Monday, May 6, 2013

A backlog of disability claims not only problem facing this agency

Part III of a Series
by Nicholas J. Vocca

Posted comments on the Yahoo News internet site regarding an Associated Press article reporting how bonuses for high-level officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs have been suspended due to a backlog in processing veterans disability claims, and a subsequent May 3 article for ABC News Good Morning America by Susan Donaldson James reporting how Vietnam Veterans are the highest suicide risks nationally because many will not seek professional help from the VA, may indicate that a great majority of veterans and their family members are deeply unsatisfied with this agency.

In regards to James' article, of the near-2500 comments, many which had over 30 or more replies, there was a very low and insignificant amount of responders who expressed their opinions that veterans deserved no special benefits or treatment because they knew what they were getting into when enlisting, and some, regarded more as "Internet Trolls," who said veterans were killers who willfully participated in illegal wars.

The jaundiced, scathing opinions of the way the VA has operated and treated our nations men and women who served were not limited to just those of the Vietnam Conflict.  Dozens of veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and many who saw combat in our modern day War on Terror, or their family members, all shared a range of difficulties experienced which has left them disgruntled and disillusioned in dealing with the VA.

One of the most common and major grievances posted by these individuals is how they are "run through the mill" gathering, filling out, and submitting paperwork, as well as being subjected to an equally consuming amount of time spent attending evaluations, interviews, and medical appointments, where they are put on hold for long periods, or informed they need to fill out additional forms or attend more appointments.

Be it a claim for Agent Orange, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or even disabilities incurred from being wounded in combat, such as a missing limb or some degree of being paralyzed,  their is a substantial amount of veterans who have been waiting for years...some as many as five or more...before hearing any word on their claim(s).

A generous portion of posting veterans have reported that they either contacted a service officer of a veterans organization, or their representatives in Congress, and even these officials have often been met with long delays in receiving a reply back from some VA facilities.

Many of these same veterans, or family members, said that the same applies to when they call the particular VA facility they are dealing with; an experience they often dread due to long periods of being placed on hold, multiple transfers to various departments, and sometimes seemingly rude, or inattentive personnel who repeatedly ask them for basic information they already gave that particular person.

Was one veteran simply expressing his personal view, or speaking for all, when he posted;"  VA.  Delay, Deny, until I die"?

In this same category of long waits, mistreatment, and inattentive VA staff, there were posts concerning the hospital stay of veterans which are, at best, alarming to most who use this agency as their sole or primary medical care provider.

One veteran posted his experience(s) when sharing a room with three others during a stay at the VA hospital by using exact times when he or the other veterans requested something, and when they received it.  While it is understandable that giving a patient a pain medication may take time because the nurse may have to first consult with a physician, or it is too early to give one that prescribed medication, simple things like bringing one a bedpan, getting them some fresh water or some simple, basic request, should not take up to an hour or more to perform.

Another veteran posted how, when in the Butler VA, a nurse came on the PA system during dinner one night informing all in the dining hall that the Red Velvet Cake they were served for dessert had "worms in it."  Noting how some veterans immediately began gagging or throwing their cake away, this veteran reported further that within a minute this same nurse came into the dining room, laughing, and then stated for all to hear that she was "only joking" because she wanted to make sure there was a piece left for her.  From this veteran's understanding, "Foods served at the VA are supposed to be for the veterans, not staff."

Having had to fast from midnight until his scheduled surgery at around 1:30 the next day, a veteran hospitalized at the Pittsburgh VA posted how he suddenly woke when feeling a cold object on his left shoulder several hours after surgery, only to find it was a nurse rubbing an alcohol prep pad in preparation to give him a shot.  When he informed her how it is common sense and protocol to first make sure a patient is awake and aware of what what a nurse is going to do, and added how there are many combat veterans who would react by "kicking you in the stomach out of fear," the nurse simply shrugged, said she never looked at it that way, and proceeded to give him the shot.

About ten-minutes later this same veteran felt a another cold object on his right shoulder, and again found a nurse standing over him with a needle.  When he inquired what was going on, the nurse told him she had read on his chart that his blood sugar was "138," and that she was going to give him some insulin.  At that he did acknowledge that he was on an oral medication because he is a "borderline" diabetic, and that the his blood sugar was high was because he had fasted since the previous midnight, had not eaten since.  He immediately told the nurse he was refusing the insulin because he had never prescribed it.  With that, the nurse just said "oh," and left.

The widow of one veteran, who contends the her husband died as a result of the negligent and improper care her husband received through the VA is just one of many family members who posted negative and improper care did draw similar sentiments in posts centered around these articles.

The widow of a WWII veteran did post that her husband received good care when first utilizing the VA but, over the passage of time, he was more or less cast off to the sidelines, and has since been steadily going downhill.

The expressed shames of some veterans stems not from shame with the  substandard care, mistreatment and other  dealings with the VA, but more from the ways in which this agency, and some others in have done, has left them with a sense of feeling inferior, unwanted, and abandoned.

Over that, one must ask:  If a nation allows those who served to defend it to harbor such thoughts as being inferior, unwanted, and abandoned, is such a nation worth defending?

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