It’s a "been there, done that" thing. I served four years in the Coast Guard and more than three years in U.S. Army Special Forces as a member of a Green Beret "A" team in Central America and Vietnam. I spent a few years in the U.S. Army Reserve and Special Forces Reserve. Got the old bod beat up pretty good. The final chapter was a cracked spine during an airborne operation. I was forced to take a medical discharge and introduced to the fiasco of military medicine at a more serious level than the standard issue "cold pack".
I was introduced to the abyss of VA medicine. Prior to that, I had to have a civilian doctor diagnose the problem and call the military orthopedic surgeon, who insisted that I didn’t have an injury, but a birth defect! The military doctor proceeded to advise me as to how he was going to repair the damage! Seven vertebrae to be fused and three metal rods inserted. That didn’t happen, I assure you.
I met a lot of well-meaning and perfectly capable people in the military and Veterans Affairs medical system. It wasn’t them. It was the system.
Like the time I was doing a required follow-up on my cracked spine at one VA hospital. I had a question for the doctor who was filling out the 18-inch pink questionnaire, which seemed to be required with every visit. Recordkeeping was an issue. The question involved my spine. He informed me that he had no idea what the answer was. He was a dermatologist!
That same hospital gave me a very expensive MRI, told me to come back in six months and then could not find the MRI! They suggested surgery with no idea what the injury looked like. That didn’t happen either.
I spent a lot of time crawling around on my knees in horrific pain till my body started to heal itself. My last X-ray, by the civilian doctor who diagnosed the injury, showed so much arthritis that the back bone was bracing itself up. I just don’t play golf anymore, and a few other things like sitting still becomes a problem.
I could go on, but the bottom line is this. I was sadly disappointed to see the government spending money on a new VA clinic in Savannah, championed by our own senator like it was his personal idea. Give me one good reason why a veteran, or for that matter, an active-duty GI or dependent has to drive past three perfectly good hospitals and a half-dozen emergency clinics to a VA clinic that is ill-equipped, understaffed, disorganized and practicing Third World medicine.
The medical arm of the VA needs to be disbanded, not patched and patched and patched. Patching is political nonsense generated by people who have no idea what they are doing. They are embodied in the Congress of the United States.
Veterans — and in many cases, active-duty personnel and their dependents — should be allowed to go to a normal hospital or clinic. Their military ID has a complete record of their medical history. They punch it in. They treat you with the efficient system that is prevalent in modern medicine, a system driven by wanting to be the best. There is no way the military can keep up with the intensity and success of care that specialized medicine brings to bear today.
Gotta be cheaper for taxpayers. Gotta be better health care. Folks in the VA system just go to work in the civilian system where they will be needed due to the increased workload. It’s a win-win situation.
Hubbard, a Bryan County resident, is a former Green Beret who spends much of his time advocating for the environment and smaller, better government.