I served in the US Army 1973-1976. I went in at 19 and got out at 22 years old with a 30% disability from a TBI. I did not realize that I was truly “different” after my horrific accident and even though my family could see it, I could not. As I tried to transition back into my community, I was also labeled a “disabled female veteran” to boot. I struggled throughout my lifetime, making unnecessary mistake after mistake — because back then, we were NOT encouraged to seek help, as our younger veterans are today.
Now that I am considerably older, retired and a 100% SC disabled veteran, both my body and my mind are broken and I need medical assistance on a pretty regular basis. I sought that help over 5 years ago from the VA for my back, brain seizures, chronic pain…and I was IGNORED. Even though my medical records from the VA showed that they were “taking care of me,” I became totally bedridden for 6 weeks (living with just my service dog and no outside help or care). My family finally had to physically come and take me out of the bed and bring me to get community based treatment. Within one week after the spine center examined me, they scheduled me for immediate back surgery. I had tried everything that the VA told me to do: physical therapy, countless types of injections, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, etc. and to no avail. Plus, I am the exception rather than the rule. I am allergic to pretty much every prescribed medication on the market so that my pain level was always a 10+, driving up my blood pressure and I had nothing that I could take for the pain.
I realize that there are certain procedures that must be followed in order to get Community Based Care. But my family members and I did EVERYTHING that we were supposed to do. I notified my PCP of my medical situation and of my rapidly deteriorating situation. I continually worked with the Patient Advocate’s Office expecting them to help me to properly navigate the VA system. I also contacted the Woman’s Clinic Director, my psychiatrist, and lastly, I wrote a 4 page letter and hand delivered it to the Director of the Hospital 7 weeks prior to my surgery. So she was totally aware of my case. The least that she should have done was to have assigned it to whomever she wanted to….but NOT just ignore me.
That surgery cost me approx. $27,000 “out of pocket” for me and it should have cost me NOTHING! When I filed my paperwork to get reimbursed for my medical expenses, I was told by the Patient Advocate’s Office that the VA had NEVER approved my request. Really? Whose fault is that? At the time that I was going through all of this (Sept 2014) the VA did not have a neurosurgeon on staff and the neurosurgeon by me was many months booked out!!!!
After I filed for my reimbursement, the PA’s Office shared with me that, “AFTER THE FACT” someone had gotten the VA neurosurgeon to write a medical opinion that he had evaluated me and that I would NOT benefit from back surgery. This doctor did this WITHOUT ever having seen me.
The VA owes it to our veterans to provide them with prompt, correct care. When I appealed it through the hospital, the VA did not even follow their own regulations and directives concerning this case.