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A quick little tip that pays off well and a true story afterwards.
The V.A. is made up of people that vary in their willingness to do their job- some are way good and some between and others are unspeakably, willfully, negligent.
One thing I noticed that worked to get V.A. to do its duty is HAVE A WITNESS when you are seen- even in the exam room. This is better than wearing a wire. It forces the human working for V.A. to stop pretending their interests come first. (Sound familiar?)
A family member usually can be trusted to either be mute, speak up, and watch, even take notes, for you. Up to you to decide which.
When two people are together, one asking, the other empowered to give, the giver has all the power. When there are three people, suddenly, bullsh.t does not fly so well. Platitudes and generalizations fall flat. There are ineffable dynamics that tip towards truth rather than to the V.A. person burning up the clock towards their next coffee break when a third party is present.
Invisibly disabled in spinal cord means the prejudices of people run them if they are careless. An MRI, expert finding, absent reflex, region of numbness are nothing compared to the power of negligence as a habit. After a year of this negligence (seeking disability benefits, DAV says …Go to V.A. and get help for your untreatable problem… so I did) I became truly unable to stand or walk. Still, the VA hospital had an attitude about me, had seen me around, and set their faces against me. I had no choice but call my brother (I normally keep family out of V.A.) and ask him to carry the new MRIs to X-ray. Note- my spinal cord does not stretch and is utterly in control of my body position when it gets bad from overactivity- this was the case that day.
My brother arrives after some time, helping me and the films get up to X-ray (this was 1993-4). In the short line, I could no longer stand, so laid down on low table. Xray peeps demanded I get off the table, so I was helped to the floor. They instructed my brother to get me a wheelchair- he knows better- asks for a gurney. They all denied it. They refused to imagine a normal looking person could require a gurney.
My brother is cut from the same cloth as myself- we do not cut nor run nor tear. But he was not conditioned (as military members are) to just go along to get along, sort of follow authority leads. He raised his voice. He then YELLED. He then said HE would go find an effin gurney.
What did VA do? They called the VA police.
My brother so icy cool, asked if the VA police brought a gurney with them!
Finally, some person high up at that VA appeared, nameless in expensive clothes, says …Take him on gurney to see the PR person (that stands for Patient Representative, not what it really is- Public Relations control). And so we went.
The P.R. person (supposed to take my side, right?) took the V.A. side and said …Dr So and so says you are not disabled… so my brother asks …Why did he offer to operate on an inoperable back problem then?… The dialog went on like this- the DAV guy was right- going to V.A. made me face the V.A. while my ability to walk and move declined and V.A. just played dumb.
The PR person is told we want to speak to their supervisor. Then another supervisor. Then we are routed back to the P.R. person who accompanies us to the HMFIC at that VA hospital- it is notable the walls are in wood panels, with colorful drapes, and expensive looking stuff in his or her office (memory does fade). The P.R. person says …Well, we will send you to the SCI unit (Spinal Cord Injury and Dysfunction unit) so you can see what a spinal cord disabled person looks like at that hospital..
See what my brother started by merely standing up as a witness?
When I got to that SCI-D unit (dysfunctioned spinal cord) they saw me for a year but took minutes to do sharp-dull tests with a needle to confirm the level of my spine that was numb (behind my back- objective evidence) and matched it to the leg problems. It took minutes but took me about 14 years to get that few minutes of expertise.
That was about 1995-6. Now, 20 years later, the V.A. has decayed, become corrupt, PCP prescribing psychiatric drugs and not knowing it, nor why (antidepressant for chronic pain does help despite side effects) nor how the drugs work. Psychiatrists act out their own mental problems openly, lacking any third party witness. Other psychiatrists that forget why they prescribed a pill (for pain not depression, off label use) stick to my being depressed because they cannot remember two years before, two years before, and the original appointment and my original request. Drugs are now removed for chronic pain that work, owing to a new pop craze, called the opioid crisis, not the more apt Fentanyl Crisis. Doctors prescribe one thing, another doctor merely takes over and sends something else. Everyone able to hid behind their staff and the telephone and ability to no longer create PAPER medical records with their PHYSICAL signature.
This necessity for witnesses can help most of you- if you have an apt family member with good self control. The mere existence of a third party forces V.A. outside its magnificent ability to deter with bullcrap and verbosity and citations that other vets need them right now. If THOUSANDS of us started having a witness, the V.A. itself may start to change back to its former functionality.
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Hello veterans! A quick little tip that pays off well and a true story afterwards. The V.A. is made up of people that vary in their willingness to do their job- some are way good and some between and others are unspeakably, willfully, negligent. One thing I noticed that worked to get V.A.