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Hi, I'm Dave. As a disabled veteran, much of my health and psychiatric care come from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. I am sorely disappointed with some of my experiences with the VA. Ask Me Anything.

David George
Jun 7, 2017

The VA is a mess and some of us are stuck in a broken system just trying to survive the bureaucracy. 


David George says:

This AMA will end Jun 7, 2017 10:05PM EDT

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I have the experience to talk about this.

Have you ever hosted an AMA before?:
Yes

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#AMAmilitary Great experience hosting AMAs.

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Yes

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Conversation (91)

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Let's get started!

Thank you everyone for the great, thoughtful questions.  I hope to see you all again for my next AMA next week.

Jun 7, 10:03PM EDT0

Do you believe the current administration is truly working to improve the care delivered to Veterans through the VA? Do you have any practical solutions to problems you have encountered that would benefit the administration and groups that are trying to improve the program? 

Jun 7, 6:43PM EDT34

I believe the military as a whole, including the vets, will improve under the new administration.  As I've said before, the best thing to do to fix many of the problems would be to start firing people from the top down.  After the first few at the top are fired, tried, and jailed, all the ones below them will start doing their jobs.  I'm sure of it.

Last edited @ Jun 7, 8:25PM EDT.
Jun 7, 6:48PM EDT0
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What do you think of the repeal of Obamacare?

Jun 7, 2:28PM EDT1

Honestly, I don't know.  Two things to keep in mind.  1) when the politicians are involved someone gets screwed, and 2) hopefully we won't get screwed as bad with whatever replaces it.  It does seem like there is more discussion with the new plan, as opposed to one man forcing what he wants on a nation.  It seems as though it will be a little more consumer friendly.

Jun 7, 6:30PM EDT0

Do you have any good memories of your military service?

Jun 7, 11:25AM EDT1

I have mostly great memories.  I went on many missions with people I care dearly about.  Those all all wonderful memories, no matter the circumstances or attacks.  Even in the memories that have contributed to my PTSD, I can find something good. 

Jun 7, 6:28PM EDT0
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What is your opinion about the direction of the US military?

Jun 6, 6:48PM EDT1

Wow.  I will temper my response as that is a sore topic for those of us that are "old" veterans.  I originally enlisted the first time in 1989.  The army was very different back then.  I had a break in service from 1993-2007.  When I went back in, I was shocked to see how much easier it got.  It seems the army was taking the toughness out of training.  At some point, the army became politically correct and that could be what ruined the worlds greatest army as we knew it. 

Jun 6, 10:45PM EDT32
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Do you have a personal military hero?

Jun 6, 4:22AM EDT1

Awesome question!  Everyone I served with is a hero to me in one way or another.  A couple people that I personally knew never made it home, they are the true heros.  My grandfather served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  So, he's very much towards the top of my list as a personal military hero. 

Jun 6, 10:37PM EDT24

How do you want people to react to your disability?

Jun 5, 10:51PM EDT1

Most won't see my disablity because it's psychological.  But I want to be treated normal with the understanding that with PTSD I sometimes have issues with my environment.  I welcome quesitons.  I like to tell my stories when people want to hear them.  Support and encouragement is always a good thing from people.

Jun 6, 10:32PM EDT0

Do you belong to any veteran support groups?

Jun 5, 2:54PM EDT1

Not really.  I'm a member of the VFW.  But I don't really have any other veteran groups I'm in. 

Jun 6, 10:27PM EDT0

How did you sustain your disability as a vet?

Jun 5, 10:02AM EDT1

My disabilty that the VA recognizes is PTSD.  Somehow I caught it going to war.  Go figure.  My physical issues aren't recognized by the VA and that is very frustrating since I have documentation of each problem. 

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/04/23/ptsd-is-contagious/

Jun 6, 10:22PM EDT0

What is your dream job, now that you're out of the military?

Jun 5, 10:02AM EDT1

I'm still in the army reserves, which means I have to work a civilian job.  I enjoy my current job, but my dream job would be to make a living as a writer.  I'm a little more than half way through writing my first novel.  And I would love to be able to make a living doing that.  That's my dream.

