Posts Tagged ‘Veteran’s Administration’

Do You Know?

January 5, 2013

Do you know that MOST if not ALLVeteran’s Affairs Hospitals are college medical schools?  Yes, it’s true for at least two of them that I know of.  One being the University of California at San Diego.  The other one is William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center here in Columbia, SC.  I suspect that the rest of them are just as bad.

Yes, you heard it.  Our nations veterans (myself included since I served in the United States Navy from 1981 through 1992) are being treated by STUDENTS!  Yes these people may already have degrees in nursing or in the medical field, however the vast majority of those treating our veterans are students (first time nurses and doctors).  Interesting huh?

This should show you how the veterans of our armed forces are treated.  We don’t even get first rate medical care.  It’s like we’re guinea pigs or test patients for the student population of these medical schools.  I won’t even go into what all I know of by hearsay evidence.  The hearsay alone would send most into shock let alone if not into cardiac arrest.

Are there real doctors and nurses at these facilities?  I’d like to hope so.  However, they are probably few and far in between.  My last appointment with a Veteran’s Administration doctor (Was he a REALdoctor?) was this morning.  He was told only to look at one thing for my current claim.  He did NOTask about any other prior claimed injuries.  Nor was I asked what else might have been bothering me.  This kid (he may have been in his mid 20″s) did his job well and quick.  When going into a doctor’s office, aren’t you asked what your issues are (i.e. ailments and symptoms)?  I surely wasn’t.

Let this be a warning for all the veteran’s.  Perhaps it’s better to get a REALdoctor to look at you even at your own cost.  Yes it may cost out of pocket, but you’ll get better care and you can still use that doctors records in your claim against any Veteran’s Administration claim.


Many A Homeless Veteran Faces This!

December 19, 2012

Generally I don’t open up about myself.  However, this has come to mind as I remember an old friend.  Though he wasn’t a veteran, many veterans face the issues I face.  Twenty five percent of all veterans will or have become homeless at one time or another.  Below is a short story I wrote that would have been me had I not continued on.  For many a veteran, this story is what they will go through.  So here it is:

The Homeless Vet

           He is awaken from a drunken stupor.  Not from the person he shared the bottle with the night before.  That one is sleeping quietly several feet away.

It isn’t from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets surrounding the alley he has awaken in.  They are hundreds of feet away.  Even the stray animals and occasional rat scampering about hasn’t done it.

Then he realizes what is happening.  It’s not another he sees.  But it’s his own prone body as a soft warm hand takes his own.

As his spirit lightens and rises, he continues to look down upon the body that was once his.  Slowly the scene becomes larger as he turns to see who has taken his hand.

It’s as the city lights fade to stars that he realizes just who has taken his hand.  It’s the only one who never gave up on him.  Though no one will remember his body or his name, this man remembered his soul.  The soul of a forgotten veteran.


I’m not a man of any set religion.  However, this can and does happen to a lot of homeless veterans.  Unfortunately, it’s not always alcohol.  Sometimes it’s drugs. Some of those drug addictions are actually started from the Veteran’s Affairs hospitals in the name of prescription drugs relieving a patients pain or other disorder.

A lot of those addictions (alcohol or drugs) are actually people who are doing what is called “self medicating.”  This is where a person who is taken off a narcotic drug, when faced with no further supply or limited supply drinks or does other illegal drugs to substitute for narcotics he/she would have otherwise be prescribed by his doctors.  Then again, there are those that were addicts before they left the military (both legal and illegal drugs).

I won’t care to wager just how many homeless veteran’s end their lives each year due to addictions.  My guess is that one in ten do though.  It may be higher than that.  At least I beat it.  However, I’m far from out of the woods yet in this aspect.  Temptation is still there, so this story may still come true for me.  I certainly hope not.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! VA disgraced!

December 6, 2012


As a service to taxpayers, the IRS’s longtime policy is to pay tax refund claims promptly and only later to refer the refund files for possible audits and collection, in the event of over payments or fraud. This policy, though, means that ordinary taxpayers are treated better than the nation’s wounded warriors who file disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The V.A.’s assumption seems to be that wounded veterans are cheating — and thus most veterans receive at least five evaluations, and each one reviewed over a several-year period, before full benefits can be awarded. (Even though some temporary financial relief is available before final determination, veterans complain that the amount is almost never enough for complicated rehabilitation programs and other support.) [Washington Post, 11-11-2012]

Need I say more?

