Vet Turned Away From VA Hospital For PTSD Treatment During ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’

Fort Wayne, Ind. (CBS CLEVELAND) — A military veteran says her regularly scheduled Veteran’s Affairs appointment for “high-level PTSD” was cancelled because of Mental Illness Awareness Week – a move of “irony” she says is part of larger problems with veterans’ health care.

Army Reserve Maj. Leslie Haines tells the Military Times she was turned away from her Northern Indiana VA Health Care System PTSD clinic appointment she’d scheduled months in advance, after being told the cancellation was because the staff was attending an inspiration speech for Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“Do they see the irony in that?” Haines said. “I was thinking, I’m glad it wasn’t National Suicide Prevention Day.”

Haines says she has regular appointments at the PTSD clinic that she attends like clockwork due to stress that is “exacerbated” by her civilian job of counseling troops and other veterans. She is a prior-enlisted soldier who served as an MP at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and was injured in Kirkuk, Iraq. And she says that
Oct. 9 visit to the Fort Wayne VA office is indicative of wider scheduling problems within the system that she relies upon for most of her health care needs.

“When I questioned whether I could reschedule, I was told no and reminded that I had an appointment scheduled for the following month,” said Haines, noting that the care is good when the VA doesn’t tweak her appointments.

In the case of the Mental Health Awareness Week conflict, Northern Indiana VA Health public affairs officer Jennifer Baran-Prall told Military Times that health care workers were invited to the speaking engagement but were not required to attend.

However, they were given the option of earning continuing education credits if they did attend.

Baran-Prall explained that the event was scheduled since August and staff members should have notified patients of any appointment changes by phone, and then by postcard, if necessary.

“There was only one instance in which a veteran was not contacted directly and was instead sent two notifications,” Baran-Prall told Military Times.

But Haines said she received no notification of any kind and was unable to reschedule through the VA appointment system – although her provider did squeeze her in during lunch the following week. Nineteen other veterans had their appointments rescheduled at the two VA campuses in the system.

“He’s fantastic. His schedule is packed full,” Haines said, adding that she received an apology about the “mixup” from a hospital administrator. Additionally, she filed a complaint with the VA Inspector General in hopes that the “mix-up” doesn’t happen to other veterans – she has not yet received a response.

“This was definitely one for the ‘you can’t make this s— up’ file,” Haines said.

Benjamin Fearnow

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