Jun 6, 10:15PM EDT0

What is the biggest obstacle to obtaining care from the VA?

Jun 5, 7:55AM EDT1

Probably getting them to listen to us.  They don't seem to care sometimes and that is very demoralizing.  And for me, having PTSD, they way they treat vets just makes its worse.

Jun 6, 10:13PM EDT0

Would you re-enlist if your physical condition allowed it?

Jun 5, 6:39AM EDT1

I think I would.  I'm currently in the process of finding out if I get to stay in or if they will put me out.  If I'm allowed to stay in, I will probably re-enlist.  I'm non-deployable now, so that may play into thier decision, I don't know.  Hopefully, they will decide soon since my window for re-enlisting is coming up soon.

Jun 6, 10:08PM EDT0

Do you have a visible disability, and how does that impact reactions?

Jun 5, 5:55AM EDT1

My physical problems are not visible.  And obviously my mental issues aren't visible.  And that makes things difficult sometimes.  Because I look "normal", it's hard to tell I have a disability.  But I am not able to do many of the things I used to do well.  Like work, be on my feet all day, be in crowds.  Loud noises are a huge problem for me.  Traffic jams are a nightmare.  I have horrible dreams and memory problems.  But I look normal, so people don't realize I have PTSD and all the stuff that goes with that.  That makes for interesting reactions when I have a "PTSD Moment."

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/18/ptsd-moments/

Jun 6, 9:51PM EDT0

What is one thing you'd change about VA service?

Jun 5, 3:29AM EDT1

That's a great question.  One thing?  That makes it a hard question.  LOL.  I think the one thing I would change is to make the processes easier.  Getting a disability hearing right the first time is near impossible.  Also, getting them to recognize that when a military doctor sees a soldier for a problem, it IS service connected.  Damn, don't get me started on what I'd change.  We would have to bulldoze every VA building, fire every employee, and start over.  That might be the best change. 

Jun 6, 9:40PM EDT0

What is your response when asked about your war experience?

Jun 4, 10:54PM EDT1

I talk about the things I can talk about.  I have some great stories, most of which I can tell part of.  Some things, I can't talk about for security reasons.  For a while after getting home, I didn't talk about those things as much.  But I've found that it's good for me to share my experiences.  You can see some of my stories at my personal blog if you're interested.

https://storyofmylife.blog

Jun 6, 9:36PM EDT0

What has been your experience with mental health care from the VA?

Jun 4, 9:08PM EDT1

Some good, some bad.  My best experience was through the Vet Center (a separate entity of the VA).  I had a wonderful psychologist that helped me greatly.  But he, like so many other good ones, left for a better job outside the VA.  Currently, I do not like the psychiatrist I've been assigned at my local VA.  With most things, "good" or "bad" is sometimes what you make it.  I'm trying to make it good, but the VA makes that hard too.

Jun 6, 9:29PM EDT0

What is your background in military service?

Jun 4, 7:58PM EDT1

Originally, when I enlisted in 1989, I was a construction surveyor.  My next job was as a wire systems installer.  After a long break in service, I went back in as a chaplain assistant in the army reserves.  In addition to those jobs, I've been the lead for suicide training at a number of units I was in, I was "travel agent" for my small group in Afghanistan that I travelled with, I am currently an instructor with the army reserves.  There's so many things I've done that are outside my normal job title it would be hard to list them all. 

Jun 6, 9:26PM EDT0
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Do you stay in touch with the men and women you served alongside?

Jun 4, 7:21PM EDT1

I do keep in touch with many of them.  That ranges from talking a couple to times a month to a message on facebook once in a while.  With social media the way it is, it's really easy to see how everyone is doing. 

Last edited @ Jun 7, 8:28PM EDT.
Jun 6, 9:21PM EDT25

How do you think public response to vets has changed with each war?

Jun 4, 4:44PM EDT1

That's a great question.  From the time my grandfather served in World War II to now, much has changed in the way the public gets it's information and what they know about military operations.  With that, I think the public does view us differently than they did in the late 1940's.  They viewed the vets from Korea differently than WWII, and Vietnam differently than Korea.  And so on.  There's a great book by Edward Tick titled "War and the Soul" where in part of it he chonicles how past societies have viewed their warriors, all the way back to ancient times.  It's a good read, check it out.

