I served in the military on the demilitarized war zone in Korea. I have utilized VA Health care as my primary health care since 1966 and, until recently, had no serious need for care. On December 24, 2014, I went to the local VA clinic complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. I was surprised to find that they did not have working equipment to check my heart. After taking my blood pressure, the doctor told me to go home and do everything in moderation. So that is what I did. Then, on January 29, 2015, I again felt chest pain and this time I travelled 40 miles to the nearest VA hospital. At the VA hospital, they did an ultrasound and an EKG and scheduled a nuclear stress test for two weeks later. Once that was done, they sent the results to my local VA clinic where they told me I had suffered a heart attack. They then gave me heart medication and an inhaler. On April 6 I went to the VA hospital with chest pain and they admitted me. ( when I asked if I could go to a non-VA hospital closer to my home I was told by the doctor” you can, but you will be paying for it for the rest of your life”). They kept me at the local VA hospital until the night of the 7th, when they transferred me in a van to the NYC VA hospital. They told me I needed a stent, but would have to wait until a qualified cardiac interventionist was available. After waiting 4 days in the hospital and losing 11 lbs., I finally received a cardiac catheterization and 2 stents. I was discharged the next day, but returned with chest pain three weeks later and needed to go back to the city for another stent.
I believe the only way to solve the very serious VA problem is to offer government paid Medicare to all service members. With Medicare, instead of going to a ‘VA clinic” I could have gone to the nearest ER, where, in all probability, I would have been treated right there for that heart attack. I was damn lucky. I survived the almost 5 month wait. Too many of us don’t. We die waiting. I honestly think Medicare is the answer.
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