The Worst Health Insurance…The Veteran’s Administration

What's Your WheelchairRecently, I believe due to the negative press the Veterans Administration is receiving, I have had dozens of requests to republish this article.  Please be sure to note the update at the end.

In a previous article, I introduced you to Eddie Ryan. Eddie was twenty-four years old when I met him in 2008. He is a Marine who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury from friendly fire while serving in Iraq.

Eddie lived with his parents, and the government was encouraging them to place Eddie in a long term care facility.  The Ryan’s lived in a rural area of Upstate New York. Due to their living location, our government found it just too difficult in getting Eddie the home care he was entitled to.

Hearing this from Eddie’s mom, Angie, I asked her if I could post an ad on Craigslist to advertise for home health aides  and different types of therapists Eddie needed. Angie readily agreed, saying if I found the appropriate individuals, the Veteran’s Administration would take care of the rest.

Posting the ad took five minutes and didn’t cost a dime.  Within a few days, I had five people for Angie to interview.  She was quickly able to hire a lovely woman who conveniently lived within ten minutes from the Ryan’s home.

When Angie told me of her success, I was thrilled. The woman wanted full-time work, which is exactly what Eddie needed.  Finding a new full-time aide that foot’s your bill after only a few days of advertising is something to be celebrated!

Angie explained, however, the new aide would only be working part time for her first month of employment. Knowing how desperately the Ryan’s needed aide care, I asked Angie why.

The Ryan’s had to pay this woman out of their own pocket until the Veterans Administration sent a representative to the Ryan’s to meet with the new employee and register them properly.  Care is expensive, and the Ryan’s could only afford to pay someone for two eight hour shifts a week.

Angie said it would be at least one month before the V.A. could send a representative. According to the V.A, this was due to the Ryan’s “out of the way” geographical location and the backlog of veterans who needed to be enrolled for care.

What is wrong with our system of healthcare for the men and women who volunteer to defend our nation?  I hear in these heart-wrenching stories over and over and over again, and I just don’t get it.

Was is it “out of the way” for Angie Ryan to travel to a hospital in Germany when her son was at death’s door from being shot in the head twice while defending his country?  Was it “out of the way” for Chris and Angie Ryan to make arrangements to bring their severely injured son  home to live with them instead of sticking him in a long-term care facility?

Who is defending our veterans and ensuring they get the care they need and deserve?  Who is speaking for them if they do not have the ability to speak for themselves?  Who does the government think is going to provide financial means for our veterans to get health care if they do not?

I think government health care for veterans is the worst “workman’s compensation” insurance I have ever seen. And whatever individual, committee or organization responsible for veteran’s care should be ashamed of themselves.

For it to take a month or more for the V.A. to coordinate a visit to register a home health aide, particularly for a total care individual, is simply unacceptable.  This young man and his parents aren’t waiting to get his teeth capped.

Eddie has a traumatic brain injury and needs constant, twenty-four hour care.  He also needs therapies to help him heal, get strong and stay strong.  Without outside help, all of the responsibility of Eddie’s care is put on his family.

My own family experienced what Eddie and his parents did. My father was a Korean War vet, and used his V.A. Insurance for cancer treatment.  His in-patient and out-patient care were disastrous.  My dear father lived with cancer for seven years before it took his life.

There was one surgery in particular that a CAT scan performed post surgery showed a large cancerous area previously tattooed in a colonoscopy was still in my father’s body…  Tattooing cancerous areas is standard procedure pre-surgery so surgeons can easily see what is needed to be removed during surgery.

This was a huge miss on the surgeons part. Worse yet, my father had to go back into the O.R. in a very weakened condition from just having surgery. After the second surgery, he never quite got back to the strength he was prior to the first surgery. Too much was asked of his body in too short of time.

As a family, our hands were full getting Dad the best care we could. Suing the doctor who made this mistake was something we seriously thought about. At the time, however, it was just too much for us to pursue. We wanted to put all of our energy and effort into Dad’s care. After Dad was gone, a lawsuit seemed pointless.

Eddie and my dad are lucky. Regardless of having horrible health insurance, their families advocate for them and do everything possible  to get them the best care. Many other veterans are on their own.

I believe it is society’s responsibility to step up and change things for our country’s veterans. Drastic situations call for drastic measures.  Our veterans stepped up when our country needed them to. It’s unimaginable to think where we would be as a nation if they hadn’t.  Now it’s our turn.

UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article, the Ryan’s had to move to a more metropolitan area in hopes of Eddie receiving the care he is entitled to easier.


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