Interesting development! Healthcare, what a joke!

November 19, 2012

It appears to me that the social elite are at it again.  I just got an email from Credo about the CEO of Macy’s calling for the end to Medicaid, Medicare, and any form of welfare including Social Security.  Rather interesting since a lot of people in the social elite draw Social Security even though they DON’T contribute any money into it.  That’s correct.  The social elite (CEO’s and others making over $1 Million a year DON’T contribute anything to the Social Security system).
What this idiot doesn’t seem to take into account is without Medicaid or Medicare, over 45% of us could not afford medical costs thanks to the people like him who control the medical system (FDA and pharmaceutical companies who actually run the FDA).  Yes, you heard right.  The FDA is not controlled by the federal government.  The medical fields have very little or NO control by the federal government.  Thus we pay not once but twice for the development of new drugs.  It’s also the reason we pay more for those drugs than any other country.

Don’t get me wrong.  The original idea of the FDA was good.  Problem is we’re back to the pharmaceutical companies peddling snake oils instead of looking for cures like they once did.  For instance, there has yet to be a cured disease since Polio back in the 1930’s.  What’s with this?  Where are all the research dollars that the FDA pumps into the pharmaceutical companies going (taxpayer dollars)?  Certainly not for cures.  All the pharmaceutical companies want are treatments where they can charge over and over and over again.

Let me bring out another point as well.  With the growing number of people in the U.S. becoming homeless, the system is getting inundated because these people have no other means of getting any kind of healthcare.  Most homeless aren’t even getting first rate care.  They have to go to “FREE” clinics that are vastly understaffed and don’t have access to even rudimentary drugs to help a patient with a common cold let alone something more drastic.  The quality of healthcare for the homeless is even worse than it is for a fix income social security recipient.  Even my grandmother who died at 91 years of age (yes she lived on social security till her death) got better care than a homeless person does.

Now this is where I have it better than the average homeless person.  At least I get FREE medical care because of being a veteran.  How good is it?  Frankly it’s probably as bad if not worse in some cases than the healthcare under Medicare/Medicaid.  Often times I have to resort to the ER to get immediate care and even that takes hours.  Heaven forbid I try getting care from my primary physician which is a nurse/practitioner instead of a real doctor.  If I go the later route, I’m often waiting days, and sometimes weeks to be seen.  Pretty sad for care for those that made the sacrifice to serve their country.

Of course, it doesn’t end here.  Now the government and their corporate masters having me pay a copay for any and ALL medications I’m prescribed whether I pick up the prescription or not.  I was forced to go down to V.A. hospital to straighten these fools out for billing me for medication I never received (the prescriptions were for medication I couldn’t take due to allergies that have been noted in my medical record since 1982).  That’s right, the doctor didn’t even ask me about allergies or anything before prescribing me the pain killers.  I had to flag the pharmacy to make sure my record stated I couldn’t take those medications.  Talking about malpractice waiting to happen.

You be the judge.  Look at the current state of your medical care.  And don’t think you CAN’T be dropped for pre-existing conditions.  It’s a well known fact that the insurance industry DOESN’T like to pay out on anything.  How do you think those companies have such high profits year after year.

One other well known facts of medical issues and being homeless.  The diet they feed the homeless (me included) is worse than the diet that is fed to most school children in ANY school system.  Most of what I eat is starches,  fat, fiber, and sugars.  It’s no wonder many of the South Carolina homeless are diabetic.  Of course, many of those don’t pay attention to their health to begin with further hampering a broken system.  It’s just another vicious circle.

Healthcare for Homeless Veteran’s: Good program, poor execution(at least in the southeast region).

February 25, 2012

This is a program near and dear to my heart.  It can be good if it were functionally administered which it’s not.  At least in the southeastern Veteran’s Administration region it’s not functionally administered.  Rumor has it from various sources that the director for the southeastern region is under investigation over her handling of the money involved in this program.  More on that later.  Let me tell this as it played out.

