Chris Rainwater: Will Trump fix VA?
I am a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. I served in the U.S. Air Force and deployed to the desert during the Gulf War. I was awarded the Southwest Asia Campaign Medal twice — for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
This year, as the result of starting my own small business, I needed to look for new alternatives to health insurance. I, like most Americans, had heard the horror stories of veterans on surgery waiting list who died while waiting. I knew that many of my fellow veterans had complained about the VA system; however, I decided that it was time to take advantage of the VA healthcare benefits I’d earned.
My application for benefits was accepted online, and I received an email letting me know that my VA “Welcome Package” would arrive within 10 days. Only a few days later, I received a call from the VA by a woman with an extremely strong Asian accent informing me that my application had been declined.
I spent an hour trying to convince her of her mistake, but we experienced a significant language issue, and, ultimately, she hung up. I was beyond insulted. An employee hired to provide service to American veterans must be required to be proficient in English.
After four more denials from the VA, I was ready to simply forgo my benefits and go without healthcare when I made one final complaint to the VA office in Atlanta, Georgia. Three weeks after that phone call, I received a call back finally confirming that I was indeed covered for VA healthcare by my virtue of my service.
My physician here in Steamboat Springs ordered an MRI to examine a potentially serious (and very painful) spinal issue. In accordance with the program, I called the VA Choice line to have them schedule the MRI here in Steamboat Springs.
The VA approved the MRI and informed me that they would have it scheduled for me within five days. Ten days later, having heard nothing, I called the VA back to determine the status of the MRI. The VA agent informed me that he had no idea what I was talking about.
The first agent had done nothing — not even enter it into the system. This second agent did no better, and 30 days after my physician ordered an MRI, I still had no appointment. The same process played out again with a third agent and then a fourth.
As of this letter, more than 60 days have passed, and I am no closer to having the MRI done.
I am just one of millions of American veterans who now rely on the VA healthcare system. Multiply the pain and anguish of just one person by millions, and the scale of the problem becomes alarmingly clear.
CNN reported in September 2015 that up to 307,000 veterans had died while awaiting treatment. As my letter should make clear, the VA seems completely incapable of carrying out its most basic function — caring for those who have worn the uniform of our nation.
When our country needed us, we were there. We left our families, put ourselves in danger, and in so many cases, paid a heavy price to our health. The contract between our nation and its veterans is being broken and abused every single day by the VA.
How much longer do our honored veterans have to suffer and die because of bureaucratic incompetence and indifference?
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