Jun 6, 9:20PM EDT0

Are you still loyal to a particular branch of service?

Jun 4, 4:43PM EDT1

I'm still in the Army Reserves, so, yes.  Go Army!!  My grandfather was in the Navy, then Air Force.  My dad was in the Air Force.  I have a place in my heart for all branches, but I am army to the core.

Jun 6, 5:55PM EDT0

Based on your experience, what is your opinion of socialized medicine?

Jun 4, 4:04PM EDT1

If the VA is socialized medicine, then it sucks.  I think anyone that believes socialized medicine works should have to get all their care at the VA for a while.

Jun 6, 5:54PM EDT0

How do you celebrate or observe Veteran's Day?

Jun 4, 2:44PM EDT1

Veteran's Day is a day to celebrate Veterans, different than Memorial Day.  I am the 3rd of 4 generations in a row of my family to serve in the military, so Veteran's Day is even more special to me now that my son is serving. 

Jun 6, 5:52PM EDT1

How do you think the present administration is handling VA matters?

Jun 4, 1:32PM EDT1

Honestly, the VA issues are bigger than any administrations, present or past.  I think Trump will make more noise to get things 'fixed', but the best thing to do would be to fire every executive in the VA and start over.  Follow the money trail and you'll find the people that don't want the VA fixed because they make too much money with it broken.  Make it harder for bad doctors and horrible employees there to keep there jobs.  Now I'm rambling.  I hope I answered your question.

Jun 6, 5:48PM EDT0

What is the longest you have had to wait for VA services?

Jun 4, 12:34PM EDT1

Well, a couple years ago, my doctor told me he would put in an order for test.  That never happened.  At an appointment 6 months after, I asked him about it, then it went through.  A similar situation recently, I was given a 30-day supply of my psych medications, but not given an appointment with a psychiatrist until 50+ days after.  I had to ration my medication so as not to miss too many days in a row.

Jun 6, 5:45PM EDT0

Can you estimate how many veterans have mental health needs?

Jun 4, 10:15AM EDT1

All of us!  LOL!  But really, it probably does take someone that's not all the way sane to sign a blank check that could possibly be cashed with their life.  Anyone that has been to war, will have some mental health needs.

Jun 6, 5:42PM EDT0

Are you proud of your military service, and why or why not?

Jun 4, 6:48AM EDT1

I am very proud of my military service.  To be part of something so much bigger then myself, to lead, to make a difference, are all things I wouldn't trade for the world.  I've been very fortunate to have done some of the things I've done and been to the places I've been.

Jun 6, 5:36PM EDT0

As a veteran, what do you think about the necessity of war?

Jun 4, 5:48AM EDT1

I think that war has been a necessary part of history.  It's not pleasant, but without it, our nation would not have it's freedom, much of Europe would have lost their freedom.  No doubt, war is unfortunate, but I think at times history has proven that it must happen.

Jun 6, 5:34PM EDT1

How does technology benefit you as a disabled vet?

Jun 4, 5:23AM EDT1

I think that we have so much information at our fingertips now is a benefit.  We can do much of our stuff online now as opposed to going to the local VA and waiting and dealing with people that sometimes don't want to be working there.  I've also done a teleconference session with a psychiatrist.  Personally, I did not like it, but for some, that technology could be very benefitial.

Jun 4, 10:36PM EDT0

How does your disability impact your daily life?

Jun 4, 3:41AM EDT1

My PTSD causes my sleep to be off.  I have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and the dreams are often disturbing.  The medications help, but not all the time, it goes in cycles.  The pysical wear and tear on my body has a noticeable impact on what I can physically do now.

Jun 4, 10:33PM EDT0

How does your war experience impact your personal relationships?

Jun 4, 1:47AM EDT1

When I first came back from each deployment, especially the last one (Afghanistan), it was rough.  I was hard to deal with; angry, paranoid, hypervigilant.  It's better now, but some of the damage done in the past is already done.

