Operation Open Arms: taking on the VA's work?

Founder John Bunch says word is spreading so fast that now the VA is calling on him for help.

His boat is his second home. Former Marine John Bunch often uses it to treat soldiers to a little R&R, but the captain soon noticed a new battle brewing back home: soldiers fighting PTSD and not getting the help they need. So Bunch rallied his own troops.

"There's no co-pay, there's no deductible, and we have 21 licensed, mental health pros that do this pro-bono," Bunch says.

Bunch says the goal was to offer an alternative for soldiers; not take over for the VA. He says a recent voice message on his machine is cause for concern.

"We were given your numbers through the VA Outpatient Clinic and were wondering if you could give us a call back," the caller says.

"I find myself bewildered given their resources that they would contact Operation Open Arms for any type of PTSD issue -- that perhaps they can't solve and they want Operation Open Arms to look into the matter or take the case," Bunch says.

Bunch says it's not the first time he's gotten a call from the VA for help, but chief of PTSD programs at the Bay Pines VA Hospital says that shouldn't happen.

"That is not practice at the VA," Dr. Carol O'Brien, PhD, says. "We have well-trained clinicians in the expertise of the treatment of PTSD."

Dr. O'Brien tells WINK News the patient should have seen a VA doctor.

Bunch says soldiers may be trying to avoid what he calls government red tape.

"We guarantee full and complete confidentiality," Bunch says. "There's no paper trail back to a commanding officer."

The bottom line -- both Operation Open Arms and the VA want you to know that help for PTSD is available. The VA recommends seeing a VA doctor.

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