Despite county plea, VA won't budge on ending veterans therapy group

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 5, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated March 4, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.

Despite protests to senators, representatives and county leaders, two Crossroads post-traumatic stress therapy groups will not continue.

During Monday's commissioners court meeting, county Judge Don Pozzi gave an update on his investigation into the termination of Vietnam veterans' therapy groups at the local Veterans Affairs office.

"They say there is no plan to reinstate the group," Pozzi said. "Long story short, regardless of the reasons, it seems to be that those groups will be canceled."

While therapies will be available, they will not be in the group session setting that those veterans had the past seven years, Pozzi said.

Last week, Richmond O'Neill, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran, presented the issue to commissioners. His brief plea for help sparked an effort to save the therapy groups.

O'Neill said the group therapy setting allows veterans to help each other deal with anger management, guilt, fear, anxiety, while learning to work through emotions and resolve issues.

He called it "the most beneficial thing I've received from the VA."

According to correspondence between the regional VA office in San Antonio and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the therapy groups "had lost their therapeutic focus and had become more social in nature."

The letter to Paul's office said the group "was not focused on evidence-based therapies so there are no plans to reinstate" it.

While the group has disbanded, those veterans can join another PTSD group or be offered appropriate therapies if "medically indicated."

Commissioner Gary Burns, who serves on the Gulf Bend Center board, is trying to find a positive outcome in the veterans' situation.

Burns said he plans to meet next week with members of the Veterans Affairs regional office and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's office to develop a plan to help the veterans.

"Gulf Bend is going to try to step in the gap and try to get the appropriate group therapy," Burns said.

Burns and O'Neill met with the board last week after commissioners court to find a solution.

"The attitude was how can we fit this into Gulf Bend," Burns said. "How can we fill the need?"



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