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One of the first things I did after the VA story broke was call the VA's phone number for health care information. At once, I entered a Kafkaesque world of confusing phone options and recorded web addresses I was supposed to visit instead of calling on the phone. ("Just go to 'V-A dot gov forward slash health benefits forward slash cost forward slash inquiry forward slash we're about to hang up on you dot html.'") Now civilians everywhere are getting an idea of what veterans go through to try and get an appointment at the VA.

There are so many issues wrapped up in this VA scandal. (Yes, I think we finally have a real live scandal.) What was behind all of this excess demand for the VA? Do those reduced wait times the VA reports actually mean anything?  What was the name of the guy put out to pasture for giving an accurate troop estimate in the event we invaded and occupied Iraq? No matter how hard we try, we just can't shake these wars.

It's a scandal and a tragedy that veterans in the United States are forced to wade into a world of secret lists and substandard care. The true cost of war keeps rising in ways that are completely predictable. Enjoy the cartoon and if you have a VA experience, positive or negative, post it in the comments!

[female phone tree voice]

Welcome to the Veterans Health Administration.  If you need immediate care, press one.  [beep!]

Congratulations.  Your appointment will be in approximately [fourteen] days . . . after [two-hundred-eighty] days on the secret waiting list.

The health of the [Veterans Administration] is important to us, so be sure to [shred] any stressful [evidence] of uncomfortable [wait times].

To hear about reduced wait times over the past two years, press three.

To hear a presidential candidate campaign to fix the VA, press oh-eight.  [beep! beep!]

[Obama audio]

To receive a transcript of Congressional Republicans killing twenty-one billion dollars in medical, educational and other veterans' benefits, press eight-six.  [beep beep]

If your injuries were sustained during a slip and fall as Republicans drooled over an effective campaign issue, press one four.

If your condition resulted from a war started on a lie, press one.  During a surge, press two.  During drawdown, press three.  [beep]

To hear a [mad-as-hell] VA Secretary, press seven.  To hear a [mad-as-hell] Commander-in-Chief, press nine.  

For adjectives of outrage, press star-nine.  Irate metaphors, press star-seven.

If you experienced Americans supporting our troops going into war, press one.

If you experienced Americans supporting tax cuts and blaming everything on big government, press four.  [beep! beep!]

To access the VA Inspector General's report on falsified data and secret waiting lists, press three.

Thank you.  Your wait time is approximately [sixty-seven] days.

If, after listening to all of these options, you are a frustrated veteran in more desperate need of health care, press five.  [beep beep beep beep!]

We thank you for your service.  Goodbye.

Originally posted to Comics on Fri May 30, 2014 at 06:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Everyone's saying that Shinseki gets the axe today (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gentle Giant

    Good riddance.

    As sympathetic as I am to the idea the the funding hasn't kept pace with demand, this issue has been ongoing and well known for a very, very long time. It's time for accountability.

    •  Then the Republican Senators who (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, Bernie68, tommyfocus2003

      Filibustered Sen. Sanders Funding bill should be held accountable, as well as the Bush 43 administration for LYING about the WMD problem in Iraq, and starting the Iraq war.

      They should be in Jail for Negligent Manslaughter.

      U.S. Navy '64-'85 | The man who knows and knows he knows not is a wise man.. - The ink of scholars is worth more than the blood of martyrs.

      by OpherGopher on Fri May 30, 2014 at 07:45:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, the administrators who fabricated/destroyed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fat old man, Gentle Giant

        documents so that they could get their precious bonuses are the ones that should go to jail.

        That's why this is a scandal: People lied, and vets died.

        Shinseki needs to be fired because the misconduct of his administrators was massively widespread, and he responsible for the agency.

