Clay Hunt, a Marine sniper, served two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he came home with a Purple Heart and post traumatic stress disorder, Hunt asked the Veterans Administration for help. But getting medical attention was a two-year struggle. On March 31, Hunt committed suicide in his Sugar Land, Texas, apartment. He was 28.
Philip Northcutt, 38, a fellow Marine, saw intense combat in Iraq in 2004 and was wounded. He was diagnosed with PTSD in the field, but he says he was merely given sleeping pills and an anti-depressant and told to keep fighting. When he came home, he struggled to adjust, spending time in jail and becoming homeless before he started receiving disability benefits more than four years later.
When Jordan Towers, 27, came home from Iraq in 2008, the Marine couldn’t escape the feeling that he was on another night patrol in Al Anbar province, and that each step might be his last. He angered easily and snapped at people for no reason. When he called the VA, he was told it would take three months to get an appointment. He was diagnosed with PTSD a year later, but six months after the diagnosis he is still waiting to hear whether his claim for disability benefits will be approved.
The stories of Hunt, Northcutt and Towers are not unique. Similar allegations are leveled in a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration filed by two veterans groups that argue delays in the process of evaluating and treating returning veterans with mental health problems are systematic.
On May 10, a federal appeals court judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the VA to drastically overhaul its mental health care system and accusing it of “unchecked incompetence.”
Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the lawsuit against the VA along with Veterans United for Truth, said there are more than 1 million veterans currently awaiting decisions on disability claims.
Meanwhile, Susan Selke recently received a letter from the VA approving an increase in her son Clay Hunt’s disability benefits.
It arrived five weeks after his death.
When are we going to start taking proper care of our veterans? I may not be a full-supporter of our wars, as I feel there is more going on than is told. My contempt for these wars does not change the fact that these soldiers are the people that risk their lives every day while they walk on foreign soils, following orders from their peers. Members of our government, congress, senate, etc. all receive immediate medical care at the first sign of a sniffle, while those that dedicated their actual being sit on the sidelines discarded like a piece of roadside trash.
Our values and priorities have become severely skewed with our government. Many of our elected officials bow down to the “man behind the curtain”, such as the big oil companies… the Koch Brothers… funding hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, in donations and lobbying.
While veterans like Clay Hunt take their own lives…. Will this senseless suffering ever stop? Not while “man behind the curtain” is in control.
The Federal Courts may have ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but I have little faith we will see any change. I hope I am wrong.