Mom helps veteran son as he navigates VA healthcare system

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Army Veteran Mike Hull of Phoenix believes that without his mom helping him navigate the broken system at the Phoenix VA Hospital, he wouldn’t be alive today.

“I think about dying every day. And I don't know if that's common, but, yeah, I think about death every day. And it's because I've been given the tools, you know, and had some of the support around me like my mom and family and friends that I've gotten to this point,” said Hull.

The 36-year-old did two tours of duty. One on a ship in the Persian Gulf; the other in Haiti. During his service, his younger brother committed suicide. He returned home but within two weeks was back on the front lines. When he was honorably discharged in November 2014, Hull said, he was “just different.”  

His mother, LeAnn Hull, said her son was suffering from severe PTSD and that for two years the Phoenix VA did little to help him.

“His way of medicating himself and managing the anxiety and all the triggers were through alcohol, which would eventually lead him to an emergency room visit and being very, very, sick and having an extreme episode of PTSD.  He just started with a psychiatrist just a few months ago, after all these years of trying to make that happen,” said LeAnn.

Then in December 2016, Hull was hit by a truck while on his scooter not far from his apartment. The accident was very serious and he suffered a concussion, gashed head, collapsed lung, two broken arms, a shattered kidney, spine fractures and more. He spent 11 days in the intensive care unit and underwent three surgeries at a level one trauma hospital. Upon his release and to this day, the VA has not approved a much-needed follow-up surgery or any aftercare for that matter.

“He still doesn't have the stent out of his kidney, which needs to be surgically removed, because the kidney doctor said he can't get the VA to respond,” said LeAnn.

In fact, Hull could not even get approval to get his stitches removed, so he finally just went to the doctor without approval in order to avoid infection.

“Because of the delay for those appointments, the skin had started to grow over his stitches. And I watched in the room as they ripped the skin back open, to take the stitches out and make his arms bleed again. Because of the delay of care,” said LeAnn.

Hull said that his PTSD sometimes paralyzes him. And the VA system frustrates him, as it does other veterans. His mother has become his full-time advocate, making dozens of calls every day, writing emails, filing formal complaints and contacting congressmen.

“To get anything done at the VA is a very … nobody really understands how difficult that is and how much time that takes,” said LeAnn.   

“What does a veteran do who doesn't have an advocate or a family member? Could you imagine him coming home from the hospital on multiple drugs, multiple surgeries and pain, barely able to open a bottle of juice and he's supposed to manage the phone calls to field his way through the minefield of the VA? That's why they give up. That’s why our suicide rate is so high. Because there's no possible way for our veterans to manage their own care,” said LeAnn.

Hull’s mother finally got so frustrated that she went on a little rant on social media. That apparently got the attention of the VA.

They scheduled an appointment for her with the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff for Wednesday.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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