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 Post subject: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 26, 2019 10:36 am 
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At my last VA appointment I had a fellow vet ask what VSO I was associated with. Having provided my response, I experienced great sadness. I had to answer that I am not associated with any VSO.
For many years I carried life membership in the Legion, the VVA, and Amvets. My past experience serving as a veteran advocate was extensive. I have served as a District Legion Commander in two states, working in varied capacities as a Department representative. While serving in New York State, I functioned as a Legion liaison working with Regular and Reserve Command structures to craft desperately needed programs to assist families of deployed personnel at the time of most intensive combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Far too many times, some of us were forced to expend personal funds to help loved ones of those deployed, to avoid their loss of housing and inability to provide for basic needs of their children. Seeing wives cry, having to deal with financial trauma while also having to fear for the safety of husbands in combat, was truly heartbreaking. Something had to be done to alleviate at least some of that fear.
The support of my wife was invaluable. She had worked as a nurse at the Fitzsimons Army Hospital, the VA, and then at a State Veterans Home facility. Her
experience led me to surrender my VSO life memberships and cease involvement in those veterans organizations.
While working as a Registered Nurse at the State Veterans Home, my wife had deeply troubling experiences and became aware of related experiences of fellow nursing personnel. She reported continuous failure to follow critical infection control practices and other significant oversights. For her, the breaking point came when a fellow nurse shared concern about the treatment of a patient.
The subject patient was being treated for open wounds that required daily treatment to prevent serious infection and promote proper healing. A fellow nurse reported that despite other nursing personnel charting required treatment procedures completed, the patient’s wounds were infested with maggots.
My wife refused to remain silent about the pervasive mistreatment of veteran patients, many of whom were in a condition that rendered them unable to forward their own concerns.
Having raised my personal concerns to DAV, Legion, and VFW officials, and having received not even the most basic response, I accompanied my wife as she confronted Veteran Home officials with her demand that vulnerable veteran patients be provided proper care and respect. Subsequently, I supported my wife as she confronted higher level State officials. I did this in a personal capacity and as a Legion official.
It was difficult to observe the often hostile and negative response she continuously received.
In the end, it was a good thing that her concerns were substantiated through federally mandated facility inspections, conducted by State investigators. For me, having her concerns validated did not change my own deep disappointment with the response of the VSOs . Clearly, those organizations claiming to stand for the vital interests of military veterans, had failed in manifesting even the most basic measure of that stated intent. In actual fact, those organizations had become complicit in what had been done to the veteran patients my wife had vowed to defend and support. I could no longer provide any support for any of those organizations.


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 Post subject: Re: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 26, 2019 12:01 pm 
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I'm a recent "inductee" into the VA system even though my injuries occurred in 1991.

I haven't seen anything that bad though I've read some of the horror stories. My initial experiences with the VA facility in Walla Walla, WA were actually very positive.

However, now that I'm in the "Veteran's Choice" program there are some concerns. I had an ER visit back in mid-November. A follow up with my regular doc ended with a referral to the VA for an brain MRI that was requested the day after the ER visit. I finally heard from the VA and got the MRI in Feb...long after the emergency had passed. Glad it turned out to be something not too serious.

When we moved here my wife looked at an RN position at the veteran's home here in Lewiston. The pay was about what a nurse's aide would be paid in the Denver metro area and far, far below the going rate for nurses at the local hospitals in the area (by probably 40%). But, the facility looked very, very clean and well maintained when I went there while working my claim thru the system (the state service officer's office is located there).

The VA still needs a lot of work. It's verging on a national disgrace.

I was a member of the American Legion for a while. I didn't really see a benefit to continued membership.

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 Post subject: Re: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 26, 2019 12:27 pm 
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I, too, retired about four years ago and started using the VA for some things even though I have a good civilian doctor under Tricare. I am using the outpatient facility in Golden and am very impressed so far. I was able to get an appointment on two days notice when I needed some stitches removed. I am getting my annual eye exams and glasses through the system as well. I can’t speak for inpatient care at the new facility, although listening to some of the guys talk in the waiting room in Golden, it does sound like there is still plenty of room for improvement at the Aurora facility.

I guess my only complaint would be that I get four reminders (two texts and two automated calls) before each appointment. That seems like a wasted effort and finding that could be better spent elsewhere.

