Y’all might have noticed that I’ve posted a couple of very task specific entries to the blog the last couple of days and might be asking why now, why the push of information about filing a VA claim and the bewildering plethora of related data. Good and fair questions. If you weren’t wondering then that is okay as well, because I’m going to try to explain it all right now. In previous posts I wanted to express to any and all veterans the importance of arming oneself with the proper information. This is very fresh in my own skull since I just re-re-opened my own claim so I can provide additional relative information to strengthen the facts in my own file in hopes that I can get an increase in my own personal rating from the VA.
My process actually started in March of 2014, not with the claim, but with my claim in mind. I fulfilled a large portion of the leg work to eventually get the ball rolling. How so? Up until then I wasn’t in the medical portion of the VA, only in the claims side. But, when I was laid off I soon found myself in dire straights. Forget everything else, I was finding out fast that I was headed for a dilemma which if not contained may have had some major health complications involved. Why? I’m an insulin dependent diabetic. If you aren’t aware of the nature of that beast just look it up. So, my number one priority was to contain that fire before it spread. Since I was already in the system and a VA card holder, enrolling for medical benefits was simple enough, time consuming, yet fairly easy, even for a simpleton such as myself. Good grief I blew through some trees filling out that paperwork, it was insane, it was as if they couldn’t share the same sheet of paper in my file around the office, everyone needs a completely originally signed document in order to proceed. That is nothing compared to the mountain of papers (records and reports) I face at this exact moment. I have mentioned what a pain in the ass the VA makes the process, haven’t I?
As well, at the time of my lay off I was in line to do an exploratory and maintenance surgery on my knee to clear away debris, old hardware, and torn ligaments. Being told beforehand they couldn’t repair anything since it would only complicate things down the road. I had an my surgery date, I had time arranged to be off from work, and then I’m laid off. Talk about coming to a screeching halt, Yea, dead in my tracks, cancel all plans until further notice. Being laid off screwed up allot, allot more than I will mention here. Then, and only then did I considered enrollment into the VA medical program, something my wife says I should have done back in 2000, but I was stubborn, I had private insurance, I saw no need in being in VA medical. For the most part I was right, everyone hears the horror stories about veterans trying to get care, getting the wrong care, how slow the process is, and the same mistakes made over and over. Who wants to be a part of that kind of mess? But then, who do I turn to in my true time of need, who do I expect to be waiting there for me at the edge of the red carpet, you guessed it, the VA. I will be one, of millions who can attest to the slowness of the VA. Fuck their timelines because they look good on paper but have no relation in real time with real people, and that blows ass for every single one of us veterans.
Reluctantly, yet willingly, I got “in line” and jumped into the process. The process wasn’t hard, but it was time consuming, lucky for me, at the time, all I had was time on my hands. I had four months to ride this pony for the big show or it wasn’t going to happen. It took longer, duh, and when I was hired to a new company last October I hated the fact that I needed to take time off here and there to button up all the loose ends, and there were allot of loose ends. I was seen multiple times at the clinic’s version of an orthopedics office, where we discussed my direct interest in seeing the orthopedic surgeon downtown. But there is a process, first the PA has to be convinced of a “need” before we “bother” the busy orthopedic surgeons with what might all be in my head. In my fucking head you say? Let’s review, for the sake of argument, that this PA went through my private sector medical records, my military medical records, started my new VA medical records, the MRIs, the CT Scans, the x-rays, the exams, and so forth, and this motherfucker was convinced ALL of my pain was in my head. Look, I know real pain and I know manifested pain, there is a distinct difference. As well, I know that there is very little help in eliminating the pain of degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, and that steroid enhanced visco supplementation injections are a sick fucking joke. There is NO over the counter medications or prescription medications which can stop the pain of bone on bone contact. Just ask me, I have tried many, many combinations, and get the same result, pain. Hyaluronan injections (rooster comb) are nice and beautiful by design, but I don’t just have arthritis is my knee.
Finally, somehow, someway, I convinced the PA to give me the recommendation I was wanting, after a final review I was scheduled to finally see an orthopedic surgeon, 13 months after originally asking. My first visit to the orthopedic surgeon gave me the impression the doctor was blown away with the damage in my knee and he was a little shocked I was still walking. The overall decay within the joint is estimated, by him and one other doctor, to be a 97% coverage. At first he discussed surgery to remove the weight bearing of the joint to shift it more out to the outside, but after further review, eight weeks later, I was told I’m not a candidate because I would need the unloader surgery on both sides, which cant be done. My only option was to have my knee replaced. However, that option is gone as well because it is claimed that because I’m under the age of 50 that the VA will not do that particular surgery. Even though the governing regulations state that age cannot be used as a determining factor but is still an option of the individual physician. Nice double talk, right? Right. In reality, I was told to tough it out, move on with my life, and just try to “take it easy” for the next 4 years. Needless to say, I’m beyond pissed. What a fucking joke! Now I can’t get treatment? Isn’t the VA here to take care of my service connected injury? Seems that the answer is they will do it at their leisure. Hell, I don’t mind waiting in line if that is the issue, I know times are tough, money is tight, and y’all are having your asses handed to you by the media and the investigations right now, but why just tell me flat out no.
I don’t take rejection well. I really don’t. I did my part. I played the game. I followed the rules. For what? For nothing, that’s what. I know, boohoo wo is me. Well, okay, getting up to go to work every day is a bitch. A bitch I don’t mind riding because there are bills to be paid. Plus, I’m not the kind to sit on my couch all day to watch Jerry Springer. I have a drive to get out and work, to be functional on a daily basis. I’m at a loss here. I decided, after a careful review of the entries into my visits to the doctor, where he cites in black and white, that I’m not a candidate for either surgery due to age and complications down the road in the future that “could” happen, and his recommendation is daily, regular doses of over the counter anti inflammatory medications and more quarterly injections. I will have my way, one way or another, so I re-re-opened my claim with the VA, providing all the supporting evidence from day one back in 1990 until now, to include findings from a civilian orthopedic surgeon which I see next week. We’re doing a review of my records to review treatment, and follow up with his recommendations. I really don’t give a shit about the money, I just want to get this knee fixed, hell or high water. It’s never been about the benefits, it never will be, it’s about not being taken of because of one jack asses opinion. In the end, my goal is to rattle enough cages to get my knee replaced, which is recommended by two VA surgeons and two civilian surgeons, so come on motherfuckers, replace it already.
Yes, y’all have found a sore subject with me. I’m tired of doing battle, the VA is supposed to be here to help me and fellow veterans, not give us the run around, not to deny us care, and certainly not to individually bend us over because it is the easier thing to do. They can kiss my hairy white ass first, I came to fight, I came to get what I need, I came to see that the VA does the right thing by me. Hopefully, my education along the way can be used by other veterans who are getting the big shaft. So, my plan is to continue writing and sharing information about how to make sure all your bases are covered. It doesn’t need to be a battle to receive care, the VA just makes it that way. I have friends within the VA system, many of them veterans, and they encounter the same bullshit the rest of us do. Who knows what will happen with my case/claim, anyway it turns out I hope that someone has read some of my postings and figured out how to get through to the VA. I know it is bureaucracy at work, policy and so forth, set in place to curb abuse and better promote the health and well-being of veterans, but it has backfired, and now we all suffer, thanks. Next time y’all think that we are being handed freebies, remember we are people too, we just want to live our lives as normally as possible.