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Improve Veteran Care

Image by Benjamin Faust

I have spent the majority of my adult life having the VA be my main source of healthcare. Having that experience I can tell you it is no surprise to me that so many veterans kill themselves every day (between 17-22 depending on the source). And it’s only down at all because we have already lost so many. A big part of the reason is the way we treat our veterans is borderline inhumane. The VA medical system is home to some of the kindest and most caring people I have met in my life. However they are constrained by rules that require infantilizing veterans and creating delays in care. 

 

One example that is easy to point out is how the VA discriminates against the disabled who need hand controls. No other place in society requires an adult to take a road test, like a teenager, to prove you are a safe driver. However if you are a veteran who drives with hand controls you must submit yourself to a road test annually if you want the pleasure of keeping your prescription for your hand controls. And the VA will not approve you to get the hand controls in a new vehicle without a current prescription. So every time a veteran who uses hand controls gets a new car they must take a road test, or add a few thousand dollars onto the sticker price.

 

For the practical application of this stupidity, we can use my situation in Florida as an important test case. I first had requested to have this process started when Brandy and I moved down there in February 2022. Brandy was pregnant with our daughter, and we were upgrading my car to have something safer for Luna. The first physician who put in the request did it incorrectly, and so the request was rejected without notifying me or the staff. I followed up at my next appointment a couple weeks later, they were able to see it was rejected so they entered it again, with the same result. I had to call back a few weeks later to check on the status before anyone noticed, and enter the request again. Finally they did it properly, only for me to find out there is only one location in the state that does the training which was two hours from my home, and this particular service is exempt from the choice program. I needed to be able to drive my increasingly pregnant wife around. But that did not matter, I was told I had to wait at least a month for an appointment. By the time I had my appointment with the VA Brandy’s pregnancy had turned into a high risk pregnancy due to high amniotic fluid. So we had to choose between her getting the rest she needed and getting the test I needed to be able to do things like, drive her to the hospital in an emergency. In the end I was not able to get the hand controls installed in my vehicle before she was induced. The only reason we were able to manage this situation is because of the high risk nature of the pregnancy, she had an induction scheduled early. That allowed us to plan to have family present that could drive us around. By the time they were installed in my vehicle it was a 6 month process, which I was told I should expect moving forward. All to replace the same equipment I had been using for years without any tickets or accidents. To put that in perspective the VA treated a 32 year old CPA with more skepticism than the justice system treats drunk drivers when it comes to answering the question of if you are a safe driver.

 

This is just a glimpse into the injustice I have experienced and witnessed at the VA. I am better qualified to solve this problem than Jack Bergman for a few reasons. First, I have experienced the system first hand so I know the places that cause the most frustration. Second, I have worked in healthcare since graduating college so I have first had experience balancing the unique challenges in healthcare. Third, my older brother is a physician at the VA and is a great advisor into the part of the system I don’t see as a patient. Fourth, at my core I am still a grunt who repeated the warriors ethos a million times. “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen comrade.” That is not a catchphrase to me, it is an ethic that serves as a guiding principle. And I will apply it to making sure that every Veteran is treated with the dignity and respect that they have earned.

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