Every day, 20 veterans take their own life. I almost became one of them because the Tomah VA Hospital let me down. But I’m not a special case. The hospital failed so many of my fellow veterans.
I first walked through the doors of the Tomah VA as a caregiver, not a patient. I saw it as continuing my mission to take care of my buddies—something I’ve done for almost my whole life. I enlisted in the Navy in 1969 and was a corpsman in Vietnam. After I got out, I went to school, got my degree and then rejoined the service as an officer in the Navy nurse corps, eventually serving in Desert Storm.
The men and women I served with were phenomenal. They were dedicated to the mission and each other. It was an amazing team to be on and, like many vets, when I retired I missed the camaraderie and esprit de corps.
Working at Tomah was a way to recapture some of that and to say thank you to my fellow veterans—World War II’s Greatest Generation to the younger vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. But soon after I started the job, I began to see a lot of things that just weren’t right.
Patients were being prescribed massive amounts of medication, often strong opioids. I’d ask what the pills were for and they would tell me “chronic pain.” Then I’d inquire what we were doing besides the drugs to treat the pain. Nothing, was the answer, which was unfortunate because pain management is complicated. You can’t simply throw pills at the problem and expect it to be taken care of.
The complete story here > My Tomah VA Story