Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Pain of the VA: Another Red Tape Diaries Entry

I promised a friend of mine I would write this story as soon as I had time. What you are about to read actually happened. I wish I was creative enough to make this all up, but sadly I am not. You are about to read why in this house we use the sayings "Good enough for the VA" and "Nothing from the VA shocks me anymore" quite frequently.

All veterans have to be seen at the VA at least once a year. Makes total sense right?! We want to make sure our vets are cared for so yes once a year is the least we can do. This is our once a year story.

Chaz began at the Murfreesboro VA in January 2013. Every year he went in for his annual exam, he was met by a different PCM, which is sad because we really liked #1. Finally in 2016 we were told this PCM would stay, but required Chaz to basically start all over again with the VA. The PCM insisted he complete a new patient exam. No we were not happy with this, but we thought well ok, maybe this new person is just wanting to make sure they know all about Chaz and his case. Once again we grossly misjudged the VA.

Chaz's appointment occurred at a time where I had to stay home to make sure kids got where they needed to be so I missed out on meeting this person. I was totally fine with them ordering blood work and etc for Chaz. Chaz requested the same requests with this PCM that he made with the other two PCMs. He wanted Physical Therapy so he could start walking again. He wanted ortho to look at his arm because his arm fusion was temporary and we are going on four years since an ortho doc has looked at it. And he wanted infectious disease because he has a long history of infectious disease and wanted to make sure he was on their radar.

We waited a year. Heard nothing from this PCM. Chaz called, sent messages, and got nothing. Chaz went to make his annual VA appointment for January and they said the earliest he could be seen was March 31. Finally I said enough we are using your Medicare to get you actual care. I could not take it anymore. I wanted someone to actually care about my husband. We found a great doctor here in our community and currently we have gotten more done with Chaz's care in three weeks then we did in four years at the VA. 

As we approached March 31, we had to reschedule his appointment and it was moved to April 7. Which is not too bad in VA time. But by the time of this visit, Chaz had been to PT and had an ortho and infectious disease appointment on the books.

At his very first PT session, Chaz's prosthetic leg fell off and he fell really hard. He hurt quite a bit and a lovely bruise that covered almost all of his leg's amputation site began to appear. Chaz has not taken any prescribed pain meds in years. He does have celebrex for his back, but that would not help him with the pain he had in his leg. Since this incident occurred just before his VA appointment we decided he would just ask his PCM for a pain med that was a little stronger than Motrin and Tylenol.  The one thing the VA is excellent about is prescribing meds.

Chaz went to the appointment, showed the PCM his leg and told the PCM the story and his request. I kid you not the PCM said, "Well you don't look like you are in pain, so no I will not prescribe anything for you," but did order an x-ray for him. The PCM told him if the pain continued then he should come back to the VA or visit the ER. Then the PCM informed him that based on his blood work the PCM decided he now has fatty liver disease. The PCM let Chaz know that they did not approve of him going through Medicare and reminded him he still had to be seen by his PCM at the VA. Lovely, huh?!

Again not kidding, the blood work that was referenced for the fatty liver diagnosis was taken in January 2016. We have three potential paths here with this PCM. #1-This PCM saw the blood work in January 2016, determined the fatty liver disease issue, and chose to not do anything about it. #2-The PCM reviewed blood work in front of Chaz at his appointment and just then made the determination. #3-The PCM was angry that Chaz called them out on their lack of caring and lashed out at him for taking care of himself by now going through Medicare. All proposed paths are 100% inappropriate.

Now you ask what is the PCM doing for the new diagnosis? Well they ordered an ultrasound for mid- May, five weeks from his visit. And Chaz was told to diet and exercise. Did she refer him to PT (which we had previously asked for) or a nutritionist? Nope, just ordered the ultrasound for five weeks later and said for him to cut back on high fat foods.

Sounds like a super serious issue, yes?! We want our veterans to be cared for, yes?! Liver diseases can freaking kill you.

And now you ask who gets to deal with the aftermath of this VA visit? Easy answer, I do. Chaz was livid. I got to be the one who calmed him down. I was the one who assured him that that PCM is a moron and no he should not feel bad for asking for pain meds. I was the one who helped him feel even better about using his Medicare. I was the one that suggested he call the local doctor and tell them what happened. (FYI the local doc had a script for Chaz in less than 30 minutes.) I was the one who cleaned up the PCM's collateral damage.

You want to know why we lose 22 veterans a day to's stories like this. We have PCM who looked a double amputee who has a ton of pain issues he struggles with daily and said, "You don't look like you need it," and made him feel like he was a junkie. My girlfriend with vast medical knowledge said it perfectly the other day, "I know Chaz is coping with pain everyday that would cause people to end their lives." There are zero pain med scripts on file for Chaz at the VA. Was that consulted?! Nope, the PCM made their determination by simply looking at him. The PCM did not put their hands on him, they just looked. Then the PCM spun up my hubby with this new random diagnosis based on 14 month old blood work, but offered no true assistance to remedy the diagnosis.

We are so blessed in this house. Chaz was "injured enough" that we can now get real care with people who really care about Chaz. There are so many veterans who are not Medicare eligible and cannot afford other insurance. The VA is their only option and this is the care they are receiving. If you want to be outraged, please go ahead, but know this one veteran will be fully cared for because he is mine. Please be outraged that PCMs like this are "caring" for our veterans everyday and this "care" is exactly why we are losing them to suicide!


  1. Jessica, I have been fighting the rouge Wilmington, DE VAMC for over nine months, barred from healthcare at this point, have had county cops here multiple times harassing me (NEVER SI:HI talk, nothing, no threats, ANYTHING) only advocating, pressing them for the lies they've told, my poor girls (spouse and daughter) are trapped in the crossfire and are the only ones suffering besides me. Slept outside the VA with my service dog for three weeks in December after contacting my senators who sold me out directly back to VA. The day after I signed the contact release for Sen Carper, three VA police (chief included) ambushed me outside my Psychiatry appointment and closeted me in a small room demanding to know why I need a senator.

    Barred from speaking, communication, callbacks, appointments, healthcare. Been screaming bloody murder everywhere. Nobody will listen. Patient advocate hasn't ever responded to hundreds of communiques at this point. Voicemails, emails, phone calls, letters, comment cards, social media, etc.

    Hope you guys find the way out of the mess. At least the government barred the VA for terminating caregivers for three weeks today. Good news, for three weeks! :(

    Take care.

  2. It sounds like the kind of fake care holocaust victims received in concentration camps.

  3. It's very sad to hear stories like this. Veterans should get what they deserve after all the sacrifices for the country.

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