Brain-injured vets getting lost in the VA
I found this in the Opinion Section of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It dovetails with an article I was already writing and nicelly illustrates the enormous problem of finding enough doctors and specialists to adequately care for our heroes that need treatment NOW. I’ve decided to post it now and follow up with just released GAO testimony relating to the problem which will appear in my next post. “Stay tuned.”
By Kevin Ferris
Published on: 11/12/07
Allen McQuarrie is looking for a few good doctors. He wants them to volunteer their time and talents to their local Veterans Administration hospital. Nothing against the quality of the folks already working there. The problem is. there simply aren’t enough doctors and specialists to go around for diagnosis and treatment — or to guide vets through the bureaucratic maze.
Worse, one of the current conflict’s signature wounds — brain injuries — makes it difficult for some vets to juggle the appointments, record-keeping and other demands the VA puts on them.
“We’re doing a wonderful job of getting the wounded off the battlefield and into a hospital in Germany and then back here,” McQuarrie says. “But continuing care once they’re out of the military is what needs systemic change.”
McQuarrie learned of the system’s shortcomings because of his son Doug, a 21-year veteran of the Navy SEALs who has back and brain injuries sustained in combat and training.
Doug McQuarrie has shuttled from the VA to civilian doctors, while trying to hold down a job and support his family in Virginia. The civilians say he needs immediate care, but the VA can’t see him for months – although he can call daily, hoping for a cancellation.
Allen McQuarrie has tried to help from his home in Doylestown, Pa., calling the VA but also seeking assistance from senators and representatives. In the process, he’s learned that Doug’s case isn’t unique — and that the VA desperately needs help.
Despairing and angry, he wrote to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.): “It may be better for our men and women to come home dead than to suffer such painful and ultimately mortal deterioration.”
In the same letter, he asked for emergency legislation to encourage civilian doctors to “adopt” vets and provide the immediate neurological care many need. He suggested tax incentives and improved military insurance to help offset the volunteers’ costs.
McQuarrie’s hopes for a more responsive, faster-acting VA are shared by others including Congress’ Veterans Disability Benefits Commission.
One commission member, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, emphasizes three required changes.
Have a single review for disabilities. Now there are two.
Streamline the record-keeping process as vets move from care by the Defense Department to the VA.
Adopt the technology that will improve efficiency and speed up treatment.
And don’t worry about the costs.
(there is more to this story in the AJC – click on the link above and read the rest)
Now you have a flavor of the problem: Not enough doctors to go around, too much paperwork, not enough technology – as viewed from the patient/family side of the problem. Stay tuned for the recent GAO Testimony on the problem, coming up in my next post.