At the request of the Senate VA Committee, the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report which finds that the VA has inaccurately reported its ability to provide timely access to mental health care for veterans and that, in fact, less than half of the veterans receive timely access and some wait as long as 50 days after their initial contact before being treated.
“Timely access is a matter of concern but it is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Al Galves, Executive Director of ISEPP. “The larger problem is that, when they are finally treated, it is very likely they will receive treatment that is unsafe and ineffective. This is because – despite its own policies to the contrary – one of the primary modalities used by the VA is psychotropic drugs, and those drugs only address the symptoms of PTSD. In addition, multiple studies show they can be very harmful to people. We strongly encourage the VA to use more non-drug approaches that have been proven to be safe and effective.”
ISEPP recognizes the value of the OIG recommendation that the VHA revise the current mental health evaluation measurement system to accurately reflect veterans’ wait time experience and that the VHA “conduct a staffing analysis to determine if mental health staff vacancies represent a systemic issue impeding the VHA’s ability to meet mental health timeliness goals and, if so, develop an action plan to correct the impediments.”
“We are encouraged by the efforts of the Senate to improve the mental health care of veterans and the willingness of the Veterans Administration to act on the report’s findings, and we now urge them to take the additional step of greatly increasing the use of safe and effective non-drug approaches to treating veterans suffering from PTSD,” Galves added. “This is especially important in view of the high suicide rate that is being experienced by veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”