Back in 2007 during one of my times homeless, I ran into a counselor for the Veteran’s Administration what I assumed was new program called Healthcare for Homeless Vets program in a local feed.  We’d talked and I finally broke down about three weeks later and put my name on the dotted line of the so-called required contractual agreement for the program.  At that time I was not what you’d call mentally stable.  I’d been on the street almost a year in a town I didn’t know all that well and with only a few friends.

Let me explain the program as simply as I can here.  HCHV (as I’ll refer to it from here out) was designed to help homeless veterans to transition from the street into a job (not necessarily the best but still) and living on his own again.  You could not be an alcoholic or drug abuser.  Those people were referred to substance abuse programs before they were admitted to HCHV.  This program was set up to provide veteran’s a place to live off the street, food to eat, and help getting employment.  This doesn’t mention healthcare for service related issues as well as others.  Though those services were included.  The program was designed to last up to two years.  What isn’t told the veteran before or after signing the contract is that he has supported housing for no greater than 6 months.  Now’s where things get sticky.

I was placed in a transitional home called Alston Wilkes.  This belongs to an organization of the same name and they work in concert with Veteran’s Administration.  Here I stayed for 7 months (Yes it was one month beyond what the contract stated).  During my time there, I was not only expected to but by contract had to turn over 10% of any income I had while in the facility for upkeep and repair of said facility.  Sound suspicious?  It didn’t bother me then but after finding out what has been going on via the rumor mill, I’m very suspicious now.

Getting back to my story.  When I first entered Alston Wilkes, I basically had not much more than the clothing on my back.  I was assigned a duty which I had to perform on a daily basis for the upkeep of the household.  It wasn’t much but still.  You’re suppose to be looking for work and any time out of that is wasted.  I was provided a meal ticked for Richland Memorial Hospital cafeteria (I think at the time it was good for roughly one meal a day at $5) and you know how hospital cafeteria’s are on costs and decent food.  Twice a week, we’d get a home cooked meal albeit not what I’d call the best but much better than what was fed at the local shelters.  We had all the snacks we could want of course (snacks consisted of stuff from the local food bank, local grocery stores, and other donations.  Not necessarily the best things to eat but it would still put weight on when you needed to gain it.

It took me a month to get employed and only via a minimum wage job with Goodwill through V.A.  I worked that for approximately a month or two till I took a job with Kmart Corporation.  It was for a few dollars more per hour.  Next came a job with Sam’s Club at a rate at which I could pretty much afford to move out of Alston Wilkes.  During my time with Kmart I also took on a contract job for computer part replacement.  All the while I was doing what I had to at Alston Wilkes while continually improving my own self.  With all this, I managed to squirrel away about $3K in money in the bank.  I still didn’t have everything resolved but they decided to kick me out of Alston Wilkes saying I was a great example.  Little did they know I’d get some bad news 8 months later and be on the street again after a long trip back to Michigan to visit my mom and back.

Not all my needs were dealt with in the program and I feel used and abused through it.  What actually happened to the 10% of my wages meant for the upkeep of the Alston Wilkes building, I’m unsure.  I do know that the program manager at the time at Alston Wilkes was trying to get my stay there extended so I could help others out as well as get my own VA necessities finished.

If there had been a halfway house available (run by Alston Wilkes) at the time, I’d have been offered it.  Alas, I ended up in an extended stay motel and there I stayed till I left for Michigan.   Yeah it was costly but I didn’t have to sign any lease forms and it’s a good thing I was there instead of in an apartment.  My credit is bad enough without having being thrown out of an apartment.

A couple of other things, I was required to do while under than contract and living in Alston Wilkes were in my mind wasteful of time in one instance and good in another.  One thing was a weekly meeting with a HCHV counselor where I was asked how I was doing, had I found employment, and is there anything I needed help with.  What I should have done back then was to tell the counselor (often times these sessions were taken by students and not the people working as actual counselors) that the meetings were an aggravating waste of time.  It often took an entire day to get the meeting done.  Even after I scheduled them around work I was often in Building 106 at the Dorn Veteran’s Administration site for more than two hours or more for this meeting which lasted only 15 to 20 minutes.  Of course there were other things I wanted to say to them like “How come I’m doing all the leg work and not getting any assistance other than housing and food?”  This was one of my key concerns.  The other thing was a twice a week meeting at Alston Wilkes for the entire house occupants.  It was meant to address any issues with the residents or other matters involving the house.  It was mostly a farce.  The longest that meeting went while I was there was about 20 minutes.

