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.

While veterans directly killed by these toxic combinations is a disaster in and of itself, the real monster lurking is the number of veterans on these medications who are taking their own lives due to the side effects of an altered mental state. In 2014, over 7,400 veterans took their lives, 70% of them were using VA Services. In 2016 the DisabledVeterans.org stated, according to a study, that “veterans receiving polypharmacy (five or more psychotropic drugs administered concurrently) treatments may be at the center of the mystery. Those veterans who receive polypharmacy treatments were four times more likely to commit suicide.” Another study showed that veterans who seek mental health care through the VA are MORE likely to kill themselves than those who do not.[1]

But is it fixable? One company says yes. Advanced Genomic Solutions, located within minutes of the infamous Phoenix VA, has stepped up to the plate and has developed a genetic test that can stop this over and mixed medication epidemic in its tracks. The VA has already approved this type of drug sensitivity test and they are even currently using it, but just not applying it to the veteran’s medication process. But the veteran must ask for the test either through their VA doctor or contact these any contracted company to receive the test. As a caveat, these companies with VA contracts have stipulations that don’t allow them to advertise their presence in the VA. Without tests like these, doctors can only prescribe in the methods that are being dictated by bureaucrats and big pharm oversight.

Almost 8,000 veterans are dying every year, many from over medication, with the stroke of a pen, the new VA secretary, David Shulkin, could save thousands of lives by simply mandating these drug sensitivity tests that are already funded and approved by the VA be applied to the medication regimen.  If a veteran is on two or more medications daily, or on an opioid, blood thinner, or psychotropic drug; they should be required by the VA to take a drug sensitivity tests.  These tests save medication expense and could save veterans lives.

Image courtesy of Rapps Pharmacy