American Legion Report: VA Hiring and Prescription Drug Practices Undermining Suicide Prevention?

 In Military, Veterans

Military Times noted that a report from the American Legion suggests that  VA hiring practices and overuse of anxiety medications may be standing in the way of proper suicide prevention in veterans. The overuse of those medications is something Rick at Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children has been trying to say for years.

The availability of alternative treatments, better VA hiring practices – all of those things are important for the health of our military veterans. The use of dangerous drugs for treatment frequently does more harm than good.

Lack of staff

From the Legion’s report:

“VA has implemented numerous successful initiatives and programs…However, as an average of 20 veterans a day continue to take their own lives … much more must be done, and VA must continue to strive to provide patient-centered care and improve the patient experience through adequately staffed and properly funded programs and services.”

The report cited a shortage of about 30,000 full time vacancies and many of those in mental health fields. The American Legion blamed the problem on slow bureaucracy – but also there has been a poor track record of checking the backgrounds of doctors (as we previously reported). Hiring a doctor with a background of malpractice is just plain stupid. And they’ve been doing that since 2002 in some places.

The Legion stated that the lack of employees is causing overworked staff, “poor  patient experiences, and lower quality of care.” How to streamline that process is something the VA needs to figure out.

Overuse of dangerous drugs

The report cited another dangerous problem is the overuse of medications that have suicidal side-effects: benzodiazepines. This class of medications includes Valium and Xanax. The use of such medications should be phased out and newer, safer methods of treatment utilized. According to the report, “over 25 percent of veterans newly diagnosed with PTSD are still being prescribed harmful and potentially deadly amounts of medications.”

The report recommends better tracking of those medications, and phasing them out in favor of alternative treatments.

“The American Legion believes all health-care possibilities should be explored and considered, based on individual veteran needs, to find the appropriate treatments, therapies and cures for veterans suffering from TBI and PTSD. These treatments should be accessible to all veterans; if alternative treatments and therapies are deemed to be effective they need
to be made available and integrated into veterans’ current models of care. The American Legion requests that Congress provide VA the necessary funding to make complementary and alternative therapies part of its health-care treatment plan for veterans suffering from injuries such as TBI, PTSD and other mental health conditions.”

The American Legion’s report can be read in full at their website.

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