My personal anguish over DVA-funded mental health treatment

I have mental-health issues.

I don’t believe I have PTSD – and I’m definitely not suicidal.

My issues are minor – in my opinion – though getting worse (mainly because of “the trouble with DVA”).

Obviously, I don’t know exactly what my issues are. If I did I probably wouldn’t need professional help.

But they do keep me awake at night. Last night, for example, I went to bed early because I was so tired from two very late nights recently (issue in itself) – but woke, with a start, about 1.30am, lay there thinking for hours, got up and made hot chocolate, then tried again. Unsuccessfully.

Now, as the sky turns red before the sun gets out of bed, I’m back at my computer. But I can’t concentrate on work. I have to write this.

My wife knows I have issues. She occasionally yells – “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU” – mainly because I also have partial hearing loss and might not otherwise hear her 😉

My GP knows I have issues. She once said, in a sentence that had about 400 words too many in it because she was trying to get around to the point as diplomatically as she could that maybe some of my medical symptoms were just manifestly indicative of something holistically underlying………

…….she gave me a referral to a psychiatrist.

And that’s when my (continuing and growing) anguish with DVA’s funding of mental health began. I wrote this editorial on a similarly fine, sleepless early morning.

For all the reasons outlined in that editorial, I eventually visited a psychiatrist willing to take me on as a DVA-funded client, six months after getting the GP referral.

Session one was a typical getting-to-know-you Q&A.

Session two, my wife also attended, and confirmed that, while I am not barking mad, nor violent, nor an alcoholic (despite her ‘reservations’ re the quantity and frequency of my consumption of expensive Irish whiskey) – “something isn’t right in his head – and he won’t talk about his feelings”.

After she left the room, the psychiatrist told me
a) “You don’t have PTSD” and,
b) “while you may, if you wish, check in with me for one more follow-up session in six months or so, I don’t think I can do any more for you”.

I accepted that, left his office and didn’t go back (though I might yet – if only to biff his nose).

When I told my GP what the psychiatrist said, she thought it very strange.

On a subsequent visit, my GP showed me the letter she received from the psychiatrist, which was a lot more more detailed and less straightforward – but no less dismissive and final than the words he said to me.

I’ve thought about his ‘diagnosis’ many times since – including at O-dark-hundred this morning.

To be clear – I never thought or believed I had PTSD [see update below] and, I was happy to hear an official diagnosis confirming it.

But, I know I still have mental-health issues. My wife still knows it. My GP still thinks it.

And, now [see update below] I have a contrary opinion – which makes the first guy’s ‘diagnosis’ even harder to swallow.

But, getting back to the first guy – what does “I don’t think I can do any more for you” actually mean?

Lying in bed this morning, the ‘real answer’ came to me – which obviously makes it true and ‘the only possible explanation’.

While the psychiatrist actually said out loud, “I don’t think I can do any more for you” – he failed to add what was probably in his head – “because, if it isn’t PTSD or ‘serious’, then I’m not happy to continue seeing you on a DVA ticket”.

That’s the only logical conclusion I can come up with and, short of going back for that third visit to ask, I can only surmise.

But here’s my supporting logic – if I think I have mental health issues and my wife and my GP both agree [and my new shrink actually diagnosed it], what is the likelihood any other psychiatrist could conclude conclusively “you’re all wrong” after just two sessions.

Of course, he didn’t say we were wrong – he only said (and not in these words exactly) ‘please don’t come back’ – and the only reason I can think of for that is because either he wasn’t being adequately paid by DVA (as explained in my earlier editorial) or he was more sympathetic to DVA than his patient.

But, I don’t really blame that doctor. I blame DVA (government) for freezing their schedule of fees in 2012.

But, no matter who is to ‘blame’, I [didn’t at time of initially writing this] have a diagnosis – much less any treatment.

DVA says I’m entitled to receive treatment for any mental health condition and they will cover ‘all costs’.

What DVA doesn’t say – anywhere – is that not all doctors are willing to accept DVA-funded patients.

And now, it seems to me – with no proof whatsoever – that some doctors who do take on DVA-funded clients are only willing to continue seeing them if they’re ‘serious’.

[For quite a while] I was in a twilight zone between no diagnosis, no treating specialist – and no sleep last night.


UPDATE (March 2020): What was effectively my third psychiatrist in two years since asking for help has now given me an official diagnosis. But because I’m in the early stages of a DVA claim through an advocate – and because I haven’t told me Mammy – I won’t give too much away here. Suffice to say, I am ‘happy’ with current progress and treatment.











