I proudly tell people that I am a Veteran. I don’t know why I’m so proud, it seems that being a Veteran is the equivalent to being a Walmart greeter these days. People see them, they know they exist but really outside of thanking them for the cart, they really don’t matter. That is exactly how I feel as someone who not only volunteered to fight for my country but who was injured while doing so. I am not only a Veteran but what is called a service connected disabled Veteran. I may not look like it to everyday onlookers but every single day of my life, I spend in some measure of pain.
Like many Veterans, I do my best to tough it out. I try my best not to take drugs, I tease & say I am like a guy, I only go to the doctor under dire circumstances. About 3 years ago, my son had to literally lift me out of bed and carry me into the ER at the VA hospital where I was told they would get to me. I was in so much pain that I asked for a blanket and spread it on the floor because sitting was only an option if I enjoyed being in excruciating pain. For my spreading the blanket on the floor I got immediate attention from the receptionist who came out from her office to tell me I could not lie on the floor. This was the 1st and only time I think the devil appeared in my son. Security, nurses & a doctor were called and I was immediately taken back where pain meds were issued and one of the doctors told me “don’t let them cut you”. A doctor told me that because he knew the level of service in the VA was subpar. During my follow up appointment, one of the doctors who had barely glanced at my records said she was going to give me a shot, she claimed it was for muscle discomfort. My injury occured in the early 90’s, I told her those were some pretty insane muscles to have been causing pain for over 20 years. As far as I was concerned, she was an idiot & she was sticking me with nothing.
Flash forward, I get the “honor” of going to a pain specialist. One who gave me pills that he claimed “used to be used as an antidepressant” but now have been repurposed for the insane headaches I get (they have yet to find a solution to the times I can’t walk). These “repurposed” pills caused me to sleep for up to 14 hours, that was the low dose. The recommended dose I’m sure would have killed me. When I went back to the doctor, I was told that if those pills didn’t work, he could not help me. I told him that while I was no doctor, I was no damned fool either. This particular situation made me start thinking about prisons & VA hospitals. There are 152 VA medical facilities and there are 1800 state & federal prisons according to this article based on 2005 numbers & 3200 local and county jails. Could it be that privatizing prisons and locking people up is more profitable than taking care of the very people who are not only law abiding citizens but who have given up time with family, lost limbs & mental stability to fight for their country?
THEN my mind went to the caliber of doctors that are employed by the VA. I moved to Orlando, went to the VA here. Went in after a day of just walking across my apartment wore me out, I could barely put a load of laundry in without needing to take a seat. They take all manner of blood (tech had to stick me 4 times, it would have only been twice but he neglected to fill all the vials ordered) & then tell me I will get a call the next day with the results. No call came, the weekend came & went and when I called the physicians assistant that called me back made me feel like I was a bother. He said “I sent you a letter”. Well I have yet to get that letter and the things he claimed were the issue were never met with a real solution. Any questions asked were answered with inane nonsense. So I figured, it can’t be that serious, then I traveled out to Phoenix where what they didn’t do here landed me in a lot of pain and the VA out there. When I entered the VA out there, I was asked what my pain level was. In tears and in pain, I said I am at a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. 6 hours later I was still in the lobby while people who could laugh, joke & walk with ease were taken back in front of me in spite of coming in after me. I finally had enough and told the person who was checking me in to call me a civilian ambulance to take me to a civilian hospital. That’s when I finally received medical attention and where I was told I am anemic and treated for an infection that was blown off by the physicians assistant offering stupid answers to concerned questions which I would imagine he felt his letter would have explained. Not in Orlando where my energy levels were of initial concern. Two days in Phoenix where I was supposed to be training for my new position were spent dicking around in the VA hospital.
How many “medical professionals” had I dealt with and still had no solutions to the problems I was having. Then I was on my way to work when it became difficult to breath, hard to walk because with every single step, there was pain from walking & just trying to take a breath. Off to a civilian hospital I went to learn that many of the latest issues I’d gone to the VA complaining about were creating new, potential life threatening issues. I got the diagnosis that the lining around my heart is inflamed and that many of the symptoms that I’d complained about to the VA could have stopped this from happening because they were precursers. Had they actually treated me, I would have avoided this particular pain & hospital stay. I literally thought I was having a heart attack and 3 days in the hospital being drugged every few hours, poked,prodded, scanned 5 different doctors who actually took the time to listen to what I was complaining about & addressed the major problems that were causing me the greatest amount of concern.
The argument could be that these doctors are more motivated because they get paid by insurance companies or people who have the ability to pay. The President goes to a military medical center, bet he’s not getting shitty care, the members of congress have medical plans that federal employees have where the government covers between 72% to 75% of the premiums. Yet, Veterans it seems get doctors who were vetted like the government buying chairs, who is the lowest bidder? I find it shameful that people who when being recruited are told how much of a sense of pride we should have for serving, become trash after our tours are over. Shame on you America, what is there to be proud of when you send us in to fight for freedom and then won’t take care of us when we come back from the battle with scars? I wonder how the care is in these privatized prisons because the Walmart greeter care I have been receiving at the VA is absolute shit & from the looks of things it won’t get any better. Today I had my civilian prescription filled…$149 for 2 bottles. Was I happy to pay it? No but am I happy I bypassed the VA medical center? Yes, I think my family will tell you that it is cheaper for me to get those prescriptions filled than it would have been for them to bury me. IF the VA medical doctors had actually taken the time to listen to me, to examine me properly, answer my questions and prescribe actual meds perhaps my condition would have never elevated to affect my heart. As far as I’m concerned, the VA can go piss up a rope on a windy day and considering the fact that I gave the military my best, I have no idea why they can’t reciprocate.