Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our Story: Lost in the System

Our tale is unlike most I hear.  I spend every single day helping families across the country who can’t get access to health care and resources find what they need.  The local joke is “Just move to Montana”.  We all know it to be true.

Our family’s “VA” story began in Kentucky when my husband was being medically discharged from Fort Knox in late 2006.  We were quickly given appointments and processed through the system and then were transferred to James C. Lovell VAMC in 2007.  We called them early in 2007 to request our records be transferred to Montana since my husband was being transferred there for work.

After no communication for 3 years with no appointments, no medication refills, and no help with mental health services, my husband received a letter out of the blue that he had an appointment at James C. Lovell to check on his PTSD.  Apparently his records were never transferred and we ended up “lost”.  We called the local VA clinic in Havre, MT and explained the situation.  The Montana VA leapt into action.  In 6 months we had not only an appointment to check on his PTSD, but appointments for medications we’d been paying for out of pocket.  They checked on all of his injuries, redid all of his paperwork.  He finally got processed into the OEF/OIF program and through them ended up going through a series of C&P appointments as well.  Imagine our surprise to find out that he had a traumatic brain injury 5 years after it happened.  Imagine the relief that we weren’t crazy!

Since 2010 my husband has received intermittent care through the VA.  Getting appointments is difficult as our VA is understaffed and with a vast amount of rural territory to cover, there is no such thing as “easy access” to health care out here, even in the civilian world.  My husband has been through a slew of mental health therapists, none lasting longer than 6 months because they either move or magically we fall off the appointment books.  We are blessed with the BEST PCM on the planet who has been an integral part of my husband’s care since the very first appointment.  We could never have gotten this far without him.

Since being integrated into the Montana system my husband has had one surgery.  We’d asked for it in July and imagine our surprise when we got the phone call that it was scheduled for the Monday before Thanksgiving – the Thursday before the surgery!   If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that appointment letters never seem to make it here, or if they do, it’s after the actual appointment was scheduled.  Fortunately new access to systems like MyHealthEVet and EBenefits are making this easier as well as access to the OEF/OIF office.  Without those resources I have no idea how we would manage to make appointments we have no knowledge of.

Most recently we’ve had issues on two sides of the fence – one being on the benefits side of the VA.  Our new son was finally processed through 2 months ago financially but for some reason our claim to add him has not been cleared so the next claim we had to submit for a ratings increase (1 year after submitting the initial claim for our son) has been bumped from a fully developed claim to a regular claim and heaven knows how long that will take while my husband is now out of work due to his disabilities.

Meanwhile, since February we have been fighting with severe migraine problems with my husband.  Appointments with the neurologist have been nearly impossible to get and I have to fight to get each and every one of them scheduled.  Six months later we were finally taken seriously and are getting real help, only after the lack of appointments and cooperation has caused my husband to be on medical leave from his job for six weeks and now he may lose his position permanently.  Much of this could have been avoided had prompt care been available to us.

It’s difficult to be “lost in the system”.  I often hear, “We want to help but there’s nothing we can do.  Our hands are tied.” And, “You’ll just have to wait.  We’re sorry.”  Sorry doesn't pay the bills.  Sorry doesn't keep food on the table.  Waiting for someone to “get around” to finally helping is inexcusable.  Negligence given to those who fought for our country is abominable.

There has to be a solution.  There ARE solutions.  Unfortunately, those solutions are not being put in place to help families like ours and those FAR worse off.  People like me get on the phone daily and fight for others while also fighting for ourselves.  The tale of sad stories never seems to end because of the continued disregard for the plight of those who are out here.  We are stuck.  We are tired.  We barely have it in us to keep fighting but we have no choice left and so we sojourn on.

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  1. Isn't it sad how this country treats its veterans!!! I too am a vet who has been mistreated by the V.A. ''system".It is so sad to see commercials on TV asking for donations to help veterans-the government should be taking care of ALL the needs of the vets. The V.A. pulled all of my remaining teeth,due to a condition caused by the meds they gave me,and then told me I didn't "qualify" for dentures!!! 2 yrs later I am still fighting to get teeth and have developed stomach problems because I can't chew properly.The V.A. is a JOKE !!!!!!

  2. I had no idea it has been getting this bad. And hearing the local Phoenix news about the VA with its scheduling. In the state of my hero McCain just is crazy. Who balances these people out? Who keeps them in check? Who wears the pants or does the firing at these VA's. Or better, where are all the medical care providers. What is the ratio of volenteer to paid staff salary to paid staff hourly. Just curious. Where can we find out who is responsible for your appointment troubles? Are all states this wacked?