- Editors' Note
In March of 2014 the editors of Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics opened a call for stories entitled Veterans' Health Care on the Home Front. In the call for stories we sought a collection of narratives from war veterans, including both combatant and non-combatant individuals, about meeting their health care needs.
We were interested in both positive and negative experiences with health care systems and aimed to learn about what could have been done, or could be done, differently to improve the health care experiences of veterans. We encouraged authors to share advice for veterans about to return home.
The call for stories was announced in the NIB newsletter and on the NIB Website. Additionally, the call was posted on several NIB social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It was distributed through the American Society for Bioethics (ASBH) and Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) list serves.
Susan DuBois, former managing editor of NIB, determinedly worked to share the call with countless experts and individual contacts, veterans' organizations, veterans support groups, advocacy organizations, national associations, and veteran community websites. Several organizations added the call to their e-newsletters including the American Military Retirees Association (AMRA) and the American Academy of Nursing.
Several authors and colleagues shared the call with friends, family members, and acquaintances and shared the call on their personal Facebook pages and on social media pages followed by veterans (e.g., Operation Amped and Military with PTSD). The call was shared with students attending a veterans writing workshop at South Dakota State University, the Saint Louis University Veterans' Group, and with Student Veterans of America. Physicians, therapists, and medical anthropologists working with veterans personally asked patients to write their stories.
Despite these efforts, response to the call was minimal. We received several inquiries from family members and friends of veterans asking if they could submit a story about a veteran. At first, we sought only first-hand personal stories from veterans but after extending the call deadline four times the editors decided to open the call up to stories from family caregivers in July of 2015. Despite our efforts, we ultimately received just six stories—five from veterans and one from a veteran's wife.
We are not entirely sure why we failed to get enough stories to do a full symposium on this topic. In general, when we engage topics that equally affect men and women, we receive far fewer stories from men. We also suspect that for veterans, talking about their health needs and about the Veteran's Affairs system with non-veteran civilians is awkward. There may be reluctance to criticize the system to the public. Nevertheless, we wanted to honor the current collection by including all the stories we received in response to this call in this supplement of NIB 8.1. The stories included in the supplement depict a range of experiences from veterans who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraq War. We expected to get stories from authors detailing their health care needs upon returning home from war. While we did receive stories that [End Page 79] discussed war-related injuries we also received stories from veterans about experiences using the VA to obtain healthcare for injuries or illnesses sustained after military service. There were conflicting opinions among the authors about the quality of care received. Some authors wrote about being very satisfied with and thankful for the care received through the VA medical system while others appear to be disillusioned and have not been able to get needed services.
The supplement in this issue of NIB also includes a commentary article by E. Ann Jeschke, a bioethics consultant who specializes in post-deployment medicine and veteran's health care. The commentary draws out themes and lessons learned from the narratives.
The first story, by Keynan Hobbs, taps into two themes that recur throughout the collection of stories.
People malign VA Healthcare for "not doing enough." Sometimes they are the same people with anti-"Obamacare" stickers ironically placed on the cars they park just before walking into the closest thing America has to socialized medicine. We are responsible...