By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor
As a 100% combat disabled veteran and editor of the largest military and veterans new site, I have spent years dealing with abuses and fraud at the VA. The body count for the VA itself is actually higher than any war, they kill more American veterans than wars have ever killed of our military. If only I were making this up, and I am not.
For those who are unaware, there is a pecking order at the VA. Only those who are 100% disabled, something the hierarchy makes it almost impossible to qualify for, get all available treatments. Processing a compensation claim for a totally disabled veteran can take years. Mine took 12 years, the oldest I have worked on has taken 43 years. Many take 25 years. In most cases, the veteran dies while waiting for appeals.
In one very real case in Battle Creek, Michigan, during a claims examination, the doctor failed to notice that an applicant had his arm blown off in Iraq. Not making this one up, no way, it really happened, it really happens all the time.
You see, if you are not 100% disabled or a POW, and not many of those are alive anymore, only a handful, you get “short listed.” Fewer medications are available, so if you take meds, quite often what you are given is something that can and will hurt you. You hear the ads, meds that cause cancer, that damage your heart, things like that while the more expensive meds may not or simply buy better reputations as it were.
Today’s experience involved getting into My Healthy Vet, the website disabled veterans use for checking on appointments and getting medications. In order to get “high level access,” a veteran has to make an appointment with their local clinic to prove who they are to people who don’t know them in the first place. However, stupid as this process is, it doesn’t make a difference. The VA “Health -E-Vet” website seldom works. It was probably designed by the Obamacare website guys.
To get in today to check on prescriptions that never came, I had to repeatedly change my password, which, time and after time, never worked either. Nothing there works. Of course, every time you change a password, which is every time you visit the site, you have to answer security questions.
My question is “What is your favorite food.” I never saw this question but have found I can simply hit any character on the keyboard and the answer is right. This is the kind of security I want protecting my medical information. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written this but someone had to.
I did actually get into the site today. However, after signing in and going to the site to check my prescriptions, I was “unlogged” and, and you just can’t make this up either, removed from the system entirely.
Now they have no record of me ever having existed.
Let’s talk about one of my own meds for cholesterol. I am on the expensive one which doesn’t cause heart attacks supposedly while other vets get the cheap one that kills them. Ah, but there is more. The pills I get are specially coated to not dissolve in the stomach because they can hurt you. However, the pills are the wrong size and have to be split. This is considered malpractice and violates every known rule or guideline.
This gives you a handful of toxic powder not intended to go to the stomach which has you belching fumes that smell like gasoline. If only I were making this up.
For those who have catastrophic illnesses, chances are you will never see a specialist nor will you ever get an “expensive test” like people on medicare or who walk into an emergency room from the homeless shelter.
The VA does “old country doctor” medication, lots of judgement, lots of looking down the nose, sometimes speeches about “the rapture” or how god wills some people to be sick and a minimum of health care.
This reminds me of my first and last eye appointment as a totally disabled veteran. This was in 2005, a decade ago. I needed glasses, no oddity for someone over 55. I was tested, and was told glasses would be mailed to me. They were.
Weeks later I received a box in the mail. I opened it. Inside were glasses, odd bulky plastic frames, the same glasses that inmates receive at the real bad state prisons. One problem is that they were frame sized for a woman or perhaps a child. One more problem, they had only one arm. I found the other arm in the box. I still have these in a top dresser drawer, kept as a kind of souvenir I guess.
This reminds me of another experience back in 2003. I had to drive to Michigan but was very ill. During the drive I got sicker, Agent Orange had and has prettymuch killed my immune system. I was near Ann Arbor, where the VA has an emergency room, so I drove there, nearly at the point of passing out.
This was about 6AM, so I got two hours of sleep on metal folding chairs in the emergency room waiting area. There were no other patients and this is, or at least was, a 24 hour facility. There was no reason for waiting that I could tell.
When I saw a doctor, it was someone very young, perhaps a student, perhaps someone with some kind of medical status, that was never made clear, who found I had a high fever. I was given a packet of sulfa tablets, as though this were the 1940s. No tests were performed, there was no follow up, this is standard for the VA.
I was sick for the next 6 weeks, bedridden for much of it. The tablets, of course, did nothing and cost less than one cent apiece. I could talk about recurrent malaria attacks and the VAs massive fail on these, genuinely life threatening experiences, but that would be considered “piling on,” a ten yard penalty.
