Expect the unexpected, and I did not ever expect, that I would write an article with the title of “Veterans Day And The Big Lie About VA Health Care.” Things change in life, and when they do, I have found that the old saying of “the power of the pen” often has a way of getting a response, more adequately, than phone calls, that go unreturned, or face to face interaction, with someone who is simply doing a job, to receive a paycheck. Yes this is a non-fiction story, of mine, and many other Veterans, I have interviewed. If you or a loved one is a Veteran, this also may be your story too. Am I just a disgruntled Veteran? No, only baffled, and amazed, at the culture, behind,”The Big Lie About VA Health Care.”
I was fortunate enough, when my time was up, and ended my service, with an Honorable Discharge, in 1972, I found a job in the civilian world, that offered private Health Insurance, and I had no need, to use or apply for VA Health Care. But I found my need to apply in 2000, I had made a change, in location to another state, and had not found employment, that offered Health Care benefits. I went through the application process, and was quickly approved. When I did find a company to work for that offered Health Care, in the Civilian sector, I used it, and left an opening for some fellow Veteran, that had no Health Care, coverage available with the exception of VA Health Care, seemed to me the right thing to do. Now that experience, was not to bad, you saw your “Primary” Doctor, about every year or six months. There was no problem, getting simple things, like blood pressure medication, but there was on thing that raised a red flag with me at the time. Each time I went, it seemed I left with more and more pills, if your cholesterol was on the border line, they wanted to load you down, with some type Staten, or something else, instead of a suggesting life style and dietary changes. A pill for that and this, but that all changed when I was able to find an outside, Civilian Doctor, when I went to work for a company that offer Health Insurance, with part of the premiums, deducted from your week paycheck. During the time between, 2001 and 2007, I had two major back surgeries, and a disabling work place accident in 2010, and with that my Health Insurance was gone. But during that time, I found a primary care Physician, who knew me and my family history. But more importantly we built a relationship of trust. When I became a self pay patient, he has continued to work with me, and all I can say is thank God, he has. This is why.
The Big Lie About VA Health Care
When, out necessity, I returned to “VA Health Care” I was in for a huge surprise, I was both appalled and dismayed, just how much things had changed, not for the better just the opposite. It took, 6 months to be assigned, a new Primary Care Physician, I supposed I was a little surprised, that I was not assigned and Medical Doctor, but a Nurse Practitioner, when I inquired as to why, I was told, there was a shortage of Doctors to provide, VA Health Care. As I and others would find out, there was a reason, for this shortage, pay and availability and the culture of the VA Health Care system had changed. I saw her once, for an initial time allotment, of 30 minutes. Just enough time, to bring her up to date of what medications, I was taking, and schedule lab work. My next appointment was scheduled for 3 months later, when 3 months had come and gone, with no follow up being scheduled, I called and inquired as to what and why, was holding up the process. The answer I got was, my provider, no longer was employed by the VA Health Care system, and I had been assigned a new one. Either she had retired or quit, I have never gotten a straight answer as of this very day. But as I have stated, I had a Civilian Doctor, who ordered the same blood work, and because I was self pay, the total cost came out of my Social Security payment, I as well as others receive the second Wednesday of each month. That can be 4 weeks, or 5 between payments, it depends on the day the second day of the month falls on. When I was finally assigned a Primary Care VA Doctor, he had to order all new lab tests, because they needed new, current results, because the ones they had were to far out of date, even though I had copies of the labs, from my Civilian provider, I was told they wanted their own, not from and “outsider” and that’s when all my red flags went up. Duplicate tests, with the same results. Again, more pills were prescribed, and the blood pressure medication, the VA didn’t have access to, one pill, they controls my hypertension very well. So instead of taking one blood pressure medication a day, I now have to take two, to accomplish the same result. But here is where the Big Life Of VA Health Care, was revealed to me in an almost unbelievable way.
