Here is a picture of the most decorated soldier of World War 2, Audie Murphy. He died in an civilian airplane crash when he was in his forties.
This page is dedicated to all the veteran's of all branches. The main topic here will be your treatment with the Veteran's Administration facilities and was it good or bad?
I will start out with my own experience, but first I will say that in my opinion all the VA hospitals and clinics where ever they may be should be better than any civilian hospitals. Why? They should be an example for the rest to emulate. It may be self serving, but the sacrifice of the military is what has kept this country free so their health care should be exemplary (The overall grade that I give to my VA here in Albuquerque NM is a D minus.)
The VA here in Albuquerque New Mexico is for the most part a well run hospital. (Really? Your joking right?) (I can only speak about this hospital as my experience is limited to Albuquerque, but I have heard horror stories about other VA hospitals.) I don't know of all the horror stories here, but would like to investigate and fine out. There is one in particular that I shall always remember. I was waiting for my visit to my primary care doctor one day when I noticed a man with just one leg waiting in a wheel chair. I said, "War wound?" He said, "No diabetes." Then he tells me that he is waiting for a kidney transplant. He said he has only one bad kidney because in an operation they had mistakenly removed the healthy kidney instead of the diseased one!
I will talk about my own "horror stories". The doctors and nurses are usually dedicated to the best care that they can give. (Not all of course) Where the fault may lie in the opposite of good care lies with the burned out minority of the doctors and nurses. They should take a long vacation and judge whether they are in the right profession. I know it is a difficult job being in health care. The sick, and especially the old sick, are not always easy to care for or get along with.
The administration and the non-medical personnel that do the every day work of keeping the records and associated work contribute to the problem because they don't really understand the business of caring for the old and sick, especially veterans. The Director should have the same sign on his desk that Harry S. Truman had on his desk that said, "THE BUCK STOPS HERE!" Which means I am the boss and it is my responsibility and nobody else's! The responsibility is his and he should not try to just to cover his rear, but to resolve the problems.
This should be any leader's goal, not to shuck off responsibility to some else. It would be better if the Director's job be moved around to others from time to time to give the chance to improve the over all operations to the next better man. It is usually not the best idea to keep the same man on the job too long so that a different perspective be allowed to be tried out. Definitely it should not be a political appointment, but a deserved one! He should be a veteran of active service who knows the veteran's problems and concerns. (probably better if he was an combat veteran and a enlisted man) Also the Director should always have the open door policy to the any veteran for problems that can not be resolved through normal means. The Director is not Jesus Christ. Even the President of the USA does see the common man time to time. (Really? Your joking, right?)
They don't seem to realize that every employee from the Secretary of the VA in Washington DC to the lowest janitor who cleans the toilets in every VA facility, that number one their main reason for existence is to serve the veterans! This sorry to say is not the case. Some of them act like it is WE the veterans that are the main problem for them. They seem to think WE cause them extra work and complain too much, that WE constantly complain that WE are not being treating fairly. It is WE, the veterans who cause all the trouble they have. They tend to forget it is a Veteran's Hospital to care for the sick and wounded Veteran's not a just a place they just work in. They are there to serve the veterans not to complain about them.
The latest bad experience happened in the ER. One night in the early morning I woke up with very intense pain in my stomach and middle of my back. This pain was one of the worst I had ever experienced. I really though I was dying. I thought my time has come at last. I struggled out of bed and told my wife and called 911. They came and took me to the VA Emergency with lights flashing and the siren screaming. They gave me morphine, took all kinds of tests, EKG, body scan, x-rays, blood and urine tests. Listened to my heart and lungs. Finally the ER doctor said he couldn't find any reason for my pain. After a few few more hours and more tests and morphine the pain subsided and finally I was discharged and I called a taxi and went home. Well, this scenario happened 2 more time exactly the same way. Same tests and same diagnoses by two different ER doctors.