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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

13 thoughts on “My personal anguish over DVA-funded mental health treatment

  • 20/05/2019 at 5:09 pm

    I am a qualified DVA Pension Officer working from an RSL Sub Branch in the Sutherland Shire. I have extensive experience in MRCA, DRCA and VEA matters. I have a very credible success rate and I would like to assist you if you wish. My work is voluntary and no payment is required or expected. There are a number of issues in the mental health area that need consideration, and which may be applicable to yourself. If you would like advice on the options available to you, please leave your phone number or email address in order that I can contact you.

    No current serving or former service person should attempt submitting a DVA claim by themselves. The entire system is difficult and protracted. Let me know if I can assist.

    Ron Shaw J.P.

    • 20/05/2019 at 6:00 pm

      Hi Ron. Thank you for your service, past, present and future. It’s a great thing you are doing.
      Personally, I am not in need of an advocate – I have a very good friend looking after my needs in that regard.
      But, if your invitation is an open one, then I encourage anyone reading this to take up your offer.

      I’d just like to clarify that by writing about my personal circumstances above and in other posts, my intent was never to highlight my personal situation nor to seek help for myself. My intent was to use my personal experience to highlight a significant issue that I came across, that upset me in the experiencing of it, and to shine some little light into the darkness by discussing it as truthfully as I could.
      When ministers say things like “If you have served one day in full-time service, DVA will cover your mental-health costs, no matter what the cause of the mental-health issue” – in my experience, that’s only half the story. The other half is that not all health-care professionals are willing to accept DVA clients and, when they do, at least one of them proved to be unwilling to continue seeing me because my mental-health issue wasn’t serious or significant.

      I therefore hold that DVA and its minister are being disingenuous when they do not tell former members the whole truth. Ex-service members are accustomed to receiving good and complete intelligence before they engaging. And in my experience, DVA and the minister are failing in this regard.

  • 19/05/2019 at 12:18 pm

    Mate I have some serious medical and psych problems due to service and other things. I found that while on a white card getting help was difficult but when I got my gold card everything became much easier. The only thing I came up with is money talks . The medical people get a lot more money when they can admit you to hospital of any type . I think DVA has improved a lot in the last 16 months. But you more than likely need a psychologist and not a psychiatrist. Try and get some mates in similar situation to you and see who they suggest they will have likely done the foot work already. Stay safe and happy mate and there’s always someone to talk too. Don’t worry my wife also yells a lot because of hearing lose but she just says I’m ignorant maybe a bit of both hey.

    • 19/05/2019 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, your advice and your concern Steven. Stay well yourself.

  • 17/05/2019 at 9:48 am

    Issue, as I see it, is the referring doc not DVA in this case. Looks like he should be seeing a psychologist not a psychiatrist. The former helps you cope and address “bad” behaviours and behavioural issues, the latter just medicates and treats underlying illnesses. DVA has covered mine for years and I was seeing both. -iatrist twice or 3 times a year, -ologist every 2-4 weeks depending on how I was going. The doc shouldve explained the difference and understood what is required even the -iatrist shouldve recommended the -ologist treatment but alas too many disregard the other. Now i dont see the -iatrist and check in with the -ologist every 6-8 weeks for a check in and tracking debrief. Get the right care and things get better.

    • 17/05/2019 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Kev. You’re spot on in terms of I really had no idea the difference between the two disciplines. I will pursue the psychologist option, and probably on Medicare+gap instead of DVA – because it’s just too hard (on the one topic that really shouldn’t be exacerbated by the admin).

  • 17/05/2019 at 8:54 am

    A psychologist is what you need. They will give you practical help and advice.
    I can give you the name of an excellent fellow who helped me immensely from Wollongong as soon as my wife remembers his name. He used to run DVA approved courses as well.

    • 17/05/2019 at 9:03 am

      I agree totally, thanks Cav. A personal referral would be appreciated ?

    • 17/05/2019 at 10:28 am

      Thanks Cav. I really would appreciate the recommendation.

      • 19/05/2019 at 1:50 pm

        Try Cathy at Mind mode in wollongong. She accepts clients on a white card and is brilliant!

        • 19/05/2019 at 5:09 pm

          Thank you for your recommendation, Ben. I will certainly look into it.

      • 27/05/2019 at 4:15 am

        It’s 4 am

        His name popped into my brain.

        Andrew Tuddenham.

        Highly recommeneded

        He had an office in Wollongong and also Warilla. I saw him for 12 months and I can say that he was most helpful.

        He also ran a number of courses funded by DVA .

        His address and details are:
        Andrew Tuddenham
        118 Shellharbour Rd
        Warilla NSW 2528
        (02) 42973555

        If you do get in touch with him can you pass on my kind regards to him.

        Ian Cavanough

        • 27/05/2019 at 8:40 am

          Thanks heaps Cav, I will look into this – and pass on your regards.
          Cheers, Brian


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