A petition is circulating the Internet asking for 6,000 signatures to convince the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to shorten the returning soldiers’ medical/ mental evaluation time periods from months and years to weeks.
Right not the petition has more than 5,000 signatures.
Vicki Johnson is a Army mom, Blue Star mom, Patriot Guard Rider and a Navy wife. Her son is a sergeant in the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. His unit returned from Afghanistan in April. It lost 14 soldiers while they were gone for the last year. Her son was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just before returning home.
“He gets back stateside and we are like ‘yay he is home,’ but they wont release him,” said Johnson.
Her son had to be medically evaluated to receive the military’s benefits, like thousands of other soldiers who are and are coming home.
“We just thought, ‘oh he's home he'll be here,’ and it went weeks and weeks,” said Johnson.
When he arrived “home” he was stationed in Mississippi for seven weeks before he finally just got assigned a bed. He even asked for the first available bed instead of a bed close to home—thinking that would be faster.
His bed was in Fort Riley Kansas, and in late July he finally saw his first therapist.
“You figure in a few months you’ll have some answers, then 30 days, days 60 days, 90 days,” described Johnson.
Like any mother, she worried.
“Did he lose a leg and they didn't tell me? Did he completely flip out and they didn't tell me?”
Some veterans tell FOX23 they have waited more than two years to just see a therapist.
“For veterans, it’s tough,” said Oklahoma’s Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Major General Rita Aragon (ret).
“The VA is just honestly flat overwhelmed, they need to hire more people they just don't have the budget to do that.”
Maj. Gen. Aragon also is working on a couple committees trying to improve the current system. She said Oklahoma is trying to find alternative solutions like finding volunteers (medical staffing volunteers) who want to work with the soldiers- especially those suffering from mental health.
Johnson is encouraged by the number of signatures on the petition and hopes Washington recognizes the financial need for our heroes when they come home.