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 Post subject: Re: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 26, 2019 12:36 pm 
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I have experienced similar things at Veterans facilities and retirement homes in the US. I lived in Europe for several years (lived in the Buffalo Creek area for 10 years so far) and having worked with members of the French Foreign Legion had a chance to visit their retirement home in Puyloubier, France. The example I saw there inspired me to return to school late in life with the intention of opening a small non-profit veteran’s retirement home in Park County. Funding possibilities are greater in Park due to be considered a rural county. I was a member of the VFW for several years but no longer. I believe there is a real need for a home that has no cost to residents and they are allowed to keep some personal property, (including personal weapons to be stored on site in a locked armory) and well behaved dogs. The VA and benefits providers do not appear to suffer from a lack of funding but a lack of competent leadership and direction. I still have about 2 years before I can get into full swing on the idea. I have to become a licensed clinical social worker, ( it was the best path for me to achieve something I can bill Medicare and the VA and if you have ever meet me your though would not be he is a social worker) meeting yearly operating costs are what concerns me by far than initial building costs.
The US can do far better for veterans and their families and I hope a small 12 person communal living retirement home can provide an example that better can be done. Some Vets just are not well suited to living in an urban area, I know I have found peace in the rural area and can’t imagine living in an urban area ever again. I have done the rough numbers employing a full time Doctor and 24/7 RN coverage will run about $1.2 million a year paying market rates for employees and supplies. I hope to have a weekly free clinic on site for local residents. Not looking for money at this point, but just to give an idea that other things can be done to help.

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 Post subject: Re: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 27, 2019 5:39 pm 
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So seems like the rest I am retired military. I only use the VA for those issues that I deal with as part of my service connected stuff. Mostly I use my tricare and go where ever I want to. As for the VSO issue, I belong to the VFW and am active in it. I believe in it and for those of us that raise enough hell about things, things have changed and we make yearly visits to the State Veterans nursing home etc. We make it a point, to make sure things are getting done now. We even hold some small parties there once a year just to allow those veterans to enjoy themselves. Not sure what the past was like, but I know what the future is and where the Dept of Colorado VFW is headed. It is on the right road to make sure all Veterans are getting the proper care and the proper respect. As it should be.

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 Post subject: Re: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 28, 2019 7:14 pm 
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I feel a need to provide important clarification regarding my original post. Having served as a veteran advocate engaged in substantial interaction with VISN officials, I had personal knowledge and experience involving VA problems and deficencies. My experience also had a particularly personal aspect in that both my mother and father were World War Two veterans having benefit of VA medical services up until their deaths, my father a decorated Saipan and Iwo Jima survivor. They were fortunate to receive a level of medical services and support they could not otherwise have afforded. There was a time in my own life that I was fortunate to have access to required VA medical services that I could not have afforded otherwise.
VA authorities had no responsibility for the abuse and mistreatment that occurred. Management and oversight of that State Veterans Home facility was the responsibility of State agency employees and officials. There were many decent and committed nursing staff, but those in authority fostered and condoned a functional environment that allowed a number of staff to engage in abusive and extremely harmful practices. Despite my wife's reporting to facility authorities and their agency superiors, there was a concerted process intended to prevent exposure. Thankfully the truth was revealed after the federally mandated inspection process and substantiation of related concerns.
It would have been impossible for my wife to accept the treatment of at risk veteran patients considering her deep respect for her father's military service and that of my parents.


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 Post subject: Re: VSO experience
Post Posted: Apr 29, 2019 6:25 am 
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Location: Shaffer's Crossing, now midcoast Maine
I’m a DAV Life Member. I’ve asked for assistance once, they were just a hair better than zero help.
VA- I’ve been in the VA healthcare system since 1968. Back then the Local VA hospital was a horror show- overloaded, understaffed. I stayed away for a long time, used them sparingly around the country. Denver was good, to a point. Too many levels of bureaucracy, too many protocols, too many boxes to be checked off by the nurses and docs at all those levels. Example- I needed a simple hand operation. I had the same one done privately on my other hand, so I knew what it entailed, a simple office procedure. For the same procedure in Denver, first- get referred to Ortho, 2-3 weeks. Get referred to surgeon’s assistant, 3-4 weeks. Get x-ray appt, 3 weeks. Back to surgeon’s assistant, etc, etc. Then they wanted to give me anasthesia, gurney, OR, the whole deal. Anyway, fast forward to my current VA hospital, Togus, Maine. For the same procedure- meet with the surgeon - “oh yeah this is a simple office procedure, go down the hall to x-ray, they’re waiting for you, and come on back “. Made an appointment for two weeks hence. Numbed my hand, made the incision, stitched it up, in about 15 minutes. They are my primary care, and everyone there does care, at my level anyway.
In my experience VA issues are management issues. I have friends and neighbors who were VA docs and nurses, conversations with them always devolve to management. The VA is really short on help right now, and that seems to be the reason.
Long-winded, I know.....


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