It’s been no secret just how hard it is for our veterans to get care through the Veterans Administration. For years now, the VA has been involved in scandal after scandal. From long wait times to abysmal facilities, the people to whom we owe our greatest debt are being denied the care they deserve.
Sadly, the VA has shown little sign it’s willing to make the improvements it desperately needs. Far from working to fix the problems, government bureaucrats have been caught falsifying records to cover up just how bad things have gotten. Meanwhile, veterans are dying due to the lack of quality care.
The situation with the VA has gotten so bad, news of new scandals no longer surprises anyone. However, this most recent VA horror story out of Massachusetts may be the most shocking one yet.
From Fox Boston 25:
A New Hampshire veteran was nearly forced to operate on himself after he says the Department Veterans Affairs refused to pay his medical bill.
It was a simple accident that landed John Irish in the hospital with a deep cut from a power tool. And he says it’s not the hospital’s fault he was denied service for that wound unless he paid cash.
He blames a broken federal system that stuck him with the bill.
“I looked down and there was a piece of my finger missing,” Irish told Boston 25.
A former Army National Guard solider and longtime EMT, Irish has seen his share of injuries and the bloodied thumb from a table saw didn’t faze him.
What did cut deep was what happened next at Lahey Medical Center at his appointment for stitches removal.
“They handed me a slip of paper saying, ‘we are going to have to have you sign this, because the VA says they’re not going to pay the bill,” he said.
What’s worse, Irish was enrolled in a program that allows veterans to use civilian hospitals due to long wait times at the VA:
Irish receives benefits through the Veterans Affairs Choice program, which allows vets to access private care amidst lengthy wait times at VA medical facilities.
Irish says Veterans’ Choice has refused to pay for other bills and this was the final straw.
“I thought it was about time the VA of New England got exposed for what it’s doing on this Choice program,” he said.
To bring attention to the matter, Irish threatened to broadcast his one-man operation live on Facebook. Only then did the VA change their tune:
Irish threatened to remove his own sutures, in his home, live on social media. Within hours, the VA agreed to pay for the procedure.
“It’s totally disgusting that they have to threaten, beg or borrow to get medical treatment,” he said.
Although the VA finally did pony up the money, it’s troubling that it took the threat of a live broadcast to get them to do so. Sadly, it’s just the latest example in a long line of VA failures.
As citizens of this great country, we owe a debt of gratitude to all of the veterans that selflessly put themselves in danger to protect our freedoms. But as the this story shows, we’re still a long way from fulfilling that commitment.
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]