By Eric Beasley
Yesterday, I was called by a reporter from the Frederick News-Post concerning some recent developments at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center. I’ve had some interactions with their reporting staff in the past, mostly as a result of my issue advocacy here in Brunswick.
As reported by the Frederick News-Post, the Martinsburg VAMC is in crisis, specifically their mental health capacity. In 2014, there were 16 psychiatrists on staff. Today, there are 5 full-time psychiatrists. Martinsburg will also be shutting down their inpatient mental health facility.
I provided some comments to the Frederick News-Post here, but I felt like I should expand out on these.
The VA medical system is like an exclusive nightclub. It’s hard to get in, but once you are in you can get whatever you need. Let me give you some examples.
My previous counselor went to a new position in October 2014. I was busy with work and elections, so I took 2 months off from my appointments. I started calling back to the Fort Detrick VA clinic in January 2015 trying to make appointments. Six months later, after leaving numerous messages and listening to an endlessly ringing phone a few times a month, I went down in person and was finally able to schedule a follow up appointment.
Once you have your first counseling appointment made, you do all your scheduling through them. And let me tell you, they ALL go out of their way to fit you in to their busy schedules. You will have a next appointment, even it if means their lunch is a 3 minute sandwich in between patients.
Even right now, I had my psychiatry appointment cancelled in January, got a little note saying they would re-schedule me for a later date. It’s been 3 months, not a word from the VA. But I’d bet a dollar that now that my name, picture, and comments about the Martinsburg VAMC were published in a newspaper, that I get a callback.
And this is EXACTLY the problem.
So great, I get my appointment only because my name was in the paper. What about the folks who were not in the paper? How long are they going to wait for an appointment? Will they ever get an appointment? Will they ever get the treatment they need to be successful in life? Will they become one of the 22 Veterans a day that commit suicide? What about those guys down at Building Veterans that need care and treatment?
I don’t want your damn appointment. I want the folks who do not have the support structure that I have, who do not have the loving family and caring friends that I am blessed with, to get that callback and get an appointment. I want a VA that follows the Warrior Ethos:
To Tim Cook, the head of the Martinsburg VA. I attended a meeting with you a few years ago up in Washington County, where you claimed that Martinsburg didn’t have the same problems as the rest of the VHA. Shortly after that, you fired my primary care physician (Don’t try to parse words with your legalese “he resigned” bullshit) for doing the right thing and being a competent Doctor.
Now, under your leadership, your psychiatric capacity has been cut by 65%. You are shutting down your inpatient mental health facility.
Also Mr. Cook, do not think for a moment that I cannot see what really happened here. In Public Relations, there is no such thing as a coincidence. You released this psychiatric news on the same day as your first responder training exercise, hoping your press release would be buried under a feel-good fluff piece about firefighters and JROTC.
I overhear conversations when I am at the Fort Detrick clinic. I see my providers, sometimes when I do not have an appointment with them. I can tell you exactly why they all left. Because under your leadership, you have created a toxic work environment where all your doctors are burning out. You have overloaded them with patients, refused to efficiently hire replacements, and now your organization is incapable of providing the care that my brothers and sisters in arms require.
You have failed us. I would call on you to resign, but considering the standard business practices at the VA, this would only mean that you are transferred to a new facility where you get a huge moving allowance and pay increase. We all know that the VA rewards failure and incompetence.
Eric is a former officer in the Republican Club of Frederick County and Frederick County Republican Central Committee between 2015 and 2018. Former guest host on WFMD and showrunner on WTHU. Avid gardener and food preserver. Graduated from Libertarianism to Anarchism as the corruption level in the state requires us to start over from scratch.