSD symptoms and episodes. The 2013 study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, involved veterans with PTSD who were invited to a 12-week open course for loving-kindness meditation.

Soldiers SalutingSurprisingly, the study had a 74 percent attendance rate, with veterans attending nine to 12 classes over the duration of the study. The study found, “There was evidence of mediation of reductions in PTSD symptoms and depression by enhanced self-compassion. Overall, loving-kindness meditation appeared safe and acceptable and was associated with reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression.”

Cases of PTSD are not only limited to veterans. Many Americans experience or witness trauma in various ways, and there needs to be treatment available. The VA has in many ways failed those 307,000 veterans who passed away while awaiting approval for care. However, the alternative practices available may be more beneficial for treating specific wartime mental and physical injuries.

Meditation and yoga have been proven to enhance the lives of those with PTSD, and though there is no real cure, it may bring a sense of normalcy and joy back into the lives of those who suffer from PTSD. How does meditation help you?

– Stephen Seifert

Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flare for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.


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