Friday, February 2, 2007

A Veteran's Dilemma and Jonathan Schulze

Yesterday, I had a dentist appointment. My dentist is at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. It's 200 miles from where I live. There is a closer VA facility, 167 miles, but that's not where my records are. There are a couple of clinics closer still, but they don't have dental facilities. I don't have insurance to go to a dentist in private practice in my community. I am on a fixed income and can't afford to just go and pay for services that I need.

I feel fortunate to have health care. Even though it's a long drive to get there, I have health care and I must tell you, the VA does as good a job as any other HMO as far as outpatient care goes. That's my opinion. I thought about this yesterday as I was riding in a van provided by Douglass County Wisconsin Veterans Services.

You can catch the van at the Hardee's parking lot in Superior and Hardee's allows the Veterans to park there all day. The van leaves at 5:45 AM and gets you to the VA by 8:30 AM. Everyone has to wait for the last appointment to be over before we can ride home. Yesterday, the van didn't get back to Superior until 7:00 PM or so, then I had to drive the 65 miles to Ashland and home. It was a long day. But still, the ride is provided for $12.00. A lot cheaper than buying gas. It runs every day, M-F.

I thought about the men riding in the van yesterday. They all receive their health care from the VA. They are doing what they told me they would do when I was nineteen years old and in the Army. They said the VA will take care of you for the rest of your life, and they are. Trouble is, what it took to get it so I could get the care in the first place. A virtual nightmare.

I had to prove everything. When and where I was in the service. How much I owned in assets. If I had any other insurance. The really tough part is proving that your injuries or condition was caused by something that happened while you were in the service.

If you went in and said, "I have a mental problem and I want some help", and you are on the rolls as receiving health care, there is no problem. If you went in and said, "I have a mental problem and it was caused by my service", it's a whole other ball game. In the first case, they examine you and test you and see if you have a condition. In the second case, it's your responsibility to prove whether or not you have a condition. That's how it was for me.

As I sat in the waiting room waiting for my dental appointment, I read the local Minneapolis newspaper. There was a story about a Marine, along with two family members, who went to the VA Hospital in St. Cloud, MN and said he was thinking of commiting suicide and he and his family members thought he should be admitted. They turned him away and told him that there were 26 others ahead of him. He killed himself a few days later.

Read the story HERE. I'l list the URL because Blogger has not been allowing my links to work lately:

http://www.startribune.com/462/story/963363.html

This is a classic story about the system of the health care for the Veterans. Not any betrayal about the fine individual people who care for us when we walk through the door, but rather the bureaucracy we face to get funding for operation of any VA facility. The waiting times to make appointmets which is some times months. The procedure for giving prescriptions. The list goes on and on.

Yesterday, when I went to the dentist, there was a problem. Someone had made a mistake and my appointment was not on the computer screen. In their words, I didn't have an appointment. I know I did have an appointment and I traveled over 200 miles to get there and go to it.

I was seen by the Chief of Staff for the Dental Department. Then, I saw another dentist and had some X-rays. Then had some work done on a troublesome tooth. (By the way, they are going to give me a bridge for the four teeth I've been missing on the bottom for four years, and make me a partial for the one they pulled on the top last October).

You can be sure the word went out in the Central Region, and maybe in all of the VA that we better not turn away any more Veterans. That suicide made them look pretty damn bad. There is absolutely no excuse to be turned away when you are pleading for your life.

How does this relate to a Peace Blog? Simple. No War and the Marine wouldn't be dead from suicide brought on by the horrors of war that he couldn't control. No War, and the VA wouldn't be so overcrowded and unable to provide services to all who enter the buildings. No War and there would be more money and even better services for those that went before us into combat.

I was treated better than they had to treat me this time, and for a tooth, because they were under pressure, under scrutiny. Give it a month or so, It'll get back to normal. Long waits, mistakes in scheduling, broad generalized service, treatment of symptoms and no wellness programs. As for yesterday and my experience with receiving top notch class AAA service, all I can say is that I hope every Veteran gets that kind of service from now on, then maybe the Marine didn't have to give his life in vain.

Honor the Dead
Heal the Wounded
Work for Peace and End the War


Today I honor:

Jonathan Schulze
United State Marine
Semper Fi, Mac

9 comments:

Mary said...

I was heartbroken by the story of that Marine. I am glad you did this post. I hope the conditions are improved permanently.

betmo said...

one more rung in the ladder of a broken american system. we must fix our country!

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

I cannot help but think when I look at Jonathan's picture, "What a beautiful young man, what a life wasted." He really wanted help and he just couldn't endure the visions he was having each day.
That is very interesting that the VA went out of their way to work with you you even though they had made the mistake of not putting you into the computer because they are currently under scrutiny. If they could bend and stretch that far when under scrutiny, why not with Jonathan? See, I kept wondering why, if they had a long list of mental health patients and Jonathan was a emergency why he would not be put into private healthcare under the VA dime until the VA had room for him. Thanks for posting this story.

Donnie McDaniel said...

Semper Fi brother! You now guard the streets of heaven as the last verse to our song says.

Rest in Peace my brethren and know that you are not forgotten. We shall not forget and we shall fight for you. OohRah!!! Watch over us from above my brother, we will need all the help we can get.

We swore to defend the constitution and our nation. We shall die with that belief. We only expect to be treated with a little dignity and respect when it comes to healing our wounds. Is that too much to ask for?

No more! We are not going to stand by and let this happen without a fight! Rise up my brethren and take up your arms. We have been assaulted again. We don't have to use our weapons this time. We will use our wits and training. We shall use our numbers. We shall fight evil! We will let our voices be heard! WE ARE PISSED!!!

shutterwi said...

As a veteran and as a former military medic I believe the VA has the primary responsibility to treat those veterans seeking help.

It's a promise made that must be kept.

Having said that if any of the readers know of anyone suffering with thoughts of suicide here is one of the many national hot lines available.

Telephone: 800-273-TALK (8255)
Website: SAVE.org

RIP Jonathan Schulze
Semper Fi

Cravey said...

What a beautifully written utterly heartbreaking post.

JC

No said...

I wasn't going to comment on this as the place you're talking about is so close to home, but I found that I had to say something. I just don't what that something is except that this is sad, I can't say anything.

SAS said...

Veterans shouldn't have dilemmas, they should have peace. Heartbreaking all around. How could this happen? In a world?

No said...

Don't know if you knew this, but this story made national news today:

http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/family-of-iraq-vet-disputes-va-records/20070205133109990001?ncid=NWS00010000000001