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Posted: 5/15/2002 12:30:20 PM EDT
I'm going to be retiring this summer and am wondering if it is worth the trouble of dealing with the VA.  I've heard many different reports with opinions completely over the spectrum (particularly with the VA hospitals.)  

If you have dealt with them, how would you rate the experience?  Positive? Negative? PITA - but worth the hassle?

I'd appreciate any info you might have to offer - Thanks.
Link Posted: 5/15/2002 12:59:57 PM EDT
I'll share my experience.

I got out of the service in '72.  Never needed to use a VA hospital until two years ago when I was in Phoenix.  I got a really sore throat.  I was unable to find any Doc-in-the-Boxs' in the area, and the nearest hospital to where I was staying was the VA.  

I got to the hospital at 7 AM as advised.  A patient services person saw me about 8 AM.  They couldn't find my military history so I had to sign all this paperwork that I would pay if I couldn't prove my service record (subsequently had to fill out some form and send them my DD-214.  

At about 9:00 AM, I was sent to a waiting room where there were approximately 50 other vets waiting.  I sat there for about three hours before someone called my name - they took my height and weight and told me to return to the waiting room.  After another hour I was called by some kind of patient rep who tried to disuade me from staying by indicating they probably couldn't do anything for me.  I declined her offer for me to leave.  Another half hour passes and I finally get called in to see a medical person.  I don't see a doctor, but rather a nurse, which was OK but I didn't know they could prescribe medicine.  She gave me a presciption for an antibiotic which had to be filled at the VA pharmacy.  
I go to the pharmacy and wait 45 minutes for the presciption to be filled.

In a nutshell, it took me most of a day to get a prescription for an antibiotic.  What a waste of time.
Link Posted: 5/15/2002 8:00:49 PM EDT
Houston - I just cannot believe what you are saying is true.  Americans wouldn't stand for this!  They are a society that pays close attention to the truly important aspects of politics, policy, and government - this could not happen in the good ole US of A!  Why, it would be criminal if our own nation's veterans were......

oops - gotta go - need to stand in line for "Star Wars" tickets.........
Link Posted: 5/15/2002 10:46:21 PM EDT
Trying to get the VA to do anything is like trying to watch ice melt on the North Pole.

Both my grandfather & former father-in-law died in VA hospitals. I'm not saying either would've lived in a "normal" hospital but VA hospitals seem to be operating in the 1950s technology in the 21st Century.

I mostly admire the nurses who work there as they really seem to care about their patients. I do, however, feel that a lot of doctors are Maj. Frank Burns (M*A*S*H) twin brother.

I would only use the VA as a last resort.
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 5:41:17 AM EDT
VA hospitals SUCK....they are training grounds for the dr's that either can not cut it elsewhere,or are there to start their resume.
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 6:37:46 AM EDT
I am a retired Jarhead. In May 2001 I broke my hand on a street persons panhandler face when he became threatening while I was on a evening walk with my family. The nearest military hospital is about 100 miles away. The VA is 2 miles away. I called the VA and they said they would get authorization for treatment and call me back. That was Memorial Day of last year. I am still waiting for their call. I finally gave up after a very bad night and went to the local ER at the Yavapai Medical Center. VA? No f**kin' way. JarheadGunner.
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 7:02:43 AM EDT
Although I have heard horror stories, I myself (100% disabled rating), Have received excellent care at VA facilities......
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 7:11:57 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 7:19:49 AM EDT
I wonder if we'd all be getting VA-style care if Hillary had been able to push through her plans during the first Clinton administration.

Scary thought, huh?
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 7:55:37 AM EDT
the VA hospital is great!

Granted, your first visit will take the better part of a day until they get you into their system.   When I was in college I need a doctor, the campus healt dept. was a joke.  Headed over to the VA and I've never been happier. That was 8 years ago.

I have one appointment a year, they give me a checkup and renew my prescriptions.  When I need a refill I call an 800# and they are mailed to my house.  They used to cost $2 each now I think they are $7.  If you dont' have a job or insurance they are free.

The hospital here just had several huge additions put on.  It is very modern.  If I'm in the area sometimes I eat lunch in the canteen (that's a cafeteria or "dining hall" to some of you folks).

My gramps is a WWII vet with partial disability.  They treat him great - free hearing aids, glasses, medicine.  They even sent him to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis for open heart surgery a few years ago.  Did'nt cost him a dime.  If he is having problems he calls "shirley" his nurse and she fixes him up.