It seems to me, that there were far too many counselors justifying their jobs while not truly helping the veterans in the program out.  And if you missed any of the what they deemed crucial meetings, you stood the possibility of being kicked out of the program.  No drugs or alcohol while in the program either unless they were prescription.  But your weekly meeting had to be met no matter what you had to do to attend.  Work or employment search or interview was no exception to the hard rule of the weekly meetings.  The use of student counselors should have been a no no here but wasn’t.  If anything they were used far more than not while the actual counselors got away with doing exactly what they wanted when they wanted on your tax payer dollars not to mention medical school tuition as well as program dollars.

Those counselors that actually saw their people or those that saw them only occasionally did NOT provide job leads.  They did NOT attempt to help the veteran obtain further job training.  Granted there was access to job training but again the veteran had to do the leg work.  Alston Wilkes did more in the way of providing job leads than the V.A. counselors.  From what I heard from a few people in the program while I was in and some even after I got out, one such counselor berated the people under her charge.  Maybe they deserved it.  I’m not sure.  Either way, the job the counselors supposedly did was a gross misuse of government funding.  I’m unsure how much was spent keeping Alston Wilkes in federal funding.

Again, I’d heard through the rumor mill that the director of this program for the state (later promoted to area director) was under investigation for fraudulent use of government funds and other things involving money.  I’ve not had this substantiated.  However, I’d tend to believe just this considering the quality of care given to the veteran who openly walked into the program.  Yes, what is in parenthesis early in this paragraph is true.  This person who from all known sources is under investigation is under investigation.  Typical government.  Promote those that screw up and not those that are efficient and get the job done.

As for Alston Wilkes, I’ve been back there and haven’t liked what I’ve seen.  I know the current director there (the last director retired for multiple reasons).  He’s a nice enough guy.  However, like the director of HCHV, I’m very suspicious of him and his motives.  Funny thing is now that I’m homeless again, he wants me back in the program.  NOT.

I was there seven months.  Did what was required of me.  I even gave back to Alston Wilkes by setting up a wireless network (I donated the router $100) for them to have Internet to look for work and take care of necessary paperwork [(i.e. prison records and the such) (yes there were people with prison records at the shelter who were also veterans)].  That network is no longer as of my last visit there it was dismantled and it’s set up completely different.  I refuse to go back to that place anymore even for a visit.

Will I re-enter this program?  Not in the southeastern region.  It smells of corruption.  When I leave here I’m heading southwest for my health.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll try the program out again out there.  It’s been almost 5 years since I left the program.  As far as I’ve heard there are still some issues with the program.  Some of the counselors are still there drawing a paycheck and doing little or nothing.  Alston Wilkes is still tied in and running.  Will the corruption end?  Doubtful in this area.  Would I recommend the program?  That would have to be up to the individual.  For me it failed miserably.  I’m pretty much back where I started and going no where fast.

Veteran’s Admininstration: Veteran Abuse Part 2 Treatment!

February 20, 2012

Now for the real meat of my discussion on the Veteran’s Administration.  This probably won’t amaze any of the current veterans out there.  It will get the attention of others who have not been through various Veteran’s Administration hospitals (I use the term hospital lightly).  And for those familiar with HMO’s, they’ll see the similarities and understand the frustrations.

Let’s start with an example of each and every visit to the V.A. hospital.  Each veteran is assigned a primary care physician.  No this doesn’t mean a doctor.  It could and very likely will be what is often called a nurse practitioner.  This has its upsides and downsides.  First off, it allows you to see someone with a bit more knowledge than your average nurse yet not quite the knowledge of a full blown doctor.  Oh, before I get to far, each and every primary care giver is part of a team designated by a color.  I’m unsure exactly what this entails.  Continuing on, there appears to be more nurse practitioners than doctors.  Nothing wrong here as most of the medical community is sadly lacking in doctors.  The process of seeing your primary caregiver is where it all begins.

