Veterans sound off at DC VA town hall meeting
I've only been to two VA facilities in my life, the DC one, and Roudebush in Indianapolis. One a scale of 1-10, I give Roudebush a strong 9, the DC one I'd give a 0.01. When I got back from Afghanistan I had serious back issues. I'd masked them as best I could for the final month of the deployment because I didn't want to leave before the rest of the troops. But it was getting worse and worse. When we redeployed we got the standard briefing on medical issues, and then a private meeting with a doctor. Mine was remarkably candid with me. He straight up told me that the Army would take care of me, but that it meant I would be extended on Active Duty for perhaps a year, perhaps even longer. Since I had already paid tuition at law school which started in a week I thanked the doctor for his honesty, informed him that I was the picture of health (despite my two front teeth being broken and not being able to straighten up) and went on my way.
Two days after officially getting off active duty, I went to the DC VA, where I went through a very short and easy enrollment process, and despite not having an appointement I was ushered directly to a doctor. I was amazed. After hearing how bad some VA's were, I thought this is amazing. The doctor saw me and said he suspected I had herniated discs, which is what I'd already figured, and that they would schedule me for "an emergency MRI."
I called to schedule the MRI and was told that I needed to call back in a week. I was flummoxed, because by this point I could barely walk. The lady politely, but insistently told me that there was a requirement that they schedule me within 90 days, and they had no openings within that window, so I should call back the following Friday and they'd schedule me 90 days out. Again, this was what the doctor called an "emergency MRI". I fear to think what a routine one would look like.
So, I did what others do that have private insurance, I just went to the regular hospital, paid my copays, and eventually got fixed. Had I stayed with the VA, as I had every right to do, and which some people are required to do by financial necessity, I never would have been able to go back to work, or school, or so anything.
And here we are, 12 years later discussing the same VA:
To be honest, I wish I had complained more then, or done something to draw light to the problems. But I'd just gotten back from Afghanistan, I had no desire to suddenly change one fight for another, I wanted to get on with my life. Thankfully I work for a company with good insurance, and people who understand the problems you can face. I weep for those who don't have that.