13. Mefloquine Dispatches: The Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs, 2000
by Shane Granger
I make the call. It is a Friday afternoon. Late but not yet knock off time.
I’m trying to get through to my Delegate. The Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs has assigned me a delegate to investigate my claim for Depression. When my mates find out about this, they avoid me. I’ve largely disconnected from the military by this time. The Army does not talk about mental health in 2000.
I’ve been trying to get help. The mood that constantly weighs me down & the screams that I hear at night as I go to sleep don’t make any sense. I’ve been through my military documents, then my medical documents. Like the Army I miss the deployment and the omission. Six lines and a sign-off hastily written on the back of another soldier as we race on toward the Hercules readying for take-off.
I am paying for my own psychiatrist. He is expensive but wants to do more work. I must work to keep a roof over my head. I’m selling my house to fund it all. There is no Non-Liability Health Care in 2000. In fact, there is zero care. Once you leave the Army you are on your own. They make you fight and scrap for every bit of assistance. The process is not just brutal, it’s a meat-grinder. It has been chewing up soldiers, sailors, and aircrew since 1976.
It’s a Friday in 2000 and I’m ringing my Delegate at the Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs.
A man answers. It is not my delegate.
“Can I get through to G* please”.
“No mate, everyone has gone home for the day”.
“Ok, I’ll call back next week then”. Foolishly, I am still of the opinion that government departments like this are designed to serve people like me.
“Mate don’t bother. I know who you are. You have been ringing all the time. Your claim has been dismissed. There is nothing wrong with you. You can try to appeal it but you’re just bunging it on. We know your type”.
He then hangs up the phone.
I don’t call back. The door has been shut firmly in may face. It will take me nearly two decades to regain the courage to start the DVA process again.