In Vietnam, I was a “ground pounder,” someone who carried huge weights, got to jump out of helicopter and was exposed to harm. Knees and hips don’t work so well with one knee totally locked up. I know it needs surgery. I have been on a list for knee surgery since around 2000, short listed as it were because I am a “Category 1” totally disabled list.
Been on the list for 15 years. In the interim, I was offered a 5 dollar aluminum cane and, when I objected, was given a knee brace like Mel Gibson wore during the first Road Warrior film. It fits outside the clothing and will make your knee bleed but other than that is very helpful.
Were I a homeless person, I would have had surgery 15 years ago.
Totally disabled vets and, I had forgotten, prisoners of war, get full dental care from the VA. The dental staff are a cut above other VA employees mostly. First of all, anyone with 30% disability or more qualifies for dental care but, were you to ask, they would tell you “no.” You can’t find this out no matter who you are including a member of congress.
I was wrongly denied applied for dental care by the VA for 5 years. While being “cared for” by the VA, I have spent over $10,000 on private dental care for procedures that the VA claimed they were “not qualified to do.” This included root canals and a bridge among other things.
Dentists at the VA, quite wonderful people actually, made it clear. Any expensive procedures, anything other than a simple filling or extraction, had to go to a committee in Ann Arbor. Things like bridges, implants or root canals are routinely denied by a faceless group working according to rules and criteria no one knows of.
Getting a crown instead of a “build up” temporary repair which quickly breaks is almost impossible. Temporary “fix it jobs” are considered both permanent repairs and “the best they can do” at the VA.
Getting them to make a decision typically takes 5 years, sometimes on issues that are health emergencies requiring immediate care.
So, the VA advises you to get out your credit cards or go to a payday loan scammer and seek private care if you don’t want to wait or just might not survive.
One VA healthcare phone rep simply told me to “get Obamacare” and don’t show up at the VA again if you have any sense.
Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment.
Now the VA has new rules that allow veterans who can’t get appointments within 30 days to go to private doctors which the VA claims they will pay. They VA will not pay, however and the veteran, by using this new “capability” is only signing himself up for big personal expenses or bad credit and certainly and endless bureaucratic nightmare at the VA where, as is always the case, a Kafkaesque “event” is always waiting.
I am reminded of a recent experience. I had been very ill, unable to keep food down, lots of pain, things like that. I was scheduled to go to Syria in about a week so I called the VA to see my primary care physician. I was given an appointment, though I had clearly stated my wife’s diagnosis, a nurse with advanced qualifications.
In Syria, a doctor there saw me, prescribed medication which cost one dollar and told me I had to see a specialist when I got back. I did get back, more than a bit ill despite being on medication, and finally got in to see my primary care physician. He noted that I had an appointment scheduled for the next week.
I was also admonished for not getting in early with a life threatening condition. I had to explain that the appointment “next week” was made a month ago after explaining to VA staff that I had a qualified diagnoses of a genuinely life threatening condition. This went right over everyone’s head there, of course.
Were I to have stayed in Syria, my Russian trained doctor there, a real specialist, would have gotten me the care I needed. It wouldn’t have cost anything.
One of my good friends, a VT staffer, goes to Mexico for dental work though he is a disabled veteran as well. Really “with it” Americans go to Cuba for medical care, or Panama.
Veterans in America get canes, if diabetics get their limbs cut off, teeth yanked out or die waiting for appointments.
Ah, one thing I failed to note. One of the VA programs has been to hire particularly obnoxious personnel to insult veterans. This, of course, is dealt with by armed guards who prowl VA facilities for those who become violent when assaulted or insulted or who become irate when subjected to abuse.
Here are two areas where I have personal experience. My wife, while getting her masters at the University of Toledo, did an internship at the VA hospital in Ann Arbor. After every shift all I got were horror stories and she is married to a disabled veteran and thought she knew how bad it is.
Most stories involved either losing or abusing patients but one thing caught here attention. The VA sent nurses to special classes so that they would know how to treat patients like human beings and not scream at or assault them.
My wife thought nurses were trained to do that in the first place. Suffice it to say, she upset department heads there by pointing out systematic patient abuse.
As an aside, this reminds me of something. I was in Ann Arbor for a minor procedure two years ago. My wife was sitting next to me. We were on the main floor in a heavy traffic area. There was a pool of blood on the floor two feet across. We were there for two hours.
VA employees walked around it for two hours.