November 9, 2007
These are portions of emails we received after our story about the VA healthcare system:
Both of my parents were recipients of VA benefits from WWII. My mother passed away from damage done to her heart by chemotherapy in 1987. She told me that the nurse had mixed too much of the therapy she was on, and basically shamed her into taking the excess that treatment. That was in July of '87 and she was gone by mid-September. She had her leg amputated and was treated for bone cancer (which getting a specialist to do a biopsy took forever - they told her it was arthritis before she pushed hard enough). 5 years later they found lesions on her lungs on her x'rays and began treatment again. The rest is history.
To add insult to injury, when she began to fail my father called the VA (they retired to Southern Utah) and he was told to take her to the nearest emergency facility. That was the hospital in St. George. They eventually transferred her to Salt Lake, then sent her home when they could do nothing, After her death my Dad received a hospital bill that the VA declined to pay as she wasn't treated at a VA hospital. There was no VA hospital in S. Utah, and they traveled to the clinic in Vegas for regular treatment. It took numerous letters and the intervention of a Senator before the VA paid her hospital bill.
I lost Dad on Valentine's Day two years ago. This time Dad did his homework ahead of time and called the VA when he began to fail. Again he was told to go to the nearest emergency facility to be stabilized, then they would transfer him to Salt Lake. His lungs gave out before they could transfer him, but this time all the arrangements had been made ahead of time, so the system took care of everything.
I didn't tell you all this for sympathy - I told you because even though the system has made strides towards accommodating the needs of the Vets they still have a long way to go. I still don't understand why, after spending the money to build it, that the O'Callahan Fed. Hospital outside Nellis could not be used. Toward the end of Dad's life he was being shuttled all over town for his appointments (after driving from Toquerville, UT) and then had to drive 2 hours home again. While getting mileage reimbursement, it wasn't enough to cover travel expenses AND a hotel room. When the nearest VA hospitals are in California, Arizona or 400 miles away in Salt Lake, it makes no sense to tell these Vets to go to a VA hospital if the system cannot provide for them.
I watched your news segment on VA healthcare tonight and I must disagree. I am also a disabled vet under VA care here in Las Vegas valley and I have never been treated better in my life. The VA healthcare is based on a rating system. To be rated you must turn proper VA paper work to be service connected. All military members are briefed before separating the service. Most vets do not turn in the required VA paper work, if the gentelman did he would not be waiting for his required surgery. You never asked the gentleman if he was service connected. If you are not rated you are on the bottom of the list. I am service connected and I never had to wait longer than 1 day for any appointments. I am sick of hearing all the negativity on the VA healthcare system. If the vets weren't so lazy to complete the paperwork in the first place they would not have to wait for medical appointments. You must know the whole story and just not one side. I am very pleased with the Las Vegas valley VA medical system. __________________________________________________________________________________________
I saw your story tonight on the care of the Veterans in Nevada. Boy did this hit home. My husband is a 100% service connected disabled Vet, exposed to agent orange in Viet Nam and boy have we had a difficult time getting the items he has needed and the care he has needed. It took 45 days and letters and calls to Senators Reid and Ensign's office to get the Fee Base PT and OT care approved because the VA's PT department is not equipped to handle my husband because he cannot walk or stand. His disability is a result of prostate cancer which has moved to his bones caused by agent orange. I have spent so many hours on the phone trying to follow up on services and supplies that he is entitled to. We have even gone so far as to pay for additional insurance in order to be able to go outside the VA to get the care he needs; and why should we have had to do this. I have been told a number of times that if we lived in Texas or even Arizona that due to the fact that my husband in confined mostly to the bed and does not walk or stand that we would be entitled to much more, including having someone come in the home to assist me and him and someone to sit with him while I work. I have had to stay home more in order to stay with my husband or I would be responsible for paying someone at a cost of 18.00 to 20.00 an hour to stay with him. I think that care for Veterans should be the same, no matter what state they live in. We have an extremely large population of Veterans in Las Vegas and I listen all the time to how they are not getting the care they need. I have even had to write John Bright to get services for my husband. I think you should not stop at the story today but continue you investigation into the care of our Veterans and how they are treated in Las Vegas. It can truly be a nightmare.
I am a local veteran here in Las Vegas, while I have to say that the VAMC here in Las Vegas may have some of it's problems, I have to say that it is one of the best centers that I have ever delt with. I do have private insurance, and have used it on occasion, I prefer to use my VA benefits. The media concentrates so much on problems, it does not tell people about the GREAT care that it does give. Just as an example, I had cancer in my abdomen and saw at least 4 or 5 doctors on the "outside", through Blue Cross. I was told that I had to wait 3 months to get an appointment with an oncologist, because I had a history of cancer in the past and it was considered "pre-existing". None of them were willing to do the surgery that I needed. My cancer was considered terminal and the surgery was EXTREAMLY delicate. It was then that I went to the VA, who, not only was willing to do the surgery, but SAVED MY LIFE, and I did not have to wait 3 months. It is the GREAT doctors, nurses and technicians that I owe my life to.
First of all ... thank you very much for doing such an excellent report on the plight of the local veterans. I am one of those veterans who has been promised something I cannot get. However, that is another story.
Are you aware of the fact that one of the major problems with getting treatment is the fact that we, the veterans, have to give way to the active duty personnel? This applies whether or not you have an appointment. In addition, that nice new hospital that is allegedly coming is something of a farce. Ms. Berkeley caved in but did NOT tell us that the only way she could get the hospital for the VETERANS is to agree to share it with the active duty personnel .... once again, we are second in line in what is supposed to be OUR hospital. This news was dropped very quietly by Nicholson at the ground blessing ceremony ... not many of the veterans picked up on it. It doesn't take an Einstein to see what is coming .. the new hospital will take over and the hospital at Nellis will be closed and we, the veterans, have gained nothing. In addition, the new hospital will be much too small to accommodate the veteran population by the time it is finished to say nothing of the fact that the "state of the art equipment" now contracted for will be obsolete by then.