To get to see your primary caregiver, the veteran has to call the TAP (Telephone Assistance Program)phone number.  There are both pay for and 1-800 (free) numbers.  The pay for numbers are meant to get direct into the offices of the local V.A. hospital.  The hours of this line is restricted.  The 1-800 line is 24/7 and 365 days a year last I knew.  In this phone call you describe to the party at the other end your symptoms and pain levels on a 1 to 10 scale.  From here you may be an appointment for a week to three weeks later.  Does this surprise you?  Not to me.  Sounds just like a HMO.  By the time you get to see someone about your illness, either it’s gone or you’re in the emergency ward.

Once your appointment is set, plan on at least 4 hours or more to get through with your primary care physician.  Yes, 4 hours.  An hour minimum will be spent just getting your vitals done and getting blood tests.  This could be longer depending on the number of veterans using the service at the time.  Most times, I’ve had to go this route, I’ve waited an hour to get through with this alone.  After your done with vitals and blood testing (not performed by your primary care giver but doctor/nursing students most Veteran’s Administration hospitals are medical schools as well) you’ll wait to see your primary care giver.  Again, the wait could be extensive depending on the number of people to be seen.  Now comes the real fun.

You see your  primary care giver (again usually a nurse practitioner).  You describe your symptoms and he/she will look you and your vitals (transmitted from the place taken by networked computer) over.  From here a determination is made as to if you need just a prescription or if you need to see a specialist (a real doctor usually specializing in a specific medical field).  Most times I’ve gone, I’ve had nothing more done but a cursory look over and then shoved out the door with prescriptions in hand.  Even the veteran’s get screwed here.  We pay $8/prescription out of what we make.  Like everyone out there a veteran has to pay attention to this.  If you don’t pay the co-pay as it’s called by the HMO, you’ll pay full price for these prescriptions.  I know for fact.  I’ve had it deducted from my disability.

If you’re lucky enough to get to the next step and see a specialist, that appointment can be anywhere from an additional week to months later depending on his/her scheduled appointments/patients and what specialty it is.  Yes, months later.  See a pattern yet?  Smell HMO here.  It’s all a ploy to make the most money off as little service as possible or to keep you from using the services at all.  Beyond the specialists appointments, I can not tell you as I’ve yet to even see a specialist, though I may have to very soon.

Big thumbs down to the emergency ward at Veteran’s Administration hospitals.  Yes, they are often times worse than an actual military emergency room and not much better than your local civilian hospital.  Case in point.  I went to the ER for a massive headache one night.  It felt as if my head were going to explode.  I was again pumped through vitals and cursory examination after roughly a 4 plus hour wait.  At the end of this trip, I was sent home with nothing more than Tylenol 3 with codeine prescription.  The next night I was back at the ER because this prescription wasn’t working and the symptoms were worse.  Again, another prolonged wait but this time I was given an MRI, an IV, after being initially seen by a REAL doctor.  After a short time the doctor returned to check on me then told me what was the cause of my ailment.  To say I was dumbfounded was an understatement.  Why had it taken two separate trips to V.A. hospital to cure my ailment?  Can we say shoddy work?  I’d say so.  Again, HMO style treatment.  Their in it for the money and not to help out.

Now for the real kicker.  I have a choice when I become ill.  I can either go to a regular doctor and pay through the nose for office visits and specialists to follow on, or I can go to V.A. hospital and deal with lack of timely vital care.  If I had the money I wouldn’t deal with them unless it were for a service connected injury.  Alas, being homeless only allows me this choice.  I deal with V.A. even when the service is even less stellar than most HMO’s.  Those that know what I’m talking about with HMO’s know how bad it really is.

Once again, too much administration and not enough help.  Why you think they came up with the name Veteran’s Administration?  The title explains itself.  They want to administer to the veterans, not cure them or assist them.  My next article will delve more deeply into this as I’ll cover a program set up by the Veteran’s Administration called Health Care for Homeless Veteran’s.

