PHX VA Town Hall Meeting 06/04/2015

I had the opportunity to attend a PHX VA Town Hall Meeting. I arrived early as always and just wanted to get the feel for the meeting. It was quite a good turn out and there were many different era’s of Veterans that were in attendance. The Hospital Director and the Regional Office Director was present along with the PHX VA Chief Medical Officer.

My entire purpose of being there was to show support for my fellow Veterans and listen to the issues that other Veterans face. I can tell you first hand, there are too many to count. It would be different if it was just wait times or secret waiting list, there’s a bigger issue at hand. The culture of the VA needs to change. Training employees need to happen, they need to be better equipped and prepared when they arrive to work. They need to understand the importance of their job. And that job needs to be recorded and documented to provide better feed back of patient care.

Now I wasn’t going to speak out about any of my issues, but my friend James stood up and pointed out that within the crowd of Veterans he can only point out 3 at the most that were OIF/OEF Veterans and that those Veterans are too disgruntle and want nothing to do with the VA. So that sparked me to want to speak.

As always when I speak of my issues its emotional, because of the long ride that I have been on. 11 years of unknown questions and 11 years of pain that no one can seem to get rid of. After talking I was whisked away by VA staff to speak with a supervisor who can help answer my questions and look at my records. At first I was, this is amazing, I am finally able to speak to someone that really is going to look at everything and they are going to see that I am not crazy. But then I realized, why is it taking me coming to a Town Hall meeting to get this type of information. Why can’t I just walk into the VA and get this exact treatment. Something to ponder on? But the Supervisor was able to access the infamous C-File and found all of the information that I was told was there. Seems that in March of 2008 I had an MRI done that found Spinal Stenosis, Bulging Disks, Radicapathy of the right leg and confirmed my Degenerative Disk Disease. The exact same MRI was conducting March 2015 after fighting with my PCP that these conditions existed. The latest MRI showed exactly the same conditions but much worse. So in the end, the VA ended up wasting money on an MRI to determine information that was already there they the PCP couldn’t access. The Supervisor laughed because the wording on the initial claim done by the DOD acknowledged those conditions as disabilities, but didn’t acknowledge them as needed to be forwarded.

So the Supervisor added the reference to my C-File and attached it to my Claims so the Claims department can see and determine that I already had these conditions and since 2008 the have not been treated, because the failure of DOD and the VA to not transcribe and verify my Files.

I received a call this morning that my case was in the Que and everything looked correct and that the new files have been added to my claims. But again….it took a Town Hall Meeting to make this happen. I am grateful for the meeting, but the fact remains, why couldn’t I get this accomplished with the VA on normal terms. Again, something to ponder? Maybe a new position or clinic where your records are scrubbed and verified – If something doesn’t look right you bring the Vet in and get it fixed. Maybe better access to my files that belong to me so that I can verify information and then ask the VA to fix information that is incorrect.

As I was leaving I got to speak with the Directors and the Regional VP. They truly are trying to fix this mess and we all came to the same conclusion. They can’t do this alone and Veterans can’t do this alone. We have to work together to make a difference in our Hospital, because at the end of the day its the Veterans Hospital.

Some notes:

Primary Care providers should have full access to all records – Solution – Some type of Privacy Act Statement from the Veteran to View all records.

Better communications between DOD and VA: Solution – When Veteran leaves service and applies for VA, there should be a welcome package, an initial evaluation, and PCP assignment right after or before separation. When I left active duty they stopped all medication and I was pretty much on my own from there.

Being as though the VA where the original creators of Digital Medical Records, they are behind the curve: The entire system needs evaluated. All records should be accessed from one database from any VA anywhere. Their shouldn’t be the answer, “I have to get those records faxed from another facility. This is about the easiest implementation out there and I’ll come in and do it for free.

One last note about all of this. I feel that the disconnect and major issues at the VA stem around the complex world of networking. I made the comment last night that every Veteran Generation see the VA differently and needs different care in different ways and wants different things from the VA. An older Vet may need that reminder about an appointment, but as a technical guy, I keep up with my appointments in my phone. Things like that the VA needs to look at.

My final opinion is this. The VA needs to be transparent and cohesive. I should be able to walk into any VA Facility and receive the same care, some determination and the same customer service, no matter what state I am in. Time and time again since this scandal I have heard, “My VA is perfect, there’s nothing wrong with my care.” I’ll give you an example. Walmart is a very large organization. Currently they maintain 4117 stores across the country. When you walk into a Walmart in Florida you will have the same layout as if you walked into a Walmart in California. Now sometimes the cold food is on the left or on the right, but cohesion still applies. You know where everything is and its familiar. Its designed that way to make you feel comfortable and to make your trip faster. Now this can’t exactly apply to VA because hospital layouts are different, but as with Walmart the same comfort and speedy feel of shopping there can exist the same way within the walls of the VA. Train all employees the same across the board from cost to cost. Have programs in place to help navigate the VA. Make records readily accessible. The one thing that many Shoppers of Walmart take for granted is the greeter. They may be there to help you return an item or to make sure your not stealing things, but they have a specific job. They are the same smiling face you see every time you come. Its that comfort when you walk through the door. But they also have a job you don’t know or use. They are trained to know where everything is or where you can find an item. When I first walked into the PHX VA. I felt lost, confused and had no idea where and what I needed to do. Didn’t even know where the Emergency room was. Key not….many Vets don’t ask for help. Its just who we are and how we were trained. That smiling face, warm hello, how can I help  you, could go along way.

Okay, enough of my rant today. I’m just grateful that I was able to experience this Town Hall Meeting and I hope that more Veterans participate and I hope that the Veterans that asked for help last night received that help last night. It’s up to us to make a change and become entrepreneurs to the VA change.

As always, “One Veteran can make a change, but 24 Million Veterans can start a movement” ~Brian Gibbs

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