Just as the Dublin VA hospital is laid out on an amazing grid which competes with Hogwarts in its complexity; the requirements to receive VA medical benefits consist of convoluted mazes of doctors, departments, committee meetings, changing (and confusing) laws, frustrated veterans and VA employees. Veterans are faced with situations where it is difficult to know what entitlements they have earned. If they are tenacious enough to find out, then following the path to attain these benefits can take years and a single minded persistence.
Last week at the Dublin VA, Carl C had a 10:00 dental appointment and an appointment in the Pain and Rehab Department at 1:30. He took the intervening time to roll into the Patient Advocate's office to research his August 2010 perscription/referral for a three wheel hand cycle. The mobility device will allow this wheelchair bound veteran to get around in rougher terrain than the world of sidewalks offers. The sidewalk offers long gazes into the woods and excursions into depression and PTSD while the off road world offers nature, state parks, rides with grandchildren, fresh air tingling in a man's face who has not felt the exhilaration of running in 42 years.
Heart doctors to determine good health, EKGs, paper shuffling, bouncing from Primary Care Manager to the Rehab Department to Prosthetics and over a year later and this claim has yet to become a reality. He is eligible to get it, but making it through the bureaucracy to produce this freedom-giving mobility device as a reality is taking immense commitment and focus - as has every benefit he has petitioned for in recent years. He paid in blood for these services and yet his attempts to collect are met with resistance and sometimes hostility.
Paperwork does not just land in the appropriate place at the VA institutions. The veterans and/or their service advocate must keep in constant contact with their applications or they languish in one department or another without ever being manifested.
VA employees have been mandated to spend less and less money. Frequent policy changes make for nightmarish working conditions. For the veteran, committee meetings to appeal for earned benefits resemble being on trial in a courtroom. Resounding no's come from the major medical inquisitorial teams and battered veterans roll, creep, and drag from the meeting room defeated by the system they fought for.
Laying blame becomes ridiculous. The United States of America is in trouble and drowning on sound bites. Large sections of our population revel in the creation of heartless laws which shrink our government and reduce access to services for our veterans.
If our wounded combat veterans are not entitled to RECEIVE their benefits, then who is?