Jun 4, 10:24PM EDT0

What movie does a good job of portraying military service accurately?

Jun 4, 12:00AM EDT2

That's a tough question because every military movie is Hollywood-ized.  Very little of our military service is ever as glamorous as it is in the movies.

Jun 4, 10:15PM EDT0

Do you favor more or less military involvement around the world?

Jun 3, 10:20PM EDT1

I favor less extremist terrorism, so by default, I favor more military involvement. 

Jun 4, 10:12PM EDT0

What is your experience with being stigmatized for seeking mental health care?

Jun 3, 10:09PM EDT1

To be honest, most of the stigmatization was my own doing, thinking about what others might think of me.  Most people are understanding, some aren't sure what to say.  Very few people, at least that I know of, look down at me or think I'm a nutcase.  Basically, any sigma I experienced was mostly my own fault.

Jun 4, 10:04PM EDT1

How would you rate rehabilitative service with the VA?

Jun 3, 9:44PM EDT1

I think you would have to rate the individual you're dealing with at the VA.  The services, in theory, are great.  The execution of those services often fail because of the VA employees.  And if a veteran gets to the point where he/she does not want to deal with the BS of some of the employees, it makes it very hard for any rehabilitative service to be effective.

Jun 4, 9:54PM EDT0

What motivated you to join the military?

Jun 3, 9:43PM EDT1

When I went in the first time, at 18, it had some to do with college money and some to do with continuing a family tradition.  When I went back in at the age of 36, it was soley to do my part in the war on terror.  By the time I went back in (2007), the wars had been dragging on and I wanted to do my part.  And I did.

Jun 4, 9:40PM EDT0

What is the general public reaction to veterans today?

Jun 3, 9:26PM EDT1

I would say that by far, maybe 99% of my interaction with the public, while in uniform is a positive experience. 

Jun 4, 9:38PM EDT0

As a vet, what is your opinion about Guantanamo Bay?

Jun 3, 9:21PM EDT1

Well, I've never been there, but I hear it's nice this time of year.  LOL.  I'm guessing you want to know my opinion about keeping bad guys detained there.  Seems like a good place to me. 

Jun 4, 9:36PM EDT0

Who would you like to put in charge of the VA?

Jun 3, 7:46PM EDT1

I'd put you in charge of the VA if it would help.  But honestly, I think there are too many political hands in the pockets of the VA for it to be efficient, no matter who is in charge.  There is way too much money for the people at the top to lose if the VA was really run efficiently.

Jun 4, 9:35PM EDT0

What are some of your favorite war movies?

Jun 3, 7:06PM EDT1

Uncommon Valor, Full Metal Jacket.  Saving Private Ryan was very good, I only saw it for the first time recently. 

Jun 4, 9:33PM EDT0

Do you suffer PTSD, and how does that impact you on a daily basis?

Jun 3, 4:58PM EDT1

I do.  I was diagnosed after my last deployment.  It impacts every aspect of my life.  However, in the last year and a half I have learned to live with it.  I know where certain limits are for me.  I know what triggers to avoid.  Overall, I'm doing well.  But it's like a small voice in the back of my head that I know is there and I have to stay aware of.

Jun 4, 9:31PM EDT0

Can you describe your day-to-day life in the military?

Jun 3, 4:55PM EDT1

Except for being deployed, day-to-day life in the military is very similar to any other job.  And our day-to-day lives for each of us are not always the same.  It would depend our job.  For me, during deployments, my day would consist of taking care of and protecting the chaplain (I am a chaplain assistant).  I would make our travel arrangements, set up appointments for him with individual troops, advise him on the morale of the unit as I see it, go to meetings.  The list goes on and on.  Most of it was mundane, except when we went outside the wire on missions.  That was always an adventure.

Jun 4, 9:28PM EDT0

Sorry to hear. What pisses you off about VA?

Jun 2, 7:29PM EDT1

One thing that pisses me off is that if they were private sector, they would go out of business because many of us would choose to go somewhere else.  But many veterans have to rely on the VA, no matter how bad the care or service is.  Many of their employees wouldn't make it in the private sector without a serious attitude adjustment.

Jun 4, 9:23PM EDT0