Corporal Daniel V. Hughes, Sr., USMC (Ret.)
I serve on Congressman John Mica’s committee on Veterans Affairs as a volunteer. I have been helping veterans for 38 years. The issue of health care and facility management is of great importance and concern to our veterans and their families. The Marine Corp has given me respect, honesty and integrity. That is the code that I run my life by. Our service men and woman and their families deserve the best we can give them for their sacrifices.
For the record, I address health issues of great importance to our veterans and their families in my report. I want to thank the Committee and welcome you all too sunny Florida. Please except my thanks for allowing me to speak before you today.
Suicides: All Time High
There are as many suicides as there are men and women killed on the battle field. The challenge is to get our soldiers to open up with their problems. The majority of the suicides have occurred once the troops have returned home. The need for trained psychiatrist in our clinics is needed. Some of our clinics do not have this service or the funds to acquire them.
Problem Statement: Active duty military personnel Reservists and National Guard units do not currently have access to ongoing programs and services to help re-integrate them back into civilian and family life. There is also a challenge in accessing confidential military health and support services addressing the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological problems; which can dramatically impact our troops and their families.
We need to provide the resources to assist our veterans in transitioning from military life and help them replace the military unit with the family unit. To accomplish this objective we need a program to train and employ veterans who will assist in providing the network of programs and resources that our transitioning heroes and their families require.
24-Hour Help Hot Line
As a part of ongoing services a 24-Hour Hotline to assist our vets and their families with urgent issues needs to be provided. This line would be staffed by trained Veterans Crises Counselors who will work with the callers to guide them to the resources needed at that moment. If emergency services intervention is required the Crises Counselors will contact the required providers and stay on the phone with the callers until help is secured.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
What is being done to assist veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries is an exploding problem. This most perplexing wound comes out of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq is constantly faced with the perils of improvised explosive devices (IED’s), rocket propelled grenades and land mines. The path of destruction often leads to blindness, deafness and catastrophic injuries and multiple amputations. In the past six years, officially about 15 percent of all wounded vets have struggled with a traumatic brain injury. At this time this number has increased substantially.
Answer: Every GI coming back from the war zone needs to be screened and x-rayed along with a complete debriefing before being released back into society. We need a special clinical department to care for these men and women along with specially trained psychiatrists. TBI is invisible to the naked eye. Over 20,000 cases have been reported. These insidious wounds can plague those suffering for years. I want to thank the Veterans Affairs Committee chaired by Representative Bob Filner for the proposed bill H.R. 2199, which provides for mandatory screening. We must continue to follow up with this effort, along with other continuous treatments at our centers.
More emphasis needs to be put on present day health issues and specialty Doctors to handle these brain injuries. Today’s health issues are a little different from previous wars. Hands on management is needed along with qualified staff as well as additional nurses to handle the work load. Today we are faced with many serious medical problems in our hospitals as well as our clinics. There is no reason to have unsanitary issues in any of our health facilities. This is due to a lack of supervision from management doctors on staff. To meet the demand there is confusion and the outcome from this confusion is mistakes, which are very serious in nature.
Most of our clinics are over run with veterans with serious health problems for example: Daytona Beach Clinic, which is a new facility and has already, had one expansion and needs another with 800 veterans a day coming through the doors. A lack of money and staff has created numerous problems.
I now want to talk about a very serious illness and that is Alzheimer’s. This disease has taken its toll on our older veterans. All of our nursing homes should have in its facility an Alzheimer’s unit. It should be a locked down unit along with specially trained volunteers and nurses.
The lack of this service in our VA system has forced a lot of our veterans into private Nursing Homes. We are blessed at this time to have received a new nursing home at Golf World Village with an Alzheimer’s unit in it. We as veterans would like to thank you for this blessing. Those Nursing Homes without an Alzheimer’s unit must be reassessed so as to incorporate such a unit to better service our Veterans with this terrible disease.
Qualified Doctors and Staff
One of the biggest problems we are having at all of our VA facilities is acquiring better doctors and staff to meet the demand. At this time the system is struggling to care for our veterans. Our clinics and our hospitals do the best that they can with the budget that they have to work with. That is not good enough. Our veterans deserve better. Due to budget shortages, we leave ourselves open for mistakes which then results in law suits.
To eliminate the above we must acquire the best of doctors. Pay them well, so that they will stay and give our veterans the service they deserve. We must also purchase the best medical equipment that is out in the market. Our terminally ill veterans must travel a long distance for care at our hospitals and clinics. A lot of these patients depend on the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) van or friends to transport them the distance to receive their care. We veterans that live in the north east section of Florida must either travel to Gainesville or Orlando for hospital care. If you are terminally ill it makes for a very rough day. A new hospital located in the Jacksonville area is badly needed.
In closing, those of us that have served our country, past and present, ask our representatives serving on the prestigious Veterans Affairs Committee to please continue the work in improving our health care needs. The system is good but it has some cracks that need to be filled. As veterans, we continue to put our lives on the line for a just cause that is so dear to our hearts, and that is freedom. The freedoms, that has made this country great now and in the future. Many years ago a promise was made to our veterans, that promise must be kept. To this day, many veterans and their families have given the supreme sacrifice and received permanent traumatic injuries that last a life time. God Bless our veterans and our country.
Yours through Veterans!