Veteran U.S. Marine and Navy SEAL Craig Sawyer posted the narrative below to his public Facebook page on August 10th. It’s a powerful glimpse into the searing anger and exasperation veterans too often endure working through the VA system for health care. Sawyer has characterized the VA as “a prime example of the kind of big government, top-heavy bureaucracy, which leaves the patients treated more like farm animals than selfless defenders of our nation.” Whether you agree with his diagnosis of the VA’s crippling issues or not, it’s nigh on impossible to quarrel with his assessment of how it makes veterans feel: devalued, neglected, under-prioritized, and warehoused. Interacting with the VA is consigning oneself to the kind of hassle and runaround you’d never endure if you had a choice.
We keep hearing noises about great change and improvement from the VA, but there are still too many stories like Craig’s. Most veterans can name at least person in their close circle who has confronted this garbage. Enough already. It’s time to turn over the bucket, dump it out, and reform the whole damn thing. Resource it adequately, and never again start another war without at the same time increasing capacity and funding for those who will fight it and bear the individual costs.
I’m glad Craig Sawyer is utilizing his considerable public platform to air his frustrations and call attention to this issue. Solutions cannot be genuinely contemplated until we stop pretending the problem doesn’t exist or is trivial. Given how little mention veterans have gotten in the early stages of the political primary season, these issues need all the publicity they can get.
But it’s also important to remember that while social media chatter is useful in calling official attention to situations like the one Craig is facing, it’s not a substitute for civic action. If you’re experiencing treatment problems with the VA, pick up the phone and call the district office of your elected U.S. Representative. Ask for the military and veteran caseworker, and tell that person your story. This is the most reliable way of ensuring your elected leader has awareness and appreciation of the challenges veterans are confronting, and is biased toward the legislative oversight and action to reform the VA. If you need to know more about your elected Representative or are looking for more contact points, here’s a directory to get you started.
Craig Sawyer’s post is linked here, and excerpted below.
Latest on my current VA debacle:
After 4 visits to the ER over the past 2 weeks, the VA STILL can’t tell me my white blood cell count. I was initially having tightness in my chest, trouble breathing, a chronic cough from fried lungs while in the teams (which the VA still denies after 15 years), intestinal complications caused by a new hernia, which was likely caused by the chronic coughing.
One of the visits was to a civilian ER, per the VA’s recommendation according to the symptoms after calling them. During that short visit, the civilian hospital staff ran a cat scan and quickly found the hernia and intestinal complications from it and the coughing. They recommended surgery and sent me back to the VA for a surgery consult to get it fixed.
The VA has since been slow rolling me, taking weeks and months to grant appointments and telling me I’m lucky it’s not much longer. Whenever I check in at the VA, they continue to list me as a simple hernia patient, forcing us to walk them through the entire history each time.
Today, the VA rep suddenly said they don’t have a power of attorney for my wife to talk to them on my behalf, even though they’ve had it for years.
The VA is refusing to pay the bills from the civilian ER visit they sent me to, claiming they “can’t find the authorization”.
It’s a total clown show. It would be funny, were it not for the fact that they are ruining veterans’ lives and costing good men their health by stringing out simple care solutions for months and years.
I’m now being offered the opportunity to go on international news and speak about this disaster. If they want to cover the issue, I’ll tell it all.
I’m angry now, not just at the fact I cant get a simple surgery in a timely manner so I can heal up and get on with my life, or have my blood checked to know if I’ve got cancer, nor am I most bent about the pain, or other issues. The thing that really has me angry is the completely unnecessary stress and aggravation this debacle is having on my wife. We’re looking at a growing pile of medical bills and financial threats from the civilian hospital, which should never be coming to our home in the first place. And, just like they’ve done over my damaged lungs, the VA is playing, “Not it!”
What kind of government administration sends you to a hospital for care, then loses their own authorization and tries to leave you hanging? Seriously!
This is either massive incompetence, or gross mismanagement at this point.
It doesn’t help my frustration to have people reminding me if I walked across the border from another country illegally, I could go straight into the nicest ER in town and get treated. Free. Done! Apparently our veterans who have given their health for our country aren’t as valuable as a foreigner who first hops our fence and strolls straight into our civilian hospitals. In whose book does that make any sense, whatsoever?
Our VA is top heavy and encumbered by crippling bureaucracy.
I appreciate everyone’s support. If shining the sunlight on this ridiculousness will help get other veterans better care, maybe it’ll all be worth it.