Becoming a VA Patient
1. Be scared & all alone & so confused that you can’t figure out where else to go.
2. Be afraid of what you might do to yourself.
a. Blast your temples.
b. 23 alcohol shots.
c. Slice across = ER. Slice down = morgue.
d. Shoot at cops & they’ll shoot back.
e. Feel the pills in your mouth, swallow.
g. 22 a day succeed.
3. Call directory assistance for the address of the closest VA hospital & drive there.
4. Run out of cigarettes & hope someone will give you some.
5. Only feel good when watching TV, calling your friends in a panic, or having dreams so vivid that when you wake up & you’re not in Iraq or Afghanistan, or someplace where people want you dead, you’re shocked.
6. Know that the VA is mandated by the United States government to fix you.
7. They don’t get paid if you’re fixed.
8. The VA will make you wait & won’t let you smoke.
9. If they agree to fix you, you won’t get a doctor, on the ward, there will be a man who saws at his leg with a plastic knife.
10. The nurses will give you drugs.
11. The nurses will give you lots of drugs.
12. The nurses will give you Nicorette gum & take your cell phone.
13. The next day your friend can bring you a phone card & back away slowly.
14. Your symptoms won’t get any better.
15. Your symptoms will never get any better.
16. The drugs will make your hands shake & your hair fall out.
17. Your therapist will read the book *Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours during your appointment.
a. *written by demographer Phillip Longman
18. Be afraid all the time.
Sylvia Bowersox served her first tour in Iraq in 2003-2004 as a U.S. army broadcast journalist attached to the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul. Her assignments took her around the country, but much of her time was spent in Baghdad, at Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters, which serves as the background for much of her work. She returned to Iraq for two more tours as a "3161" press officer assigned to the U.S Embassy Baghdad public affairs office, and later to the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). She lives with PTSD, and writes about her experiences in both wars. She has been honored by multiple Pushcart nominations for her work. Her first book, Triggers, a chapbook of war journalism flavored poetry and prose, was published by JerkPoet Press. Her work has appeared in Solstice Literary Magazine, the journal 0-Dark-Thirty, The Synthesis, Tethered by Letters, Epic Times, and The Washington Post. Sylvia received her Masters degree in English from California State University, Chico. She lives in Wisconsin with her veteran husband, her Black Labrador service dog, Timothy.