My husband, Jerry, is a disabled Vietnam veteran and has been so since his discharge in the mid-70’s. An outpatient clinic opened in our area and he goes there for his medical and vision care. But for dental, we drive 300 miles round trip to the VA Hospital in Portland. He can receive outpatient care locally but few dentists accept the lower fees the VA allows for dental work. The last guy who did had a staff member who was so unpleasant and unprofessional that he gave up and started back with the folks in Portland. Which is where I sit at this writing, waiting for him to finish getting a filling.
Jerry is also getting an upper denture and while he’s healing we’ve already received two letters cancelling and rescheduling his next appointment. True he needs to heal, but his appointment changed from the end of December to the beginning of January, and as of now, it’s been changed again to the end of January. This is what veterans deal with when it comes to dental treatment. And when the veteran has to drive 300 miles round trip, it would be nice if the appointments weren’t scheduled so far apart.
But all in all, he has very nice things to say about the dental staff who take care of him. He finds them to be thorough, prepared, and conscientious. They’re not in a hurry there; they don’t rush the vets in and out. They’re concerned about how he’s feeling during his time there and always treat him with respect and dignity. And they make sure he understands what they’re doing and why. So, even with the issues that veterans do face, the care is good even with the money woes.
The lobby was filled with veterans and their families as it is every time we come here. Everyone is so kind and helpful at the VA Hospital and we try to arrive in time to have something to eat, even though it was cottage cheese for Jerry this time. He’s relegated to smoothies, mashed potatoes, and blended soups until he gets his upper denture. Thank the Goddess I have a VitaMix. And to tell you what a great place this is, I left my iPad in the bathroom and it was right where I left it, untouched. Meltdown averted.
These are dignified individuals, our beloved veterans. When they need an X-ray, they shouldn’t be told that they will have to drive to Portland to get one because the local hospital won’t take veterans with benefits unless they have other insurance or can pay out of pocket. Apparently our government is late on paying for hospital services. Can you imagine that? Jerry’s knee was full of blood and enormous but they don’t have any X-ray equipment to take a shot of it before draining it.
And when they’re summoned to the eye clinic for a checkup they shouldn’t face ridicule because no one tells them they must wear their glasses when they drive now. Jerry could have done without the insulting demeanor and comments and been glad for the information, but that was beyond the doctor who couldn’t be bothered to be on time for his appointment.
Some of his eye appointments have to do with a diabetes diagnosis that Jerry was blessed with some years ago. The acceptable range was lowered and suddenly he was diabetic. He had run into a tree branch, scratching his eye, and the eye doctors in Portland were concerned it was actually due to diabetes, so he had to have numerous checks to be sure his eye was fine and not diabetes-related. Of course the diabetes numbers were probably due to the cholesterol drug they had him on, not that he needed that either. The nurse even called us while we were on vacation a few years ago to try to convince him he needed the statins even though his numbers were fine. He politely told her no. And that diabetes diagnosis? What diabetes? His numbers have been fine for years and today’s blood pressure was 100/67, so my almost 63 year old husband is doing well.
We were told that the VA tends to redefine acceptable ranges for blood work when other agencies do, typically lowering them and ultimately giving Big Pharma a whole new batch of customers in the process. It’s all well and good to try to keep veterans healthy, but lowering numbers results in more drugs prescribed along with more drugs still to handle the side effects and new conditions said drugs create. It all seems counterproductive at best, negligent at worst. I know, because Jerry experienced it and stopped cooperating with them. And all the negotiations made to lower drug costs presumably to save taxpayer dollars fly right out the window as more veterans are prescribed more drugs to offset side effects. Jerry calls it farming. I’m not so sure he’s wrong.
Again, we all agree that our veterans are worthy of our care and support. Well, the crazy guy running for President seems to be an exception. But most of us recognize the sacrifices veterans and their families have made for this country and feel that Congress has let them down. They don’t need privatized care because doctors evidently need to charge far more than the government wants to pay, dentists as well. So if Republicans expect privatized care to be the answer, they’re either craven or clueless. We’ve experienced this firsthand and it’s just not workable.
If the Republicans in Congress would have actually governed these last eight years instead of behaving like racist jackasses, then maybe the VA would have been fully funded and appointments could be scheduled in a way that actually makes sense. But as we all know, that hasn’t happened and with any luck, voters will throw these freeloaders out of office and elect lawmakers who actually care about our country and our veterans who have given everything for our protection.
So many of the faces I saw today are framed with white hair. My husband turns 63 in December and is no different. These amazing people protected us when we needed it the most, and like my husband, events went a little sideways and now here we all are. They each have a kind word for everyone they see. The staff members who take care of our veterans do all they can to see that our vets have everything they need and we both thank them profusely for that. You’d think providing for our veterans’ care would be just as uppermost in our lawmakers’ minds as well.
November is coming. So are voters.