VA Parable

I was asked if I could pick one thing that described why the VA could go awry for deserving veterans. I thought about it a moment and replied that I believed that it was the people who forgot –or didn’t believe in the first place– that they were there to help veterans. Thank God the majority of people I run into with the VA are totally dedicated to helping veterans get their due. But for a few, it’s all about them. It’s all about things running according to their sensibilities or sensitivities, the way they see it, and the rules and intent be damned. It’s all about them and not the vets.

When you run into this, it’s no different than the few elected people in Congress creating trouble for everyone while driving us away from solutions the nation needs now. They are more embroiled and familiar with the party line than they are the needs of the nation. With people like that in the positions they hold, the nation doesn’t stand a chance to correct it’s problems and regain the respect it lost by virtue of the actions of these few. The same thing happens with the VA when some VA worker prosecutes a personal agenda instead of leading the charge in favor of the veteran.

I’m lucky. My primary care provider and his staff make everything they do about the vets. They manage to stay within the guidelines by knowing the guidelines and accommodating them as they work to assist vets. It is all about us with them, and everything they do shows it. They form a highly visible contrast between themselves and those who are just there to collect a paycheck while they take a Sorcerer’s Apprentice perspective of waving their hands with a partially known incantation while they hope that magic handles the rest. I suspect that about 10% of the people who work for the VA are a-holes who shouldn’t be there, and in a private medicine environment would have been thrown to the wolves a long time ago. But government jobs are the hardest jobs to lose, and so less than stellar employees can weather an entire career of their goldbricking and get away with it.

It’s fortunate that the number of misplaced workers is so low. As it is, they manage to get into positions to do a lot of damage and cause the eyes of the world to see only the negatives of a huge agency. The VA is a huge agency and there are, as a consequence, a lot of places for worthless employees to end up, and Murphy’s Law tends to put them in places where their inappropriate thrusts tend to badly effect sizable groups of deserving clients. When they do their typical lackluster job it is the other size of the coin, the 90% of great people working for the VA, who will find a way past the thwarting the problematic VA employee to the benefit of a veteran in their charge.

That’s happening with me right now, in fact. The VA has had my situation reevaluated and determined me eligible for a mobility scooter and a vehicle adapted to carry it and myself. This is big doings for a vet. I could talk till I was blue in the face and many people still wouldn’t understand the positive effects of mobility on the quality of life for a vet. Sure, on the surface they get it, they understand that greater independence equates to a higher self esteem and a greater involvement in society. But the ramifications of personal freedoms goes on and on in thousands of little ways. We’re more likely to go somewhere if we can put ourselves in a vehicle and go out into the world. That makes us out doing healthier things more often and lessening the need we have for medical services. Not only does personal mobility act as a convenience, it also positively impacts the health of disabled vets. Their heightened actions reduce or even pause the atrophy of body system, saving tons of money in medical assistance that isn’t required because of the heightened activity of the veteran. This is not merely a matter of making a vet smile, it’s about making the system better by making its resources go farther and do a greater measurable good for the patient.

My doctor wants me in a scooter that deals with the outside world on the basis I confront it. He understands that saying “here’s a scooter, go where it lets you” is a much different circumstance from saying “here is the scooter you need for the life you want and need.”  The better attitude not only assists veterans, it reduces the cost and resource uses of veterans, permitting more veterans to be helped. But for the little empire builders with their crafted fifedoms, the VA would be a smooth operating machine which rarely would find bad representation in the media.

VA regulations are a lot like the Holy Bible. It is so in the way that there is something within the Good Book for literally everyone. Virtually any side of an argument can be defended by biblical citation. The same can be said of VA regulations. For the concerned care giver, the regulations are a huge board of options which they manipulate to get a deserving vets some help. But just as people can misuse the words of the Bible, the Koran, or a Tora to justify good, it can be used to justify bad. The people who stand out in religion are those who press the ideals of their faith rather than their own agendas. They are less likely to quote the bible than to advise on what’s right. The VA is the same way. Those with flowing beards and a set of regulation bearing tablets under their arms cause a lot of grief to pass before their steely eyed perspective. The quiet ones who just want to help don’t get the same spotlight. But they should, because on their work is founded the tremendous assistance that the VA is to disadvantaged veterans. Without their efforts, I would not have the advantages afforded me, I would be likely be dead as per the original prognosis’ for me. But their quiet work and solid support has kept me alive, and with enough piss and vinegar to stand here and talk about what is right and wrong in terms of the VA.

I know that I will get a new scooter. If the VA physical therapy people in Spokane don’t wish to get off their butts and do the job they’re supposed to do, we will bypass them and work things through another way. Perhaps working with Medicare we can get me the scooter I need. I know that in the end I will prevail in one way or another, and so I can relax on my faith in those I know who have my best interests at heart.