This time, the third time, the ER doctor, a different one, told me flat out that I must be a drug addict and I was just doing this to get a shot of morphine! Also he was not going to give me any morphine to feed "my addiction". (I have Never ever used drugs of any kind in my life!) Then he said, the only thing they could find was that I had a pectic ulcer. Well, that was the first time I was told I had an pectic ulcer. They didn't tell me this the first two trips to the ER. This kind of "treatment" so angered me that I went on to file a strong claim against the doctors and the VA and to my elected NM Congressman. (Who absolutely did nothing about it!)
I went home and did some research on the Internet to find out that if you take NSAID type over the counter medications for long periods of time that 50% of the time you WILL get a pectic ulcer! I had been taking aspirin, Aleve and other similar NSAID type pain medications for a long time. The one main symptom listed was intense pain in the stomach and middle back! This would indicate a pectic ulcer. I had diagnosed my own condition. I do not take these kinds of NSAID medications any more than I absolutely have to and my symptoms have greatly lessened over time. I was never treated for a pectic ulcer before or since. They either missed the pectic ulcer the first and second time or chose not to tell me. They didn't connect the symptoms with the ulcer either. I didn't either until later. Well, I still have the pectic ulcer, but I have learned to live with it and treat it gently.
In my own personal experience the only clinics, that to me was somewhat professional and caring was the Urology , X-ray, Pharmacy and the Ophthalmology clinic. Where I had the worst experience was the ER, Surgery clinic, and the Heart clinic. Some of the nurses were down right mean, but some were Angles of mercy. Where I was treated extremely well was in recovery after my prostrate operation. (you know what they call the Router Rooter job) There they treated me so swell that I had my wife bring the nurses a big box of candy with my thanks.
At the beginning of the prostrate operation, the nurse said I have to give you a spinal injection, but don't worry as I have done this many times and I know what I am doing. Well, after sticking me 5 times and not doing it right she finally had to get the doctor to do it! Later at recovery there was a man lying next to me that had the same operation. He looked at me and said try and move your legs. I asked why and he said that sometimes the spinal injection if done wrong can paralyze you. I moved my legs and he said your OK. I was relieved.
Some of the what I will call the dumb "clerks" that initially sign you in and asked a lot of dumb questions were the worse. They don't seem to able to realize just by looking and talking to you that are not a idiot or senile. For instance,"Can you understand simple instructions!" like you were a old senile dotting imbecile or other equally stupid and asinine questions. There should be some dignity in your old age.
The one situation that I had the most trouble resolving was when I had cataracts in both eyes so bad that I couldn't read without the use of a large magnifying glass along with my glasses on, watch TV or pass my driver's license eye test. It took me over 6 months to finally get an appointment to the Eye Clinic. I was examined by a young man who looked like he should have still been in high school. He was a student and he was not being supervised properly by a doctor as he was supposed to be under their rules. He arbitrarily made his decision without benefit of any doctor's over sight or supervision and told me that my cataracts were not bad enough to warrant an operation. I said how bad do they have to get, go blind first?
To make this long story short what I had to do after complaining to the Veteran's Advocate, which was a wast of time, I wrote a letter to US Congresswoman Heather Wilson, a fine lady who is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, who got on the problem and within a few days I had my first cataracts operation and the second one three weeks later. The present Congressman in my district, which is the city of Albuquerque NM, does not get involved in any problems with the VA. He is more concerned with getting re-elected than helping any local veteran with his problems. He ran a very dirty election campaign. The Air Force retired VA doctor was one of the best at this eye clinic! The operations were a success and my eye sight was restored to almost almost 20/20.
The most frustrating experience that is still on going is my attempts to get something done for my hemorrhoids that has bothered me for most of my life. I have made three trips to the Surgical clinic at the VA to try and get something done without success! I get what I call the "treatment". What is the "treatment" you may ask? Well, it is a serious attempt to avoid doing anything for me. For example, leave me waiting till the last person is gone and I am the last one. (I was not the last one to sign in!) Then they say it is too dangerous to have anything done surgically because of this and that complication. Or they put me off with useless creams and junk or they send in a "doctor" who is from Pakistan and looks dirty and unprofessional and carries a lot of notes in his dirty white doctors coat. (Who you really don't want to check you hemorrhoids!) Who has to check his notes before answering any questions. So I bleed, I hurt every day and I endure without any hope that the VA will ever do any thing about it.
