THE BLOG
05/14/2014 03:33 pm ET Updated Jul 14, 2014

Veterans' Well-Being: Improving Veterans Access to Health Care

America's military is made up of brave men and women who put their lives on line by volunteering to serve and protect their country. They should get access to healthcare that they deserve. Veterans should be given more options for their healthcare; they shouldn't have to be put on a waiting list and made to wait for services or told that the government doesn't cover their medical bills.

A serious issue facing some veterans is post-traumatic stress disorder. It's been reported that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. According to the Daily Beast, of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that were treated at VA Hospitals and clinics, approximately 30 percent of them have been diagnosed with PTSD.

A survey that was done by the U.S. Senate committee said that 40 percent of veterans who tried to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional couldn't get one, within the two week timeframe mandated by the veterans department. Seventy percent said that there department did not have enough staff or space to provide services to veterans.

Why can't there be facilities where a veteran can walk in and get access to mental health services immediately? Why does a veteran have to be put on a waiting list? Why are they not offered other health care options while waiting?

Congressman Tim Ryan and Congressman Rich Nugent have introduced a bipartisan bill called the "Veterans and Armed Forces' Health Promotion Act of 2013." The bill would provide veteran's access to at least 10 alternative health centers. The bill is looking to help study and promote alternative healing therapies like meditation, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture and healing touch.

The Samueli Institute has been using several alternative therapies such as acupuncture, healing touch, yoga, and meditation with veterans for over a decade. They've compiled an extensive amount of research on alternative healing modalities for veterans. Dr. Robert N. McClay a psychiatrist and the Reasearch Director for the Mental Directorate at Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA is treating troops who suffer from PTSD with Virtual Reality. With this treatment McClays walks veterans through virtual reality scenarios.

I recently visited a free acupuncture clinic that is working with veterans who suffer from PTSD, called the "At Ease Clinic." It's part of the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL. When I was there, more than 30 veterans came and got treatment.

Dr. Frank Yurasek and Jim Dolan from the Lauruis Foundation founded the Healer Warrior initiative. According to the website, the Healer Warrior is a Veteran Family Self-care initiative modeled after the work of Dr. Yuarsek and the treatments he used with veterans who suffer from PTSD and TBI at the At Ease Clinic.

One event where I saw alternative therapies being used was at "The Veteran and Family Recreation and Wellness Fest" in Mettawa, IL. The event was organized by AllenForce, Healer Warrior, CDW and Lake-McHenery Veteran and Family Services. At the event, I met Marge Tautkus Gunnar a very compassionate women who runs Brave Hearts: Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center. Brave Hearts offers equine therapy to veterans (therapy done with horses); in 2012, the organization provided 1,343 equine therapy sessions to 234 veterans. Two veterans at the event, Patrick Gavin a Navy nurse veteran and Army veteran Allen Schmidt founded the Noble Hawk Foundation to help disabled veterans by teaching them martial arts.

Donna Allen-Sebok who founded Allen Force, provides veterans access to networking events, educational services, and other services. I saw Gemma Adams who teaches iRest meditation to veterans through her program the Veterans Restoration Project. Another organization, Project Welcome Home Troops, which was represented by Pam Brockman teaches a mind-body resilience program called The Power Breath Workshop.

On a national level one of the largest VA hospitals in America, "Walter Reed National Military Medical Center" has been using acupuncture since the 1980's. Walter Reed is also using animal therapy with vets who suffer from PTSD. The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco is currently doing a study on exercise and PTSD. If you're looking to get a masters degree or doctorate of psychology in Military Clinical psychology, there are schools like the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

I hope that one day a veteran can walk into any VA hospital or health care facility and be given options for any affliction that they're facing without being put on a waiting list. The government needs to help veterans get access to health care that they deserve. More money needs to be allocated to various modalities that may provide adequate treatment to whatever affliction a veteran faces.

Need help? Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 press 1; In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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