Chad Robichaux, a retired Recon Marine and founder of the Mighty Oaks Foundation, was watching the House VA Subcommittee on Health hearing this week, and what he heard from Dr. Tamara Campbell, executive director of the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, outraged him.
Following eight deployments to Afghanistan, Robichaux, like so many of our soldiers, battled PTSD.
He founded the faith-based Mighty Oaks Foundation with the goal of “serving the brokenhearted by providing intensive peer-based discipleship through a series of programs, outpost meetings, and speaking events.”
Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), a former Navy SEAL, referenced Robichaux’s foundation as he grilled Campbell, asking the doctor whether her office is “preventing veterans from committing suicide or not.”
“Or,” Van Orden asked, “are we just spending money and hiring people so that they can get together, come to these committee meetings, talk a bunch, submit reports, with metrics that can’t be defined?”
After Campbell assured the lawmaker that her department is “moving the needle on this” and insisted it requires a “full public health approach where suicide prevention is concerned,” Van Orden asked how many “faith-based non-evidence programs” the VA currently administers to vets in need of help.
What, he wanted to know, are her office’s “metrics for success”?
“Within VA, we certainly value scientifically-based-evidence-based programs,” Campbell replied. “That does not mean, however, that we don’t collaborate with our chaplain services…”
To Van Orden, that sounded a lot like the department is failing to actively work with “wildly successful” programs “because they are faith-based – which according to you guys are ‘non-evidence-based.'”
“Living veterans: That’s evidence of a program’s functioning,” Van Orden stated.
Campbell said the department would be willing to meet with Mighty Oaks and would consider a possible partnership, a promise Robichaux hopes the VA will keep.
The VA, Robichaux told Fox News Digital, “cherry-picked data” in its report, excluding, at least at the present, overdoses.
“The American taxpayer is funding a one-solution system for the mental health and suicide epidemic for our warriors, and it is a pharmaceutical one. And it is failing,” he said.
He pointed to the billions of taxpayer dollars that are going to Ukraine and suggested how at least some of it could be better spent.
“Meanwhile we are giving … $113 billion to corruption in Ukraine, [without] congressional oversight,” Robichaux said. “With just one of those billion [dollars], faith-based VSOs could nearly eradicate this crisis amongst our military community.”
Funding for faith-and community-based programs were removed through an executive order by the Obama administration in 2009, he explained. When Donald Trump was campaigning for the White House in 2015, Robichaux formally asked him to reverse the order.
“The truth is PTSD, and trauma are typically spiritual wounds to the human soul, and a spiritual wound requires a spiritual solution found through a relationship with God,” he said. “We cannot take this away from our warriors and expect them to heal…”
“Trump reportedly agreed to Robichaux’s request,” Fox reports, “and weeks before his administration ended, the VA proposed a rule removing regulatory barriers ushering in ‘equal treatment’ between religious and non-religious organizations in VA-supported social service programs.”
Following the hearing, Van Orden, who has lost friends to suicide, said the VA must take an “all of the above approach to help prevent this scourge.”
“I am sick and tired,” he said, “of this bureaucracy refusing to acknowledge that what they call ‘non-evidence based’ treatment programs have actually shown solid evidence of saving the lives of my fellow veterans, particularly faith-based programs.”
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