Now the [b]OLD[/B] VA system may of been crap, this new system is better, but still a lot of red tape.  If you are already "in their system", things go much smoother.  I went to the "urgent care clinic" at the County Hospital - had a huge abcess where the sun don't shine, [:I] they told me to soak it.  Heck, I couldn't even move, let alone sit in the tub. [>Q]  Went to the VA the next day (Urgent Care), waited about 2 hours and they had that sucker lanced and packed!  Oh what joy to be pain free so fast!!!! [^]

[size=5][b]Johnny_Reno:[/b][/size=5]  Don't wait - get down there and get in the system, check them out.  There is nothing that says you cant go to an outside doctor and have things done.  Only [b]You[/b]can decide if the VA is for you, but don't let it [b]not[/b] be an option for your health care.

Link Posted: 5/16/2002 8:30:48 AM EDT
My VA expiernce has been good.  1.  

I was given a med discharge last june after 12 years in the army.  Army gave me 10% disability, VA upped it to 50%. I will be returning to college to finish my BA on VAs dime, tuition, books, housing, food all paid for, saving my GI Bill for Grad School.    

2.  I dont go to a VA hospital, but to a VA clinic, and never have a problem getting seen, getting my scripts ect.  The bottom line is that if you square yourself away and get in the system BEFORE you leave active duty your expierence will be much different than if you just show up at a facility 10 years after leaving AD, with no proof of a service connected problem expecting treatment.  No different than trying to be seen at sick call without a sick call slip.    The other key is to deal with a clinic that will refer you to local civ docs if they cant take care of the problem, in other words live out in the sticks far from a VA hospital.

3.  The other great thing about the VA is that if you do have any service connected disability, your retired pay will be docked an ammount equal to the ammount of tax free VA disability comp you will receive.  In other words you wont get taxed twice on at least part of your pay that comes from tax money.

The only bad point I have is that it is very hard to get thru to a real person on a VA 800 line.  But I get arround that by getting in touch with a local VA Rep, and have him get me the info I need, and not waste my time on hold or in an endless loop of answering machines  
Link Posted: 5/16/2002 8:41:29 AM EDT
Not good, in a bureaucratic way..
Basically, I went to the local VA, and filled out a bunch of forms. (Was told "We have no records of you ever being in  any V.A. hospital" even after producing the Paitent Data Card,DD214 and stack of files from the hospital near Detroit.. After a few minutes of this, the crone decided that the USAF was'nt lying, and I did have a service related disability..

They were going to mail me some important papers, (regarding my yearly income, employment status, etc) to the address I had given them in Prescott..These needed to be filled out and returned within a month. (so I was told, many times..)

Six months later, I get a letter from my parents (DOD employees on a base in England) and it contains the papers I was waiting,(and calling, harassing, trying to pick up copies of..)..
Seems they had mailed the papers to the "Address of residence" from when I was discharged in 1988, the USPS, forwarded the mail to the APO, and to my parents..In ENGLAND.

They may have rectified whatever medical shortcomings they had, but they're still number one for paperwork hassles, and bullshit.

I'm getting the asbestos suit out again, as I'm sure they'll have more flaming hoops for me to jump through..

Link Posted: 5/16/2002 8:56:47 AM EDT
I've been told the VA is the closest thing to Socialized Medicine in the US ('tis why I'm afraid what will happen when the government gets more involved in the medical process as they are now).  Not saying some haven't had good experiences, in many cases I'm sure its better than nothing or better than what they would normally get, but overall you'd be better off going somewhere else.
Link Posted: 5/17/2002 1:44:39 AM EDT
All - thanks for your input. As with my previous experience, the opinions heard on the VA is across the spectrum.  I'm wondering if it doesn't have something to do with WHICH VA hospital you see.  Anyway, thanks for taking the time to answer my question.
Link Posted: 5/17/2002 5:46:54 AM EDT
My VA experience is pretty unusual...when I retired I did the 'European Out' thing...4 years later I moved back to the States and a year after that I went to the VA about my knees...I had my trusty copy of my medical records with me...lo and behold when I checked in they whip out my original records!!!Don't ask me how that happened!!! I was in and out in about 2 hours...also, I had some surgery on my right knee done by a German Sport Surgeon...I brought copies of my German med records with me...No shit...the Doctor read German and they added the German records to my VA records and awarded me 20%...
Link Posted: 5/17/2002 6:11:17 AM EDT
Hearing aids and batteries, free.  Prescritions, $7.00 for 90 days.  Saves me a bundle.  Finally got someone to listen to me on the hearing aids and they are now, hypo-allergenic plus programable.  I prefer my health plan for Dr.'s but in Philly the Univ. of Penna.  provides many of the specialists.  All depends on where you ghet your treatment.  Make sure you have copies of medical records before discharge.  Good Luck.
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