I am a Disabled US Vet and Use the "Socialist" VA Healthcare System Exclusively. This is My Story.

Since certain people in this country keep bashing government run healthcare systems, I wanted to take a moment to share a story about a recent visit to the VA. I use the VA for all of my healthcare, so this story represents a typical experience.

Friday 10:15AM Arrive 15 minutes early for Appointment, scan my VA ID card into the check in kiosk (check in is electronic to speed up processing), sit down in the waiting room.

10:25AM Nurse calls me into the screening room. I am weighed, blood pressure taken, temp taken, she reviews my meds, asks about my complaint today. I inform her that my back is hurting.

10:35AM I am brought to a different room, and sit down to wait for the doc.

10:45AM My doc enters the room, reviews all of my recent medical history with me. He informs me that my weight has gone up a bit, and offers me a referral to their dietitian to discuss my diet and fitness. I accept. He then goes over all of my meds again to do any refills I may need. He then asks me about my back problems.

Side note: I have chronic disk disease from a war time injury. I have stenosis, have had a back surgery, etc, etc...

11:00AM He notes that it has been 2 years since my last MRI and feels that we should get a new one to see how the injury has progressed. In our conversation I also told him that I have been having trouble sleeping (possible apnea). He picks up the phone and calls the VA hospital to schedule me for an MRI. They can get me in on Sunday morning. He also submits an electronic prescription for a pain killer, it will be ready in 20-25 minutes at the VA pharmacy for pick up.

Note: Yes they do walk in MRIs on a Sunday. Also note, the first MRI was done through my HMO. It took 3 months to get approved by Aetna, and 4 weeks to get scheduled. It only covered 80 percent of the bill, the rest was out of pocket. The first MRI occurred while I was still waiting for approval for admission into the VA program and was working for a company that offered a healthcare plan. My treatment for my back problems during that time, including MRI's, Physical Therapy, Cortisone Shots, and surgery left me with a $22,000 bill that I am still paying off. My treatment since then has been covered through the VA.

He also submits a referral for a non-VA sleep clinic to address my sleep problems at this point in the computer. All medical records in the VA are electronic so they can be accessed by any authorized doctor in the network. Finally he calls the dietitian and schedules a visit for me. I am scheduled for the following Wednesday.

Sunday 930AM I arrive at the local VA hospital and proceed to the 3rd floor to check in for the MRI.

935AM A nurse arrives and brings me down the hall to insert my IV. I will be needing a contrast dye this time so they can see the scar tissue better. After the IV, I return to the waiting room.

950AM A technician arrives and brings me down to the MRI. I remove all metal, remove my belt, slip my shorts below my hips, hop onto the table, put on some headphones she provides. She pumps some classic rock into the headphones for me and the MRI begins. Total time about 20 minutes.

1010AM MRI is done, she removes the IV, I grab my stuff, thank her, and head on my way.

This is the efficiency of the VA network. It is not perfect, but I would not give it up for anything. I get treated with respect, I receive fast quality and thorough care, and most of all, it is run by the US Government.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I received my referral letter in the mail today for the Sleep Study. It took about 5 days for it to come. I am scheduled for my appointment next week. This is an out of VA network referral so it took a few days longer than an in network referral. It is with a top sleep clinic in the area.

For those Vets out there that read this and wondered how to get the help they need I have provided the following information. You can always open your phonebook and look for local veterans organizations. Call them. They will put you in touch with the right people.

You can apply for benefits online here: http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp

You can find your local VA facilities here: http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isFlash=0

There are also toll free numbers for all kinds of VA assistance here: https://iris.va.gov/scripts/iris.cfg/php.exe/enduser/cci/phonenbrs.php

Good luck, stay strong, and thank you for serving.

Thought I would share this from reddit

Views: 25

Comment by Reggie on August 26, 2009 at 1:24am
Oh, you. I thought this was a first hand account!
Comment by Atheist Exile on August 27, 2009 at 8:18am
Hi Method,

My brother swears by the VA hospital and has similar stories of efficiency and true care. I live in the Philippines now but there's a VA hospital up in Luzon somewhere. I thought my Kaiser coverage was pretty good until my brother raved about the VA. It took me 15 months to get a colonoscopy at Kaiser (not that I was in a hurry to get it). That's right, the waiting list was 15 months long!

At one time, the VA was a terrible place to seek medical attention. But they've really turned things around and appear to be the model of government program done right.

I'm a vet too (Air Force), and your story is prompting me to check out my VA benefits (which I haven't used since taking advantage of their home loan guarantee).
Comment by Jason on August 27, 2009 at 4:59pm
I have always viewed healthcare as an infrastructural issue. Similar to the Police or Fire Dept. It makes sense to try and mitigate crime and fires, why not health issues? It's all in the effort for making a solid backbone for our...well... capitalism.


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