Yes but No

I’m right now in the middle of a quagmire. Of course, all I should need to say is that I’m working with the VA in order to get agreeable nods to the association of the VA to quagmires. They’re never a surprise to anyone who deals with the VA. I owe my existence to the VA and so I feel a bit pressed to criticize, but because the VA could do a lot better, I don’t think it hurts to point out the weak areas. Once acknowledged, they can be improved.

As I was laying out my papers and clothing last night I was watching TV while getting my stuff ready for the morning. I had an appointment today with the Physical Therapy people at the VA to select the appropriate scooter for my needs. The television showed and attractive woman garbed in the blue medical tech and nursing outfits used by some VA staff. She talked about how much she loved working at the VA and invited other medical people to apply to join the family. But part of what she went on an on about was how the VA allowed her to spend whatever time she needed on her patients. This caused a head-on collision in my brain with the certain knowledge of the VA’s 20 minute rule. Patients visiting the doctor’s office are accorded a maximum of twenty minutes. Doctors who fail to observe this limit get fired for the offense of placing a patient’s needs over the scheduling wisdom of the VA. My first Primary Care Physician took tons of time to discover what was wrong with me. She tried every test in the book and her tenacious work finally resulted in the Multiple Myeloma diagnosis. Her work finally brought answers and physical relief for me, and she was fired by the VA for taking the time to do that for me and the other patients of hers who she felt needed more time as well. I have always had a deep seated anger with the VA for repaying her kindness with such a severe punishment as termination, and so when I saw that television commercial I had a minor case of apoplexy followed by a bout of Tourette’s Syndrome as a stream of vulgarities emitted from my voicebox. All advertising is a load of hooey, but leave it to Uncle Sam to look straight into the camera and tell a bald faced lie. Better to have had the commercial say that as it was, patients are only accorded twenty minutes and so the VA was desperate for highly qualified personnel to come on board to help out in a very rewarding profession.

The day today dawned bright and clear and very chilly. The sky was so clear that it reached all the way into space, and the desperate cold of the void was flowing down to surround and cool the world. Today was the day I knew would go awry. Each time I have had dealings with this particular VA department, things have gone terribly wrong and took forever to do so.  Had it not been so annoying a set of experiences I would liken it to watching an episode of Keystone Cops. I was sent there by my Primary Physician to get a scooter to take me out to flying fields as well as on outdoor expeditions, shopping or whatever. But the technician decided it was more important to get me a scooter that we could carry in our car trunk, and so caused me to get a scooter that was, even disassembled, too heavy to lift. The scooter spends most of its time sitting in the garage. I did use it for a couple of hours this last summer, but it worked out badly. For two years now my doctor and I have been trying to get the right scooter, and all I have managed is to come up short. When I first got referred and they demanded I take the inappropriate scooter, they then forgot about ordering it for two months until my nagging pointed out their oversight. Then they ordered the wrong scooter and I had to wait while they sent it back and had the right one delivered. Then, the right one was indeed the wrong one, as history has well shown. They gave me a little travel scooter, made for ultra lightweight duty. It is placarded against use on any but solid, flat surfaces and inclines of 3 degrees or less. It’s the wrong thing.

Anyway, today I went in and was shown exactly the scooter I need, except it was the small wheeled version. I need the larger wheeled version. I was told that I could have the one with little wheels which cannot negotiate through gravel, sand or grass, and has a low cruising speed. I cannot have the one which is literally the same exact body, drive system, seating and controls, but has the wheels appropriate to my needs. I expected things to go amiss and they did. There is apparently no way that I am going to get the VA to provide me a scooter appropriate to my needs. And, of course, there is no reason that this should happen, except for the way that the VA system is not uniform across the facilities. In many cases, and this is one, services are performed (or not) because of the way this or that employee of the VA chooses to see things. So while I have the paperwork from the Regional Administrative off ices of the VA which say I am supposed to get a scooter appropriate to my specific needs, and a vehicle specially adapted to carry it, because of a whimsical choice within the local department empire, there is no way I will ever actually receive this benefit.

They’re talking about cutting 10% of the VA programs as a part of national economic belt tightening. Perhaps before they cut back on those benefits, they might look at how many vets are actually getting the benefits under consideration for reduction. On paper it might look like millions of dollars are spent because the money is budgeted, but the reality of how many of the projected vets actually got the benefits might be miniscule, meaning the reduction won’t reduce very much.

As to me, I guess I will give a call to the Scooter Store and see what I can do with Medicare and my own financial contribution. I have much more important things to be spending my money on, limited as it is. But my doctor is adamant that I need to spend more time out of doors and getting some exercise rather than vegitating in front of a video screen. So it is time to remember that the VA isn’t necessarily reliable, and that sometimes the only way to get something done right is to do it one’s self.  Of course, it’s disappointing to think that I have to take this on myself, given that the VA totally agrees with me on the matter. That is, all save the people of one little local department.