Surgical recovery, yet again!
Well today is officially day one of my recovery. Yesterday (here) I had my…. well it’s in the double digits that’s for sure, surgery. I was spoiled this year as I only had a single surgery, normally I go in once every six months for something and I’ve had that routine for the last six or so years, so yeah double digit surgery count, but I don’t remember the exact number, I think it’s 13 (spooky!) in any case I lived, despite the VA hospitals best efforts.
For the longest time I wasn’t sure if it was only me that saw how the VA treated us. I don’t usually talk to the other vets and as a Iraqi war veteran I’m decades younger than the people around me so it feels weird to try to have that conversation with someone old enough to be my grandfather. This surgery was a little different though, first you go into a big waiting area, where they have a sign permanently posted apologizing for the delay and that they promise you’ll have your surgery eventually. Once I waited over three hours for them to show up, talk about suspense building! Then you finally get called back to the prep area, where you get held for another hour or two, then you get taken to the staging area, where you wait again for another hour or so, then you finally have surgery. I was scheduled to check in at 9:30am and my surgery was scheduled to start at 12pm, just for an idea of the delay that goes on even if everything goes according to plan.
One person who was there yesterday had been scheduled for surgery at 7am and he was still in the waiting room, not even in the prep area, so it’s good they are at least consistently running behind. I don’t know why they pack the schedule like that, but that’s just what they do. Others were around complaining about the wait too, but that isn’t what made this visit different. One of the people waiting was talking, basically to the room about how he had been there since the early hours (the 7am surgery guy) and was making conversation with everyone to pass the time.
He was talking to a couple about their VA rating, as people in the VA do, and how it’s incredibly difficult to get a 100% rating now. They heard rumors that they aren’t even giving 100% ratings anymore, but I don’t know that, that part is true since I got rated temporarily at 100% about five years ago, then total and permanent just recently (I think two years ago now? I probably blogged about it, but I’m too tired to dig it up). That wasn’t what made this visit different though, it was the words the early morning surgery guy said.
He was started talking about all the medication they give and how the VA is trying to kill us so they won’t have to pay us. Which is true and I obviously felt the same way for a long time. It’s an obvious thing, the government loves dead service members (or as the new regulations suggest we be called, “war fighters,”and yes I cringe every time I have to read/write that). If we’re alive we’re problematic, we have opinions that can be opposing to the opinions and ideas they want to push. In short, we are a weapon and that’s how the government likes to use us, even when we’re dead. The living causes problems, so the VA hospital is a cautionary tale about how the government should never get into healthcare (even though the shitty treatment is intentional) and more importantly the VA is designed to keep us alive long enough that when we do die, no one will question it.
Which is why we have an epidemic of veterans literally killing themselves outside the VA hospital. To show America that the system is designed to kill us, but it hasn’t been enough and I don’t know that anything will change it. The nice thing about this conversation though, was that I wasn’t the one saying those things. Others see it too and while that isn’t surprising exactly, it was the first time I had heard anyone say it out loud around me. It’s more of something we tend to keep to ourselves I think and those that do speak out get silenced fairly quickly. I mean we have veterans being eaten by ants before they die and nothing happens (seriously here’s the article).
Again I guess any healthcare is better than no healthcare, but it is a little frustrating that the system is designed to want us dead. We’re cheaper dead, I’ve had something like 13 surgeries, those aren’t cheap, add to that the cost of my monthly disability check and the longer I’m alive the more money they lose. Multiply that by about 9 million (the estimated number of US veterans getting healthcare – source) and you can see why rumors like the VA not giving people 10% ratings get spread.
Getting care is an exhausting process, it took me over a decade of fighting with the VA before they acknowledged most of what had happened to me, even then they still deny that the TBI I received was their fault. But I’m tired of fighting and with my current rating I don’t feel a great effort to keep fighting. Luckily I’m younger so I could fight, some of the older veterans are still fighting, people twice my age, and they keep fighting. It’s a rigged system and it’s not fair, but it won’t get any better unless people start acknowledging it, or even knowing that this is a problem.
Just some thoughts while I recover from my latest surgery.