Veteran’s Admininstration: Veteran Abuse Part 1 Initial claim and appeal!

February 18, 2012

That’s right.  I said abuse.  If there was ever a more bureaucratic organization than this one, I’ve yet to find it.  The bureaucracy is astounding not to mention daunting to the fresh out of military service veteran.  It’s the biggest travesty in the United States government system to say the least.  The only more bureaucratic organization is probably the Internal (some call it infernal) Revenue Service.

Let me start off with the process for initial claim.  This is an almost all day affair.  I made my initial claim in San Diego, California.  In many ways, I’m glad I did.  There is a large base of veterans there both active and inactive.  You have the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines inside of a 50 mile radius there not to mention various U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force bases just up the highway (Interstate 5) in Los Angeles region.  Needless to say my initial claim though time consuming did get more done in a day than I can say about most places (especially Columbia’s own Dorn V.A. Hospital).  That and the entire staff (like Dorn V.A. Hospital run for the most part by students) was very kind, considerate, and above all professional.

After the initial claim, you wait what could be up to 90 days now.  Use to be a lot longer for the initial determination of percentage of disability.  Often times you get that determination too late to have time to sufficiently appeal it as you’re offered the chance (V.A. uses USPS for their delivery method) to.  Worse yet, the Veteran’s Administration only allows you 90 days to appeal when they often take longer than that to mail you your determination of benefits.  Not to mention that it’s 90 days from date of determination and you don’t know till 30 or more days go by because the V.A. bulk mails (likely 3rd class) for cheaper rates.  Surprisingly Uncle Sam does pay for his postage when it should be free.  Tax payer money goes to support the USPS (more on that later).

Ok,  you get your determination in the mail.  You get your 90 days to appeal.  So what.  Well, what if you move within the time of initial claim to the time you’re mailed the determination and notice of possible appeal.  I did move.  I lost my job in San Diego and was forced to move back to Michigan to live due to cost of living.  I never got my original paperwork.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who had this happen though I probably didn’t help it by not giving any forwarding address.  My guess is that fully 10% of all veteran’s go through what I do.  This results in more delays.

Now the sad part.  It is the responsibility of the veteran to prove someone who doesn’t even have a medical degree wrong on the determination of benefits.  Yes, you WILL have to pay to get the appeal process accomplished.  Both in time and quite possibly many dollars.  Every time you appeal, they may or may not come up with the figure you want.  To put it more generally, if you want 100% disability, you may be in for years and years of appeals while fat cat bureaucrats continue to get fatter eating the dollars that should go to the veteran.  Most of those bureaucrats are not even of the medical field and they are the ones determining the veteran’s disability compensation levels.

Oh there are organizations that are set up to help the veteran’s.  Some you’ve even heard of like The American Legion, Disabled American Veteran’s (DAV), and others who sit in an office on government property that are suppose to help out the new veteran.  Most of these groups want your money as a “member” to help you out.  What they don’t tell you is how much the membership costs.  That’s right folks.  If you’re not a member don’t expect help with your appeals.  Some of these organizations charge almost $1000 for a lifetime membership.  With that money they to get into the bureaucratic snafu (you all know the meaning of that acronym), spend money elsewhere instead of helping their fellow veterans.  Same tune as anywhere else.  Just another con job.

Last but not least, this appeal process continues on till you either give up or settle up.  It can take years appealing not to mention money and time.  Money for outside doctors or time chasing paperwork.  Sometimes it’s just faster and easier to sue the federal government.  Yes, I said sue.  You can actually sue the federal government as a veteran.  You can’t as a active duty member.  How do I know this.  A Vietnam veteran whom I’m friends with and who will remain nameless sued the government and settled for $1.2M.  Only issue with this method is you only get that money once and no more money afterwards.  It’s your choice.  You can fight via the appeals and eventually tire of it and settle for what the bureaucrats give you or you can sue and get a one time payment that still won’t be what you want since you’ll have to split that with the lawyers.

This is just a for warning about the headaches that begin with the Veteran’s Administration bureaucrats.  It continues even as you use the system other than for your disability.  This will come in the next installment.