VA healthcare in a pandemic
With the pandemic stretching now over a year, which really feels like twenty, eventually healthcare was going to be an issue for me. I’ve already had to have a surgery during the pandemic, which was nerve wracking not because of the surgery, but because of COVID. Well it’s become a struggle to keep trying to put off getting care when I’m someone who needs pretty regular care. I went from bi-weekly appointments to once every 6 months or more, not ideal.
Managing my PhD is hard enough as it is, I’m busy with class requirements, research, now COVID, and a whole mess of other things. On top of all of the education side of things is the fact that I’m disabled and that’s hard even when you’re not in a pandemic and dealing with an education system that doesn’t take kindly to being disabled. Since I’ve started my PhD I’ve had almost a half dozen surgeries, most of the time I went right back to work the next day. Thankfully not always, but certainly sooner than I would’ve liked.
My health hasn’t been great for a long time. I’m a veteran and I’m lucky to have healthcare that is paid for. I really am, but it’s awful care. The VA system is awful by design, so the GOP can point a finger at it and say, “this is why the government shouldn’t be in charge of healthcare.” It’s sad, but true. The VA is underfunded, overworked, the budget bloated with waste and money going to the most unscrupulous people in charge rather than to the veterans the VA is supposed to serve.
It’s sad because you can always tell when someone is new at the VA. I’ve certainly encountered a handful of good doctors who genuinely wanted to help. The system reminds me a lot of academia, you quickly get burned out, you don’t get paid well enough for the work you’re supposed to do, and you’re punished for speaking out. The difference is, it’s harder to be fired in the VA system so bad doctors, apathetic doctors, and doctors who just really stopped caring are more common than not.
I’ve had several of those, I’ve had a doctor literally laugh in my face when I brought up a concern before surgery. I’ve had a doctor who told me I was fine and for almost ten years I fought to get the blood test to prove it, only to find out I was correct and the doctor was just being lazy. I’ve even had a mental health professional tell me that I should cheat and if the person didn’t find out it wasn’t a problem. I need to emphasize that last one, they suggested I sleep around, so I clarified at the time I was in a committed relationship. Then the person clarified their position. Which was that it wasn’t a problem if the person I was seeing didn’t find out. This person was married mind you, so I don’t even want to know what their spouse would say if they heard that.
I’ve had horror story surgeries, then surgeries to fix the original surgery that screwed up more than it fixed. I’ve had lapsed care, care promised and not received. I’ve had the wrong medical equipment sent to me and never replaced. I was admitted to the ER only to have to remind the staff that I was past due for a surgery to fix the issues I was having and almost missed it altogether. I’ve dealt with the rude, the inconsiderate, the unprofessional, and the downright unethical. The worst part of it all is, because I live in the US I still feel guilty complaining because at least I have care.
I was thankful to get my COVID vaccine, I was more thankful because I didn’t get it at the VA. I do not trust the VA, but I still have to rely on them for my care because I don’t have another option. I hate the VA system and the people who purposefully run it the way they do because of politics. Because that the end of the day the only good veteran is a dead veteran and the VA is just a way to help speed that process up.
Almost a year ago I had a something happen (here) and I never got care for it. I’ve had several outbreaks or whatever this is since that original issue and I haven’t gotten care for it because the VA is awful. I’ve been lucky since moving for my PhD my primary care doctor actually took me seriously. He was old and has since either retired (according to the VA) or more likely (in my opinion) got COVID. So now I’m back to square one and hoping the next doctor isn’t like the doctor who refused to even run bloodwork to check because I “looked” healthy. With my appointment coming up, I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but it shouldn’t be this way.
Then again this is the US so really I should be grateful I have care at all.