I first wrote this on May 26, 2014. I wanted it to pay tribute to all the Veteran’s I had the privilege of having been their physician. I am surprised we just started talking about the crisis with the VA Health System. Over the years my I have had many veterans come to me for care. They felt it a privilege to have the VA there for them. They went to the VA to get their medications and major tests such as colonoscopies, cardiac catherizations , etc. If they needed operative procedures, they wanted me to find them a local provider for a second opinion so they would not have to travel out-of-town. They all had Medicare or private insurance and were not solely reliant on the VA.
In 1990, when I was starting my practice, I had an influx of new patients. I was surprised they chose to come to my office. We need to realize that the VA has always had a shortage of doctors. Now with two wars and a surge in numbers of soldiers with mental and physical injuries, they are overwhelmed. Also many of these soldiers are unemployed and solely reliant on the VA system for care. Many of these new patients are women. These are the first wars where we have had women serving at the front lines. The VA system is more prepared for the male veteran.
I remember a patient with recurrent chest pain due to heart disease in need of a cardiac catherization. He went to the VA and had it done. I asked him the results. It was difficult to get any reports at that time. It is better now due to the conversion to an Electronic Health Record. The VA has a very sophisticated system. He said the doctor just said “You have a bad heart.” He needed to have his procedure performed but he had several admissions for angina before it finally happened. He had to wait. Many are calling for investigations and hearings. The VA needs providers. Psychologists, psychiatrists, primary care providers (doctors, nurse practitioners) and they need to have an increase in female providers.
We do not need to privatize the system. That is not the solution. We just need to continue to recruit the best and the brightest healthcare providers. We need lots of them. The VA does a tremendous job with the resources it has. We need congress to do more. The unemployment rate for veterans who have served since 9/11 was reported at 10 % in 2013. That is a large influx of patients relying solely on the VA for care. Each year, the number of discharged service men is reported to be as many as 360,000.
We need to honor their service by increasing funding. We need to speak up and use our power as voters in this next election.
Here are a few of my family members who served. We have a long history of service by both male and female family members.