Mass. veteran describes time at local VA hospital - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Mass. veteran describes time at local VA hospital

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All Sgt. Kevin O'Brien wanted was to stay in the military.

But, last month, after 13 years of active duty, O'Brien had to retire because of his disabilities.
            
"I have a double spinal fusion, I received three surgeries, spinal fusion was my last," said O'Brien.

O'Brien links his back injuries to all the heavy lifting, running and jumping he did while on active duty.

"I have also been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and this is all related, stemming back from the military, and my service," said O'Brien.  

And last month his post traumatic stress erupted.

"I could be stuck in my room for days on end.  Not really want to go anywhere," said O'Brien. "Other days, the littlest thing can spark an anger outburst.  Where I'd, a multitude of things could occur."

He was taken to the VA hospital in Brockton, one of three VA facilities in the Boston-area that treats 65,000 veterans a year.

He spent a week there, and didn't think much of the treatment he received.

"The facility on the outside looks fine.  It's when you're inside, and when no one else can kind of see from the outside is when things- you start to notice things," said O'Brien.

O'Brien sent a letter to the VA describing what he noticed, including a lack of fresh air and exercise; dirty, smelly bathrooms; stale food, and, most important, "not enough doctors, definitely," added O'Brien.

"I was there over the weekend, so I probably saw my doctor, a max of three times," O'Brien said.

"There are no doctors on the weekends?" asked Hiller.  

"Not that I saw," said O'Brien.

All that made me go to the Boston VA Healthcare headquarters, where Dr. John Bradley is the system's Chief of Psychiatry.

"Well we can't really speak specifically about any individual patient due to the patient privacy laws...," said Bradley.

But he'd seen the letter from Kevin.

"We rarely get specific patient complaints like he provided us," said Bradley.

"Do you feel as if you have enough doctors to treat the people that come here?" asked Hiller.  

"Oh, yes," said Bradley. "We are very fortunate here in Boston--as a hub and medical mecca--that we recruit and retain very highly qualified physicians. "

Hiller asked O'Brien, "How would you characterize the care you received?"   

"Mediocre, at best," said O'Brien. "It seems that in Brockton the folks that I dealt with were just there for their paychecks basically."

"The concerns he raised were legitimate concerns to be raised," said Bradley.  "And are fodder for us to take a look at the services we provide, and improve them."

Kevin O'Brien has just decided to become an advocate for disabled veterans.  
So, after finding his voice, he'll help other veterans find their's.
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