Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day Personal Report: Is the VA denying adequate medical care to older veterans?

Veterans Day Personal Report: Is the VA denying adequate medical care to older veterans?

By Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

I’ve had some interesting experiences this year at my VA Medical Center regarding its diagnosis of me being a diabetic. The VA has been my primary care provider for the last few years and eventually my VA doctor informed me that blood work had shown that I was a diabetic. I was advised to eliminate sugar from my diet, to exercise more and to lose weight. My VA examinations were increased to four a year from two and I was offered VA eye care as diabetes effects eyesight.

My changes in diet and exercise resulted in weight loss and the lowering of my A1C from 7.2 to 6.0. The A1C number (produced from blood work) is a barometer of whether you are a diabetic or not. The guidelines keep changing. Some say 5.8 is normal, others 6.0. So I asked my VA doctor in late 2007 when my A1C went down to 6.0 whether I was still classified as a diabetic. He responded that I would always be a diabetic.

At this point I should mention that my mother and grandmother died from diabetes.

In March 2008 the VA changed my VA doctor, or primary care provider. You can imagine how startled I was to hear him declare that my earlier VA diagnosis of diabetes was a “fluke.” That was the actual word he used. And because it was a fluke, I no longer warranted four exams a year and was reduced to two again. He also refused to mail me copies of my blood work.

“You want to see your numbers?” he said, “Come here. Just look at them on my computer screen. That is good enough.”

It is against the law, as I understand it, to deny a patient a copy of his medical records.

Before I left the VA building that March day, I filed a request for a change in my VA physician and signed a paper to receive a copy of my blood work. My first VA physician had sent my medical reports to me routinely.

Within two weeks, the head physician of the VA Center called to say that, according to 1988 guidelines, doctor fluke was correct. 1988 guidelines! That’s twenty years ago!

Between late March and my most recent appointment on November 4th with a third VA doctor, I developed other problems resulting in hospitalizations and operations. All of my physicians at both hospitals said I was a diabetic and treated me for it along with everything else.

I wanted to discuss the fluke diagnosis with my third VA physician on November 4th, but every time I attempted to bring it up, the doctor started screaming and yelling over my voice to stop me from talking. “That is in the past and I’m not interested in that. I’m only concerned with your future treatment.”

And there it is. My confidence in the VA Medical System has been seriously compromised.

There are a lot of veterans like me who served in the sixties. Aside from the officers, because of a very flawed draft system, there were almost no college graduates among the enlisted men. These enlisted men fought in Vietnam, stood guard in Korea and in Germany. These high schoolers were screwed over by the system that allowed people like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to escape active service. I see them now in the hallways of the VA. Gray hair, balding, some bent over, some walking with difficulty, some in wheelchairs, but always cheerful and friendly.

Are we being screwed over again? Are those in charge at the VA in Washington, DC deliberately ordering VA Medical Centers to deny adequate medical care to older veterans by reducing that care and using outdated medical standards as excuses for denying adequate care? —Copyright © 2008 by Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

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