Sunday, January 31, 2016

As a family physician, I have the privilege of treating many individuals, including those with military experience. This is the second installment of my VA mistreatment and stonewalling veterans series. These experiences were shared by a patient, who is a Vietnam veteran, initially detailed in my previous article, “VA to Vets: Delay, deny, wait till they die,” (Washington Times, Dec. 01, 2015). He must remain anonymous because he is partially dependent on his VA benefits for retirement and his ongoing battle for a disability rating.

Four years ago, I never knew I was eligible for VA benefits. I thought you had to be an amputee, however, a fellow vet urged me to look into any benefits I might be due, so I saw a veteran’s rep. We discussed anything I thought might have been related to my time in service. I told him about about medical issues I was suffering that I felt were service connected. He urged me to file a claim and add post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. I was reluctant to claim PTSD. The only thing I knew about it was what was said back in the 70’s. Vietnam vets were coming back damaged with something called PTSD. It was the reason we were all drug addicts, couldn’t hold a job or ended up in jail. I always knew the war affected me. Nothing ever looked the same to me, or brought me the same joy. There was no shortage of people in my life that told me I changed.

I have never felt comfortable telling stories about Vietnam. I went to the C&P exam (compensation and pension). It was a short Q & A session. I didn’t understand some the terms and just answered “no.” At the end she wanted me to share something that frightened me in Vietnam. I told her about the helpless feeling I had when I was about to go to sleep each night, knowing that your neighbors were trying to kill you. And they can do it from a quarter mile away. She was a young woman and seemed to become very emotional at that.

Surprisingly, the VA rated me at 30%. I soon learned of a mental health physician that has an extensive background in treating PTSD. After several months of treating me, it was his professional opinion that I should have been rated much higher. Since then, I have appealed to the VA for a higher rating. It is a long, arduous process that involves filing and re-filing of appeals. After several months of treating me, he submitted a report to the VA. Dr. Steve Shelton stated that I am 70 to 100% disability rated. Since then, he has filed additional reports, confirming the same. It is beyond me how the VA can give priority to their short Q&A session over the bi-monthly, 28 months of visits with with my mental health physician.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Friday (Jan. 08, 2016), two high-ranking officials were finally demoted in response to a federal report that found they manipulated the agency’s hiring system for their own gain, but why weren’t they prosecuted? Even a key lawmaker is asking why they weren’t prosecuted. VA officials, administrators and offending practitioners must be sanctioned and fired for their deadly game of denials and death.

Dr. Craig M. Wax, DO, is a family physician that practices family medicine and health through prevention. He is a tireless advocate for the patient-physician relationship and free-market health care. He has been the health talk show host and executive producer for “Your Health Matters,” on Rowan Radio 89.7 WGLS – FM since 2002. Dr. Wax was honored by the Society of Professional Journalists of Philadelphia with an SPJ award for his ability to make complicated matters simple to understand.

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