This makes me want to ask the question of why do we have to import doctors from like Pakistan, India, Iraq, Mexico and other backward nations. We have doctors who were "graduated" from Island nations "Medical Colleges" that could not qualify for any Medical University here in the USA. In my own experience I have had doctors who could not speak good English and obviously to me seemed unqualified. I still suffer everyday with my hemorrhoids and nothing has been done to this day. I have given up for the VA to do anything about it after 3 trips to the Surgical clinic and complaining for many years to different doctors. Now if they suddenly said we want to do something now I would say, "Forget it!"
Here is one that was not dangerous and really very minor, just a little humorous. I had just gotten a new VA ID card which had my picture. One day I noticed it didn't look like me. Actually it was of a younger man wearing a cap. At that time I never worn a cap. I remember when the picture was taken that two girls were taking the pictures. One about 12 and the other about 8 or 9. (They were supposed to be volunteers and were relatives of some of the VA employees) They were having such a good time with much giggling and fun doing it. One day I mentioned that my picture was of another man on my ID card to the Veteran's Advocate and this they took real seriously, much more than anything else up to that time. They investigated and made so much fuss about it that I was just a little embarrassed by it all. Needless to say there were no more juvenile volunteers after that.
Another somewhat"humorous incident" that left me laughing all the way home one day. I had an appointment to see a pharmacist about my blood pressure medications. I was running late as I had several other appointments before this one. So I was late and neither one of us was in a good mood. Her because I was late and myself because I was getting tired of all the running around. She started right in on me about my comment that I had adjusted my medication doses to fit the situation, whether my BP was high or low. She said I must do as I was instructed or she could loose her license. I said, "Lady I don't care about your license. I only care about my well being." She said with very much dignity, " I am not a lady I am a doctor!" Well she was certainly right, she was no lady and i wonder about her "doctor's" credentials too.
Another time when I had to see a lady pharmacist about my BP medication, but this time it was a very pretty woman who was very conscious of her looks and was really a strikingly pretty lady. Not myself being yet dead or unaware of the charms of women I abruptly mentioned how pretty I though she was. She exclaimed with mock seriousness, "Mr Schrader!" However, the next time I had an appointment with her she had reverted back to a more conservative dress and make up, but that is the way of women, they want attention and appreciation, but yet are so fickle. I have lived a long time, but as yet I have not understood the complexities of the fair sex. Does any man?
Here is one that made me feel good, it made my day. I was feeling sorry for myself waiting in a wheel chair to go to X-Ray during one of my 911 visits when I felt some one grab hold of my wheel chair and say "X-Ray?" I said, "Yes" and didn't pay much more attention when I noticed that the man pushing me had a cane. Surprised I looked around and saw that this VA volunteer was an older man. I asked, "Are you older than me?" He laughed and said, "Well I don't know. How old are you?" I said, "I am 79". He then said, "I am 83." Well, I said, "You seem to be doing OK." He laughed again and said, "It doesn't do any good to complain, they don't pay any attention any way". Then we were on our way to X-Ray. This old man pushing me with one hand and the other carrying his cane. Here was an older man with his own problems volunteering along with many more such volunteers to help us "younger" veterans.
I have other similar stories that have resulted in a satisfactory ending and some that were not, which I will talk about next time. Some were really funny. Some VA personnel took their professional standing too seriously and when they did so they were funny. As for as making VA complaints go, that is, if you are not getting the treatment or respect you think you deserve, the common theme should be that when you know you are right without a shadow of a doubt, complain, stand your ground and get it resolved! When you are surely right they can't beat you! If all else fails see your Congressman.
Like when your stomach is empty compared to it being full.