Not too long ago a viral challenge swept social media, featuring 22 push-ups every day and challenging other people to do the same, to spread awareness of the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day. But like every social media challenge, they slowly die off, which is what happened to this healthy and not harmful challenge. That is a sad statistic to encounter in 2018. The Department of Veterans Affairs must have discovered this challenge and shoved it under dossiers of information because they don’t want to be held accountable for the millions of veterans that they have let down.

What is the VA doing?

From the day that veterans are separated from the military either through medical, administrative, or honorable discharges, they are given six months of post-service coverage through Tri-Care, the leading health program for uniformed service members. Once a veteran has been separated they can begin a process known as their VA claim, a long and arduous process that provides compensation and pensions for the suffering that veterans experience due to service-related matters. These include psychological, mental, emotional, and otherwise.

Once all the paperwork is filled, it takes approximately six to ten months for the applicant to receive a response from the VA. At that point, a veteran would schedule their medical exams to confirm and verify their eligibility for specific injuries, and health issues that can be traced back to service.

From the day that they are seen by a VA doctor, the compensation and pension process is not complete until approximately two to three months later. During the entire VA process, veterans are not allowed to have a government-funded health insurance policy and have to pay out of pocket for their own primary care.

What is the current process?

Because the whole VA claim process takes eight to eleven months plus, veterans are forced to go without health insurance for two to five months which is a very slippery slope. My fiancé started his VA claim in September of 2017 and wasn’t seen by a VA doctor until last week, and now he is without health insurance until they are able to put his compensation and pension package together.

The difficulty in this whole process is watching him live in fear. He can’t get sick, he can’t afford medications or prescriptions, he can’t go to a VA hospital for treatment unless he wants the “humanitarian” bill rate, and he must walk on eggshells every day with his health. The other difficulty is watching people quantify and put a price tag on my fiancé’s suffering. How can these people sleep at night knowing that they can say one veteran suffered more than the other did because they don’t show visible or evident signs of specific illnesses?

What more can be done?

We need to urge the VA to treat all veterans the same. Even the president has been taking VA matters into his own hands. In my eyes, all veterans deserve the same compensation for what they underwent in the military.

Former VA secretary David Shulkin led the VA down a path that did not lead to any visible progress. Almost a month ago, a 62-year-old veteran in St. Louis, MN, killed himself in a VA medical center waiting room. Why do veterans feel so neglected and unwanted by the one place that is supposed to help them after their separation from the military? Something within the system needs to change. Hopefully the new VA secretary, a white house doctor, will turn the department around and give veterans the compensation they need in a timely fashion. We shouldn’t have veterans living in fear because they can’t afford their own health insurance policy, with a government that doesn’t want to help them out.