In the Spotlight
An Appointment at the VA: A Veteran's Story
Steve Noonan, USAF Veteran
I had an appointment with my VA psychiatrist yesterday afternoon. When I got to the clinic, a few things happened before my appointment. First, I was offered (and accepted) my yearly flu shot. Then, my integrated care person found me. She asked me about my medications. She also wanted to know how I was doing on them. She actually called me before the day of my clinic appointment but I was not available. So she made sure to talk to me before my appointment. She told me she would like to call every so often to check-up on me and see how I was doing. She asked about a good time she could reach me. After that, I talked to my psychiatrist, who recommended upping one of my medications. My psychiatrist also put in a new prescription, made a follow-up appointment for me, and pushed the necessary buttons to send me more meds to cover my additional dosage. Plus, during my visit, I got a free stress ball. A person can never have too many of those!
I am telling you all this because I want you to know that the VA really cares about Veterans. The VA health care system does not give you meds, send you home, and leave you to fend for yourself. You do not have to solve what is wrong, you are the patient. However, you need to be a partner with your health care team. If you are not feeling right, it is up to you to speak up. If your meds do not feel right or the therapy does not seem to help, or you are not sleeping, or stuff just feels wrong, it is your job as the patient to say so. If you are fighting with your girlfriend, startle easily, and you do not feel safe in crowds, you need to bring these things up with your provider. If you hate your job and do not see much hope for the future that is something you need to bring up too. If your leg is broken, it is easy for a doctor to see and treat you. However, your doctor cannot see things that upset or bother you, so you have to tell them. There is help for these things.
It is perfectly acceptable to call the VA and not know how to describe what is wrong beyond saying "my life really sucks right now." There might not be an immediate fix, but it is a start. Talk to your VA health care team, they care about you!
The Mental Health Center in My HealtheVet has information about mental health issues. You can take a screen to see if you have symptoms that are commonly associated with a specific mental health condition or with stress. This site helps Veterans and family members recognize and deal with problems.
VA Mental Health is a website for Veterans. There are many topics such as Veterans at Work, Women Veterans, PTSD, Homelessness and more.
Updated/Reviewed: June 1, 2011