I have written many positive things about the care I have received at VA hospitals. There are some amazing people who work there, and listen to patients. I have received medication that would not have been available to me because of cost, like Viagra and Remicade. I would be missing fingers and toes had it not been for the VA.
I have experienced and witnessed backlogs in the VA Health Care System since 1994. What I find so shocking, is that in 2014, people are just now learning this, or at least willing to acknowledge it. I was at the he Loma Linda, California VA, 2001-2013. During the ramp up to Iraq, veterans were waiting more than three hours to see a doctor, two hours to get a prescription filled, and stand in line over an hour for travel pay, while we were waiting, Fox News would be on TV, making a case for war in Iraq. Veterans with their respective war or command ball caps, would gladly talk about how we needed to go to Iraq. How easy the war would be, and how Iraqi oil would pay for the cost, yet they sat there as casualties of prior wars, waiting ridiculous amounts of time to have their continuing war wounds treated and were so willing to put men and women in harm’s way, with a back-logged Veteran’s System. To say I was puzzled, is an understaement.
I was receiving my health care at the VA Facility in Loma Linda, and locally in Murrieta, California, thanks to “golden insurance” provided by our small business. Both health care systems were crowded. Murrieta had a population of about 39,000 when we first moved there in 2001. By 2004, the population had jumped to nearly 90,000. I remember being in the ER at my local hospital in 2003 during one of my visits, when my blood pressure was high, and there were four of us in one room. There were pregnant women in the hallways. I was waiting to see them stack us in bunk beds. The local healthcare system had been flooded with new families moving to Temecula Valley, attracted by affordable homes.
I bring the overcrowding of private hospitals into the conversation because I saw both systems become overcrowded because of poor planning. The community of Temecula Valley, built thousands of houses, but forgot to have infrastructure in place. just as the United States started two wars, without preparing for service members when they became veterans. There was a whole lotta of cheering, flag waving and saber rattling, but no plan. We didn’t learn from Vietnam. We didn’t learn from Desert Storm. We were a country cheering about how great we were, and “getting” bad guys. I even quit listening to Howard Stern, because he said, “Gas prices will pay for the war.” I was making my bed I heard that. I remember what color sheets I was putting on the bed. I was placing the flat sheet, folding it down, heard what he said, stopped what I was doing, walked over and turned off the stereo. I don’t know if he was kidding. Maybe I was just hypersensitive. Maybe I was just the hysterical female I was used to being called when I was in the Navy, and at nursing stations in VA hospitals.
And Howard Stern wasn’t saying anything that wasn’t being said all over radio, television and at kitchen tables. Eventually, I discovered progressive radio and it gave me hope, but over the years, statements that could fit on a bumper stickers seemed to prevail over facts.
We have a long way to go in order to solve veteran’s healthcare. This is not news to patients like me, but it amazes me how upset people are getting now, the people who knew the problems of overcrowding existed, and experienced it first hand. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled people are finally upset about this. Over the years, I have learned to live within the system by speaking up and crashing clinics like college classes. Veterans are finally speaking up about backlogs. I’m not sure if I am angry because it’s taken so long, or because it seems to fit the narrative. I just hope now that people are talking about it, it will actually receive the change needed, or just be part of political campaigns and fade away after elections.