Guest post by John Hawkins
Let me repeat that.
Joe Geoghagan is a 31 year old veteran and he’s BEGGING the VA not to let him starve to death.
Joe first came to my attention because he wrote the Right Wing News Facebook page asking for help. Imagine that: a veteran who did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan reduced to writing the owner of a Facebook page because he doesn’t know where else to turn to get basic medical attention.
After doing some basic research to confirm Joe’s story, I reached out to him. It was difficult to discuss the case on the phone because after years of being mistreated and ignored, Joe’s story pours out of him like a flood now that he has someone listening. Almost without taking a breath, Joe produced countless details about the snubs, red tape, and frustration of dealing with the VA for the last few years. Although you’d expect anger — even red hot fury — there was more of a sense of desperation in Joe’s voice.
Yet all the while, my mind kept turning back to the central, almost inconceivable reality Joe is being forced to deal with: The VA is allowing him to starve to death.
This saga began for Joe back in 2008 when he left the service after spending four and a half years in the Navy. Joe developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during his service, although he didn’t know what to label it at the time. He just knew he was anxious, depressed, and aggressive towards friendly people who didn’t deserve it. Joe reached out to the VA at that point, but was told he was perfectly fine and didn’t need any treatment after a cursory ten minute interview with a doctor.
Joe’s problems with PTSD continued and although he managed to get a job as a military contractor, more physical symptoms started to plague him as well. He began experiencing a lot of nausea and semi-regularly throwing up his food. Eventually, his increasingly frequent vomiting made him too sick to work and he was fired from his job. His fiancée didn’t like the changes she had seen in Joe’s behavior and left him before he was ever diagnosed with PTSD. Money was hard to come by as well and Joe’s depression worsened. He even tried to kill himself at one point.
Then, Joe had his first glimmer of hope in a long while: in late 2012, he realized he was still eligible for treatment at the VA. Initially, Joe was treated by the VA in Washington State and perhaps surprisingly, given the beating that the VA has taken in the press lately, he had nothing but good things to say about his treatment in that state. After a long, dark period, things were finally starting to look up.
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