Next week Memorial Day will be observed in our country. It is a solemn holiday where we pay tribute to the men and women who died serving in the US military. While we honor those who gave all, this is a good time to also remember our veterans who survived the horrors of war and came home. As a healthcare professional I have been extremely concerned with the health care these heroes deserve, but have not received.
The Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest integrated healthcare system with over seventeen hundred sites of care, serving 8.76 million veterans every year. However, the VA has been plagued with many examples of neglect and abuse. In 2014 at least forty veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix facility. Many were placed on a secret waiting list which was part of a scheme by managers at that site who were trying to hide the fact that fourteen hundred to sixteen hundred sick vets had to wait months to see a doctor. Two lists were revealed, one showing timely appointments was to go to Washington, DC, and the real list, hidden from all where wait-times could go as long as a year. Evidence of this was shredded by the staff. It has been discovered that one hundred ten VA facilities used the secret patient waiting list to cover up the patient’s long wait times. This led to the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, but only three employees involved in this were fired.
Other problems found at facilities included:
Cockroaches in the kitchen at Edward Hines Jr. VA hospital in Chicago. The infestation got into the patient’s food.
Suicide hotline which goes to voice mail. When answered, patients frequently get a runaround.
Drugs passed out like candy in Tomah, Wisconsin facility. Hospital nicknamed “candy land”. Most of the prescriptions were for pain killers and many of the vets appeared doped up by narcotics.
Elderly veterans neglected in the VA hospital in Puerto Rico. Patients were left in their own filth and denied food and water.
Employees put medical records of patients on Facebook. Over ten thousand privacy breaches were found since 2011.
Some patients with hepatitis C had their drugs withheld. There was rationing of crucial medications.
With all of the afore-mentioned neglect and abuse no employees were fired. Unfortunately, the wait times, the abuse and neglect is prevalent in VA facilities throughout this country. Included in the list is the famous Walter Reed Medical Center, where those conditions also exist.
The VA has seen several Secretaries and all have failed to make any decent changes. The latest is Dr. David Sulkin, who is a physician but not a veteran. Hopefully, he can make some significant changes so that our veterans do not have to endure the monstrous conditions that have been described.
There are several things that must be done to change this outrageous situation:
More veterans must be allowed to seek medical care with private doctors and the VA should inform the veterans that this is an option.
Employees not performing, or who are guilty of abuse or neglect, must be fired. Change the culture of no accountability at the VA.
Give the VA the resources it needs but make sure that they are allocated better.
Restructure the VA healthcare system.
Modernize the VA health care IT system.
There should be an ombudsman available to the veterans at every facility.
At every entrance to a VA facility, there should be a sign that reads: “You have a CHOICE. If you are not informed in a timely manner about outside medical care, medications, appointments or wait-times, tell the ombudsman ASAP.”
What is happening to our veterans in these facilities across America is ludicrous. The men and women who gave so much so that we may live in a free Republic, deserve the best. They are not getting the best. The Liberals are hell-bent on doing everything they can for illegals and “refugees”. That concern should be transferred to our veterans.
Last word: As we honor those who have given all, let’s honor those who are still with us and have given so much. Let’s demand quality healthcare for our veterans.