Assessing the VA

The VA is on the hot seat at the moment, with plenty of kudos and plenty of cusses. Such is my experience with the VA system.

I am on the rolls at Wilkes-Barre, as that was the nearest facility when I went looking, more then 25 years ago. At least 20 years ago, I had developed a lump on my belly, so I gathered up my DD214 and my most recent income tax papers and reported to Wilkes-Barre. A lady in a cage perused my papers and gave me an appointment with a doctor a little later, who in turn gave me an appointment with a surgeon that afternoon, who avowed that he would take care of the matter that afternoon! “Whoa,” I protested, I might die and no one knows I’m here! I was given a phone to call my nephew, and the operation was on.

After the operation, I was transferred to a nearly empty ward, where I lay for a day and a half when, at my request, my nephew arrived to take me home. So, how do I complain? Yeah, the empty ward was no fun, but I’m a big boy and I can handle it. After all, I was two years in the army.

Service is not nearly that prompt anymore. You have an appointment with your “primary care provider,” who sets up an appointment with a doctor at some future time, probably at least a month. That doesn’t bother me too much, because I am disgustingly healthy and have few problems. But when I have an appointment which turns out to be nearly worthless, I am less than happy.

I am reluctant to cut my arrangement with the Wilkes-Barre VA Hospital, because I am perilously close to the big 80 and while I am quite healthy, it seems that I hear too often of bad things happening to old geezers like me.

I read of men who have had good experiences with the VA. I know it can happen and I am happy for them.

I have had experience with two other VA hospitals; one in Laramie, Wyoming, where I was welcome, but had few problems to be diagnosed; and one in Tucson, Arizona, where I was attending to my brother as he lost his battle with a too-late onset of prostate cancer. I went to the VA hospital there and wandered the halls until I found help. The VA hospitals are not all alike.

An appointment with a doctor of Wilkes-Barre costs $50, plus the cost of getting there (I have no service-connected disabilities) I can see a doctor at a clinic for less than that, with medicare. But I don’t want to lose touch with the VA as an alternate healthcare system.

Phillip Miller