The veteran sits in his home on hold yet again with the veteran’s administration healthcare facility that is two hours from his home. It is not his closest facility, but it is the only one he can get an appointment at, and now that appointment needs to be changed. He has been on hold for over an hour when he screams in frustration that he was now disconnected and will have to begin his wait anew.
That veteran is yours truly, and I was trying to make intake appointments for my wife and me at the Mountain Home VA Hospital in Johnson City, TN. We are both disabled veterans and have been part of the VA healthcare system for years; but since we moved from California to Tennessee, we had to start all over and reapply for our benefits. They could not simply transfer us in the computer; and to make matters worse, we were told we cannot have appointments at the local clinic and will have to drive over two hours to see a doctor.
Our story of frustration is felt time and again on a daily basis across the country by disabled veterans who are treated poorly by the very system built to help them. Operators and phone personnel are rude, offices do not talk with one another, or computer systems are incompatible and make communications difficult or impossible. Veterans who have been in the VA system for years are subjected to re-testing just to maintain the medication that has helped them in the past. Veterans entering the system are subject to the same re-testing despite providing complete medical records to the VA time and again.
In a tearful plea for help, Vietnam veteran Carl Harmon of Linn Valley, KS writes, “So here I sit in the middle of the night after two months without pain meds.”
Harmon tells a tale of his wife losing her job due to layoffs and this forcing him to turn to the VA for his long term care for several chronic conditions. According to the letter written by Harmon, he provided VA care providers with several copies of his medical records. Despite this, the VA insisted he take tests he has already had that were documented in his medical records; until the tests can be scheduled, administered, and scored, Harmon will have to survive without his pain and anti-depression medication.
Unlike a private practice doctor who is held accountable by the courts for malpractice, it appears no such accountability exists for the VA. Attempts to hold the VA accountable by several patients have ended only in frustration, according to various websites dealing with VA complaints.
Several attempts to contact the VA regarding this issue of lower-than-standard care for America’s veterans went unanswered at the time of publication.
Photo credit: terrellaftermath