The Lie About VA Health Care Is Not A Headline On The Evening News It’s Real:
I was feeling terrible bad, one morning and I knew I had see a Doctor as soon as possible, how was I so sure of that. I knew I had suffered a small heart attack, a few weeks earlier, I knew exactly when and where I was when it took place. As as so many do, the symptoms went away, and I sought no medical treatment, which was a foolish move on my part, and won’t argue with that. I called my local VA Health Care, clinic and was told I could not get an appointment for, yes you may have guessed it, for over 30 days. So I went to see my Civilian provider, who did an EKG, and asked me was I aware I had suffered a heart attack, and I said yes, and suggested I go immediately to the VA Health Care clinic and inform them of what they had found. I did, following protocol, checking in first with the emergency, nurse and clinic, which sent me to the floor that my Primary Doctor was located. I followed those instructions directly, and when I explained the situation to the intake workers, here is what I received. I didn’t see a Doctor or a Nurse, I saw a clerk, who took me into a room, and without checking a blood pressure, or anything, He took a card out of the desk, and wrote a 1-800 number down, and said, if your symptoms reoccurs, present yourself to an emergency room and give them this card, so they can call and see if the VA Health Care, would pay for my treatment. If you think I am exaggerating, you are as wrong as the sun rising in the West.
Yes, that is what I actually received, call it yourself, if your inclined to do so, and to show its authenticity the following photograph, should erase any doubt in your mind.
I said you have to be kidding me, and he said no you have to receive VA Health Care, approval first, to see if your treatment will be paid for or not. I could not believe what I was hearing but I should not have been, and now am not surprised at all. At this point I was, more than a little miffed, and could not resist, asking him, Albert are you a Veteran, and his answer nailed me to the floor. He said, ” when I was old enough to enlist, it was 1972, and you know the things that were going on at that time, I am sure you can understand why I didn’t want to go.” I looked at him and with no attempt to hide the disdain in my reply, told him, I served from 1969 through 1972, “I am glad you didn’t go, I would have had hated to share a foxhole, or be in a firefight, with a son of a bitch like you.” But you don’t mind at all getting a paycheck, from the VA Health Care system, each week now do you? He had no reply, so I took my little “card” and left, hoping our paths would not ever cross again. If your a Veteran, and use VA Health Care system, you will easily recognize the card in the pictures above. Now you may think this was an isolated indecent, but it’s not.
Is It VA Health Care Or The Systemic Culture
As I have previously mentioned I have had 2 major back surgeries, and as time has gone by my back has gotten progressively worse. I was advised by my Civilian Doctor, I really needed a MRI, and some type pain management regimen. I followed protocol, once more, and was able to secure a MRI with my local VA Health Care facility, an appointment was made, and I received a call, and was informed, it would take more than 30 days, before I could have the test done, and was told by a very nice scheduling representative, that I was welcome to call the number on the card up above, and see if the VA would pay for an outside, the system, diagnostic center to do the MRI, I have to admire her honesty, when she told me that more likely, than not, they would not approve, because the time was not so unreasonable, and I would probably be told to wait, which proved to be true. I waited and had the MRI done, at the VA Health Care center, I am assigned to. I was told it would be several days before, I could get the results, because, there were only certain days, a radiologist was available to read them. I got the results, then was scheduled a Neurosurgeon consult, but that could only be on a Friday, because, there was only one available, and he only worked one day a week and that was on Fridays. I got the consult 3 weeks later, this older Doctor who is semiretired, but with many years of experience in his field, went over my results we me, and I was impressed with both his honesty and integrity. He said, it was his opinion, and a strong one at that, that I should not undergo anymore spine surgeries, since I had already had 2 and the risk of a third, could put me in a wheelchair, and that was something we both agreed on. He said he would send and email to my Primary Care Physician, recommending a Pain Management, at Bay Pines, which is in Tampa. I asked if I needed to do anything else, and a said no, I would be contacted soon, with an appointment