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VA Rant

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VA hospitals are under attack right now. The whole country is suddenly aware of what every vet in the country knows and deals with every single time they want medical care. Half a dozen people this week have asked me, “What do you think of what’s going on at the Pheonix VA?”
Here’s what I tell them:
This is not news. Inadequate care is prevalent and built into the VA system. Every veteran knows that if they want good health care they are going to have to work hard to find it within the system and fight tooth and nail to receive it.
Is the system better than no health care at all? Of course. Is it what they were promised when they joined the military and risked, and in many cases lost, life and limb? Oh, hell no. Not even close.
We live in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the VA hospital here is one of the best in the nation. Some of the best nurses and psychologist and social workers I know work at the Fayetteville VA. Some of the worst are there too, but one quickly learns who to avoid when making an appointment. Telegraph, telephone, tell a vet. These guys look out for one another.
Veterans here fought hard to get alternative treatment for their post-traumatic stress. The VA now offers bio-feedback and acupuncture and rapid eye movement therapy and tapping. All excellent alternatives to opiates to control both physical and mental pain. But, this is the VA and when something is working, the solution is often to mess with it. It’s a bureaucracy. A beast not known for efficiency. A beast that eats tax dollars and poops poor results.
My husband, Jack, and four of his buddies are currently caught in this vise of VA bureaucracy and lack of funding. These are not peace-time soldiers and marines and airmen, all of these guys fought incountry. The moment the VA approved fee basis acupuncture as a treatment for pain, these guys signed up. They were already doing biofeedback and meditation and every damn thing they could come up with to stop the physical pain and relieve the anxiety and the rest of the PTSD symptoms. It wasn’t enough.
Jack came home from his first acupuncture appointment and, for the first time in years, lay down and slept without medication. Over the last year, I’ve watched all four of these guys get better. Their pain became manageable, their outlook on life improved, chronic problems like fibromyalgia and asthma and panic attacks all but disappeared.
Now the VA has stopped paying for acupuncture. The stated reason is that it’s costing far too much and that they are concerned with the quality of care. The VA claims to be hiring a chiropractor and says they will require he have 100 hours of acupuncture training. This will replace the miracle worker these guys have been seeing who’s been working full-time in the field for seven years. Hard to believe that will improve the care.
But the real issue, and the reason I’m angry enough to be writing this post, is that this acupuncture-trained chiropractor has not yet been hired, while approval of fee basis acupuncture has been terminated. These guys do not want to go back to opiates. They hate taking the pills, but with the pain returned and no relief in sight, they’re desperate for relief. Here’s where the story gets just plain ridiculous.
The VA is currently under scrutiny for its widespread practice of throwing narcotics by the suitcase full at veterans, and their solution is to deny any new prescription for narcotics. So decorated combat veterans wounded in the line of duty are caught in a vise. They can’t get the acupuncture that relieved the pain and now, because they worked hard to get off the pain meds and thus are technically asking for new prescriptions, they can’t receive the opiates either.
What a system.

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8 thoughts on “VA Rant

  1. This situation should concern all of us whether we have a combat veteran in our lives or not. They are the reason we walk free today, so if there’s something we can do, let us know. We should all be fighting for the rights of these courageous men to have what they need to make their lives more comfortable.

  2. We’re actually thinking of making up some sort of simply petition that we can ask people to sign so that when the guys go in to see the administrator, they have some extra power. Also, we’re thinking the local news media may be interested in knowing.

  3. Greta’s renter Erin works for knwa news, should i contact her? I will sign the petition or do whatever we need to do.
    The system is for sure broken. Connie

  4. Sorry to hear this. But the VA has always been pretty useless. My dad was badly wounded in WW2 and he was basically given the shaft when he got back. He was so disgusted with it that he dumped his medals, uniform and purple heart. My mom rescued the purple heart out of the trash. I think they gave him like $10, which even in the late 40s/early 50s was chump change considering his back was blown open and he had permanent nerve damage in his leg. I hope they get Jack’s acupuncture reinstated. I know people swear by it. This would be a great opportunity for a local acupuncturist to step up and offer treatment to veterans on a free or sliding scale.

  5. Is it possible that acupuncturist could teach wives and friends what particular points are the points to use, and how to insert a needle? Then the vets could get treatment at home whenever they needed it.

    • Only one of these guys has a wife and I’m pretty sure one of the reasons this particular acupuncturist obtains such good results is that she has incredible energy and knowledge. Still, that’s a good thought. If it really is as simple as putting the needles where they need to go, maybe when the VA finally gets their own acupuncturist, the results will be good for the vets. I’d like to think so.

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