Yesterday I waited in a doctor’s office for three hours. What is even worse is I waited for months for that appointment. To my own fault, I should have started trying to get that appointment two years ago. Not to my own fault, I did. I got out of the military and promptly started the paperwork to attain my health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
After a few months living in my home state, I moved to Tennessee. At this point, I hadn’t heard back yet about my first scheduled appointment with my assigned primary care provider. After the move, I promptly contacted the local office for the VA in my new city. And it started.
Whether or not my first appointment, for which I fulfilled my part to the best of my knowledge, was ever scheduled, I still do not know. But I was immediately told I have to start the process again because I was in a new state. Mind you that Tennessee and my first state, Michigan, report to the same VA regional office in St. Louis.
I asked “Why do I have to do all the paperwork again? Isn’t the VA a federal program?”
And I was told just because that is the way it is. Okay, I didn’t live under a rock before; I can expect some hassle. I’m not going to shoot the messenger. After all, they are just following the wonderful bureaucratic process they are required to by their employer. Unless, they were wrong, which is a possibility. The rules are so confusing and broad that the University of Tennessee could offer a Masters Degree in it. From recent media reports, everyone can tell they need some help at the top.
I also found out within a few months of living in Tennessee that I would soon be moving to a new state.
When I moved, I very promptly started the process of enrolling in VA health care. That was July of this year. The first available appointment was in October. If things are that backed up, why isn’t there any changes in the works? I realize it is free healthcare, and you could say stop complaining, but to me, it wasn’t free.
People are recruited into the military with the understanding the VA will be there waiting to help them afterwards. It is not a case of having your cake and eating it too. It’s a case of ordering a combo at a fast food restaurant, paying for it, and then getting told to come back tomorrow because they are out of fries, and they can’t give you a refund. My credit card payment to McDonald’s was the time out from my life that I gave you; it was the family that had to worry about my safety, and it was and still is an injury that makes it hard for me to play with my son.
At the appointment, I had one particular concern. While on active duty, I injured my ankle doing an obstacle course. The day it happened I saw military health professionals. During the initial diagnosis, which helps form the validity of disability claims, the doctor looked at my ankle and was writing his paperwork. Thinking out loud he asked “Should I say it is the size of tennis ball or a softball?”
“You know those are two different sizes right?” I asked.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t matter, tennis ball is easier to spell, I’ll go with that.”
And then proceeded to spell it “tenis.” Just like every other patient, I was given water and Ibuprofin. Well five years later, my ankle is still the size of a “tenis” ball. Which is actually good because it is down from the size of a softball. I’m still dealing with the injury every day, and it very much affects my day to day life.
And here is the kicker. When I told the doctor at my long awaited VA health care appointment, he responded by saying I had to get an X-ray and that it may or may not show anything.
And to make it even better, once I get the x-ray that may not help, he said there will be another wait to get another appointment, so he can refer me somewhere else that will take two to three months.
Meanwhile, I am applying for jobs and lying when they ask, “This job may require lifting up to 30 pounds. Can you perform this?”
I do not have the two years it will take to get a disability claim approved. Just a guess, but I am probably going to want some food tonight.
There is obviously something wrong with this system. He also told me that the VA is really good for two things, we mail you your prescriptions so you don’t have to pick them up, and it is good for people who don’t have any health issues.
Good for people that don’t have health issues? So is a pencil, but you are a health care provider. He further elaborated on the fact that it is a government agency, and there is so much overhead that you can’t get as much done as private practices.
This is people’s lives we are dealing with. I have mentioned before that I wasn’t surprised at this year’s VA scandal. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be corrected.
The “this is the way it has always been” argument doesn’t hold any weight. The whole thing needs to be changed to actually provide the service you promised your service members when they volunteered to fight your wars.
I realize I don’t know all the pieces to the puzzle. And I hope someone can provide me with the pieces that make all this work, not just pieces that hold me over while I calm down, but pieces that actually make it all make sense.
Jimmy Buffet said it best. “So now don’t get me wrong. This is not a sad song. Just events that I have happened to witness.”
Brandon is a senior in the College of Communications, majoring in Journalism and Electronic Media. He is finishing his last semester through distance education from Virginia Beach, Va.
Edited by Maggie Jones