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Salt Lake’s VA, instead, has an intensive treatment program for vets suffering from addictions, and that often means treating the underlying causes such as PTSD or getting the vet well enough to go to Denver or Sheridan, he said.
Vets often wait four weeks, or even six, to get into the substance abuse program, Hill said. " If somebody needs something right away we can get them into one of community partners (treatment programs)."
Recent Tribune coverage of veterans issues
Carlson’s father and stepmother believe he had been addicted to prescription drugs but had more recently stopped abusing them.
"I honestly think he was trying to put his best foot forward to try to get into that [program]," Susie Carlson said. "You’ve got to be clean for that."
Awarded two Purple Hearts for his injuries and rated as 100 percent disabled, Carlson was like a lot of Iraq and Afghanistan vets who struggle to return home.
He was happiest as a soldier. "He felt good about contributing to society, and he was good at what he did," said Susie Carlson. "He felt good about that."
When he came home, "nothing seemed as important," said his father, who will retire this fall after 28 years in the Navy Reserves. "There is no high like being in a firefight. … Everything they come back to is boring."
The American public needs to know — and better support — veterans who continue the battle back home, he said.
"The underlying problem is there are so many returning vets. … The system is overloaded, and they can’t deal with everybody. So everybody waits and they wait. And you have nothing to do."
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