For the record, I want to point out not all Veterans Administration employees are bad. I became a disabled veteran, service connected, at a very young age. I was only 20 years old when the US Army sent me home, on a jumbo jet, broken, beat down, sick, and a jumble of nerves. Had I been serving in today’s Army I would not have been sent home in the shape I was in. I was sent home with nothing but my honorable discharge, my stripes, one months pay,and absolutely no access to any health care.
Fortunate for me, my father was a disabled veteran, which was ufortunate for him, because he was paralyzed, and non service connected, on what is called aid, and attendance, home-bound. I knew the system, so to speak, from the huge ordeal my family went through, to get my dad health care at the VA.
I tried my best to heal up, on my own, so to speak. I got a job, and paid out of pocket to see a doctor for my most pressing problems. Open sores, all over my body, that would not heal. I would wear a shirt one time, and it would be ruined from the blood, and junk oozing from these sores. The doctor gave me some really strong anti-biotics. I was not able to take all of them, and could not afford another visit, so I went without health care. The pills I was able to take seemed to keep things from getting any worse, so I trudged on. I had a job where I worked outdoors on a sod farm, basically by myself. I was such a wreck, I do not think I could have worked with others. The only reason, and way I got the job was because a friend of mine worked there, and gave me a very strong reccomendation. We all knew there was more wrong with me than the outer wounds, just not what it was, or how bad.
I worked the job at the sod farm as long as I could, and between being accused of stealing a pan of ribs at a company cookout, and other issues I was facing I could not hold up. I did not steal the ribs, and lucky for me I saw who did, and told the General Manager. It was his assistant manager who stole the ribs, and he was forced to bring them back. However, I couldn’t handle the pressure, so I quit without notice.
I was a wreck. I remembered my Battery Commander telling me I should have been given a medical discharge, that in addition to my physical problems, I had what he described as a stress related break down. In other words, I was in shell shock from a battery of our 155mm howitzers opening up on the hill I was observing from, and I had a break down, of sorts, when my first wife, and I split over all the crap I was going through. Stuff that could not be left at work. Asking for help was a definite career ender back then, so it all came crashing down at about the same time.
I needed help, and needed more help than one doctor’s office could give me; furthermore, with the symptoms I was having, I needed help from people used to dealing with military injuries. I went to what was called, back then, the “Veterans Administration”, or “VA”, as most people called it, and still do, in spite of the name being changed to the “Department of Veterans Affairs”. I went to the VA Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. When I arrived, I went to an area they have since closed. I do not remember what they called it back then, but it was basically there to determine if one was eligible for treatment. A very nice man assisted me. I gave him my DD 214, my Honorable Discharge, and a letter the 9th ID made me sign saying I waived my right to VA treatment. They told me if I signed it I would be stuck in limbo for months. I was having so many problems, all I wanted, and wanted more than anything was to come home. I informed the man of this as I handed him the letter. He looked over everything, and politely asked me to wait. He then went to the back office. I could still see him, and a group of people discussing what to do with me. Eligibility was an immediate issue because the rules had been changed when I went in that a person had to serve 2 years (24 mos) to be eligible for VA health care. I was discharged a couple of weeks shy of this threshold. I had no idea this rule was in place. I was screwed over, and did not even know it. The man helping me would not take no for an answer, and pulled out a very large book from a cabinet, turned to a page, and showed it to all the others deciding whether or not I could be seen. They all agreed on something, to this day I do not know what it was, and the man came back to his desk, and told me I would be getting a letter in the mail within a week stating when I was to report to the hospital for treatment. Had it not been for this one employee not only doing his job well, but knowing his job I would have been turned away, and only the Lord knows what would have happened to me.
Looking back, with all the health problems I have had since that initial hospitalization, the VA has saved my life. Just the crohns disease alone would have killed me in the private sector, due to me being uninsurable. Had it not been for the VA seeing me in their GI clinic, operating on me in their surgical suites (multiple surgeries), and filling prescriptions for medications I could have never afforded, I would indeed be dead. Yes, I have had some problems with individual employees along the way, but the overwhelming majority of the employees, at the VA have gone far beyond the call of duty helping me with scores, and scores of problems, and issues. I am grateful to these unsung heroes. I wish I knew all of their names, I would most definitely print them out, and send them to the President as examples of great public servants. They know who they are, and I am very grateful to them for not only doing their jobs, but going up, over, above, and beyond the call of duty to help me, and even to save my life.
Thanks to all the worker bees at the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospitals, and Clinics for showing up every day, and doing a great job, in spite of the few rotten apples. When you visit a VA facility you can easily recognise these heroes in healthcare. They are indeed compassionate, have a smile on their face, genuinely care about the patient, and follow through on whatever is needed to help the veteran patient. I salute all of you!