I had an appointment with my VA psychiatrist yesterday afternoon. When I got to the clinic, a few things happened before my appointment. First, I was offered (and accepted) my yearly flu shot. Then, my integrated care person found me, and we talked for about ten minutes about how I'm doing on the medications. She had actually called me a couple of times to check on me, but I've been so busy I haven't been able to return her calls-- so she made sure to talk to me before my appointment. She also asked me when good times to reach me would be, so she can check up on how I'm doing. After that, I talked to my actual psychiatrist, who recommended upping my sertraline dose from 50mg to 100mg. My psychiatrist also put in the new prescription, made a follow up appointment for me, and pushed the necessary buttons to send me more meds to cover the additional dosage.
And, I got a free stress ball. A person can never have too many of those.
I'm telling you all this, because I want you to know that the people at the VA really do care. It's not a system where they give you meds, send you home, and leave you to fend for yourself. However, if you're not feeling right, it is up to you to speak up. You don't have to solve what's wrong-- you're the patient. If your meds don't feel right, or the therapy doesn't seem to help, or you're not sleeping, or stuff just feels wrong, it's your job as the patient to say so. If your leg is broken, that's pretty easy for a doctor to see. If you're fighting with your girlfriend, startle easily, and you don't feel safe in crowds, these are things you need to bring up. If you hate your job and don't see much hope for the future, that's something you need to bring up, too.
There's help for these things.
It is perfectly acceptable to call the VA and not know how to describe what's wrong beyond saying "my life really sucks right now." There might not be an immediate fix. But it's a start.
More information: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/