My Own Story With the VA – I don’t often talk about it, but I am a disabled veteran. I developed a service related disability while serving in the United States Air Force. My military medical file was about eight inches thick. I was paid $860 per month while serving as an E-5 in Hawaii with a family of four. Our rent was $800 for a small two bedroom apartment. My wife had to work for us to have food, clothing and transportation. When I got out, July 4th, 1989 – oddly enough Independence Day, I filed for my disability claim as encouraged. Although I had never taken food stamps or other subsidies I was qualified for while serving actively, I wanted to do right by family if my condition worsened.
After eight months and paying three times for medical records to be copied and lost, I was told they lost the originals too. I could not get an appointment at the Phoenix VA Hospital. I drove to Palo Alto, California, some nine hours away and waited for two days in the waiting room to be seen and told I had to go back to Arizona. The military said they lost my DD-214 and records. I was a decorated veteran with several medals, awards and accommodations and they acted like I was a pest and didn’t exist.
I was going to give up completely, but my boss at the time happened to hear my tale of woe. His brother was a high ranking attorney with the VA. The same week, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) called to help me. Finally, I got an appointment at the hospital in Phoenix to be evaluated.
I waited for five hours from the time of my appointment before I was seen. The room was full of older veterans, obviously sick, and many had sat there for a day or more. One was having severe PTSD and had been brought in a day and a half before by the police for trying to commit suicide. They had still not seen him. Growing hungry, he took his last money to the strip bar across the street to eat. They made him buy two drinks, which led to another attempt to kill himself. He sat next to me.
The bathroom had at least half an inch of tar like goo on it as if it had not seen a mop since the building was constructed. The place stank. Finally, someone who looked 18 came out and she condescendingly led away the older men to get “group counseling” from her. What could she possibly know about these men?
Another hour passed and I was led to what looked like a closet, but turned out to be my “examination room”. It had no medical equipment, just a movable bed. The light was dim and in walked a man who looked Dr. Mengele, the German Prison camp experimenter. He must have been in his eighties. He could barely hear a word I said as I tried to catalog my list of medical history to him. After ten minutes of mumbling, stumbling about, looking in my ears, throat and ears. He wrote some notes and left.
I waited, trying to find anyone, couldn’t and finally left. I was approved for my disability and received $94 per month. I could get all my related medical care from the VA, including pharmacy. Instead, I bought my own healthcare coverage and pay more in co-pays for medicine than I receive for disability. In theory, if I get worse, my disability amount could go up to 100%, that is if I could see anyone. I was afraid to receive care from the VA. I was afraid they would mess up my medicine and poison me. I have never gone back to the VA and never will.
When I bought my first house being “compensably disabled” saved me some financing fees, like around $800. The second house, maybe $1,200. If I ever want a federal job, I am told my disabled vet status will give me points towards hiring determinations. No thanks.
Another Story with the VA – My late father-in-law had a great friend that we met a few times. He was a nuclear engineer and developed early Alzheimers. Unable to work, his family, wife and kids all, left him. My father-in-law tried to help him and look after him, but being in the nuclear industry himself, he had to move around a lot. Finally, this man, in his early fifties, was brought incoherent to a VA hospital. As a retired veteran, they were to look after him. He died soon after in the hospital.
The horrifying fact is that he died of dehydration and starvation because because the staff at the hospital forgot he was there. They never fed him or changed his IV bags. They stumbled across his body, dead on his VA hospital bed, a day or two after he had died of neglect.
The Phoenix VA Hospital – Now it comes out that at least forty people have died recently because our VA hospital won’t see them. One was urinating blood. He died two months later never having even seen a doctor once, despite showing up constantly asking for help. Apparently, they kept two lists. You type in your information in the computer, but they print it and don’t save it. They only enter it in the “official list” if you get an appointment. Over 1,600 people think they are waiting for appointments and are not even entered. This according to a doctor whistle-blower. I can’t begin to express my anger and hatred towards people who bragged earlier this year about their great wait times for care and received bonuses while letting my fellow veterans die.
Throughout history, countries celebrate “their” victories in battle while shunning their troops as outcasts. Our own Department of Homeland Security calls them domestic terrorist risks. They go into war torn areas and risk life and limb, but are not allowed to carry weapons and defend themselves on our own bases. The VA put out a book on how older veterans should consider if they want to extend their lives and be a burden on their family or refuse care and let themselves die. Veterans are great off fighting wars, but societies do not welcome them back.
It’s time for it to stop. Our veterans risked all for virtually no compensation. They gave the best earning years of their lives, sometimes their lives or pieces of their bodies to protect you. All of us are volunteers. We did this for you. Don’t let this happen to our veterans. Join me in contacting your Senators and Congressman. If they can waste billions spying on Americans, taking cattle, wire tapping allies and flying the First Family on vacations, just where does basic medical care for our veterans rank? We can spend trillions on the Affordable Health Care Act but nothing to serve our veterans’ needs?
I was told while I was active duty that I would only get good care while active. Once retired I was told, they had no use for me and not to count on getting the medical benefits they promised. The old-timers were certainly right.