date. 3 weeks later, I had heard nothing, so I called, and was told, the email, got lost, and that my request would be forwarded that day. 3 more weeks went by, and as you can guess not a word, so I followed up and found out my request had been denied at Bay Pines, because of the lake of a current urinalysis, I understood that, they needed to make sure, I had no pain medication in my system from an outside source. I went and gave them a sample, and took the medications I was on, and none of them had a thing to do with pain. I showed my legal prescriptions to the tech, and asked they make sure all that information was sent to Bay Pines, 3 more weeks went by, and not a word, so I called Bay Pines myself, just to get an update, they said they could not tell me anything, and that I would have to get that information from my Provider, and here we go all over again. You see, I was rejected for a consult, yes just a consult, by a clerk in Tampa, because, all I had in my system, was a medication I have been taking for 35 years, that treats, very well I may add, Post Traumatic Stress, a medication, at one time widely used by the VA Health Care system, but now, it’s no longer a part of their, blanket, protocol. So something I have taken for years, for Post Traumatic Stress, disqualified me from a consult, yes a consult, unless I agreed to undergo a 28 drug abuse program, at the Bay Pines facility. Without reviewing my MRI or the recommendation for a VA Neurosurgeon. a clerk made this decision, not a Doctor. I what I take has nothing to do with pain at all. I called the Director of the Local Va Health Care facility, and asked what the hell were they talking about. I am not looking for pain medication, I a looking for this disabling pain, that now has me walking with a cane, pain medication is the last option I want to hear about. Spinal injections have worked well for me in the past, and that is what my first choice would be. But to be refused a consult, to discuss this, won’t take place, until or if I comply with the most assign thing I have ever heard of. When I spoke to the Director. she said she would get back to me the very same day. And after a month, not single word have I heard. To say I am outraged would be a gross understatement, is it the Health Care of the Culture? I found out the answer when I interviewed and Doctor, who enlightened me.
It’s Both The VA Health Care And Culture That Is Broken
I spoke with a VA Health Care Physician, from a different State, and what he told me, was as appalling as much as it was disheartening. He said flatly, it where you go in these United States that dictates, the care you receive, when the Physicians and administration, of the Health Care facility are in sync, with what is best for the Veterans they care for the out come and quality are very much different. Am I surprised at this revelation,not at all, sadly this what you can expect whenever Government get involved with controlling health care. So all Veterans Health Care, experiences the same as mine? No but the facts are clear, that more are than are not. Do I have a plan, yes by the time, my next appointment with the VA Health Care, I will be 65, which means I will be eligible, and will receive Medicare, have I already begun my search for a Pain Management Group, I have. Are the same providers who were so successful in treating me with spinal injections still in town? They are, do I have confidence in what they do, and do I know what kind of results to expect, I am confident in their expertise, and experience I am, in the mean time, I will try and maintain, some sense of normalcy, in my life. It’s about quality of life, that is important to me. Do have any faith at all in the Va Health Care, the blunt answer is no. I am confident there are so many Veterans that could add to this non-fiction story, I am. If you have a comment to share, or story to tell, there is a “reply” icon at the top of this page. And if you are litigate, and reply I will gladly publish your comment on this article. But be warned, if your a spammer, don’t waste your time, each comment is held in moderation, until I personally approve it. That entails, checking your ip address, your email to see if it is real, I don’t keep email addresses that are included in the way to comment. But I do take the time to make sure, that your a real person, and that is part of my responsibility, to the readers who read the articles I write, and take the time to respond.
“Veterans Day And The Big Lie About VA Health Care” was written at this time, for I have learned over the years, Google searches, will be made, about Veterans Day, and it may just wind up in a search, someone makes. If this article has a meaning to you or someone you know, feel free, to share, and or comment. Sharing is caring. And to all my fellow Veterans, Thank You For Your Service. Be Well!