With America’s longest war winding down, at least from a personnel perspective, veterans are returning to civilian life, and as a result to their service, carry with them scars, both physical and mental. To cope, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been allocated nearly 200 billion dollars a year in an effort to ensure veterans are receiving the care they need. But who defines what care a veteran “needs?” Government, bureaucrats, doctors… lobbyists, how much of the nearly 200 billion dollars is actually treating veterans, and are those treatments working?

It’s easy to make the argument that, their “needs” are not being adequately serviced. Where is the money going? While much of it is going to facilities and treatments that are helping veterans, a large slice of the pie is not. In a culture of unaccountability rightfully defined by the media, the favored vendor or method of treatment is sometimes defined by who knows who and whose pockets are being lined. This is no more prevalent than the pharmaceutical industry and its stranglehold on the VA. This has earned VA hospitals across the country nicknames like “Candy Land,” and it is not without merit.

In August of 2014 Jason Simcakoski was killed by a cocktail of 13+ medications all prescribed by the same VA. Before putting him to bed, his wife questioned him on his state as he appeared to be under heavy influence. His response was that he had taken the recommended doses for his prescribed meds, and an autopsy confirmed this was the case. Jason had been prescribed a lethal cocktail that, had the doctors researched the interactions of the medications they were providing, they would have known that potentially fatal side effects are very possible.

I have experienced this blind prescribing first hand with the VA. From previous prescriptions in life, I know my body does not respond well to Percocet. Yet when I was going through my VA physicals post service, I complained of occasional debilitating back pain, that garnered an almost involuntary reaction from the doctor to prescribe Percocet as the remedy. When asked if there was another option I was told I was welcome to seek a second opinion outside the VA. While I was fortunate enough to have private insurance at the time, many veterans transferring to civilian life are stuck with the care provided exclusively by the VA for a period of time, sometimes resulting in this type of one-size-fits-all medicating process, and it’s damaging.