  •  Want to hear something strange about Tampa's VA (6+ / 0-)

    HC, James A. Haley?  Here goes.  There was an appointment system implemented over several years at different times (over a decade or so) wherein when leaving a clinic, primary care, specialist after an appt., the veteran would be told, "the appointment you see scheduled in 90 days is not a real appointment.  You must call within 30 days prior to this not real appt to schedule a real appt." The veteran would call, say, 25 days prior to the not real appt and would be told, "no appointments available for 90 more days."  This would have tremendous impact as Rx's were usually 90 days and would need to be rewritten (not renewed).  Thus the veteran would need to scramble to try to get some emergency meds or get a message to the primary care Dr. (no online messaging at that time to the VA).  The VA Hospital here is notorious for not answering their phones (even the main number).  Phones ring off the hook at many offices.  Inpatient treatment is appalling.  Two hospitalizations scared the hell out of me.  Additionally, like many veterans, I have only VA health care.  I feel betrayed and alone.  I am a disabled Vietnam veteran who served honorably with Heart Disease and PTS.

  •  Our outraged politicians are loosing their groove (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OpherGopher, fat old man

    On gun violence and VA waiting lists... nobody cares how upset these politicians are when they get up and make yet another Mad as Hell speech.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Fri May 30, 2014 at 07:15:42 AM PDT

  •  Now that I think of it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    swampyankee, Bernie68

    None of this is funny in any way.  As one with Agent Orange related CAD/IHD and PTS/MST all due to service in Vietnam, I am astonished that this tragedy continues decades after that horrible grand lie.

  •  Have we seen this picture before about the VA (4+ / 0-)

    In the movie Coming Home,starring   Jane Fonda and John Voight,about the plight of injured soldiers returning from the Vietnam

  •  I'm a vet. I get my healthcare (7+ / 0-)

    from VISN 23, which includes the VAMC in Minneapolis Minnesota. IT is socialized medicnine in the best sense of the term. Granted that you can spend half a day getting to, seeing the provider, and getting home or more. The actual healthcare providers at the VA are dedicated pros who do their best, which is pretty damned good. The problem as I see it, at least on the healthcare side of the VA is funding.
    You need to pay the people you want to have on staff and to retain them it must be in average pay for their certifications and credentials.  Healthcare costs ALWAYS GO UP. Pay for it already you cheap bastards in congress.
    The Real problem is that the VBA or veterans benefit agency makes vets jump through more hoops than any obstacle course they have to go through in the military. The VBA is set up like an insurance company and the vet has to prove that he or she needs help. There are also not enough people in the VBA to do the jobs. I know for fact that most of those people are wearing two hats and trying to produce to quota on two jobs that would require 2 people working 8 hours per day to do them. Is there deadwood in the system? Certainly. Do some vets game the system? I am fairly certain that this happens too. Just not as often as repukelickers think. The Vets have a tendency to police themselves. It boils down to budget and staff, and there is not enough of either to serve those who served the nation.
    Worse they are begining to resent it. A lot.

    Give blood. Play hockey.

    by flycaster on Fri May 30, 2014 at 07:29:21 AM PDT

    •  Truth, my friend. Same experience at Bay Pines (3+ / 0-)

      here in Florida.

      To add something: veterans disability is more like Workers Comp than any kind of insurance. Insurance has to pay to the policy limits when the loss occurs, and there are sanctions like bad faith litigation to enforce that. Vet disability requires as you say proof by the VET of service-connected injury or disease. That involves pushing against a system that is still, after many efforts to improve it, strongly biased AGAINST ANY KIND OF PAYOUT.

      And if you are 100% service-connected permanently disabled, as I am, and you are married, here is the "benefit," the maximum amount you can receive, for being damaged and in pain and limited:

      $3,358 a month.

      And a whole lot less, if you are single, and a WHOLE lot less if you are less than 100% fucked up. Look here if you want to see the numbers:

      http://www.military.com/...

      (Compare the Florida WC structure, if you want to do some deep diving and heavy lifting: http://fordlawfirm.org/...)

      If you're lucky and qualify for Social Security, add another $1500-2000 a month, and that is what you get to live out your (likely shortened) life on. If you are fortunate to die of your service connected problems, your wife, who may also be disabled or not able to find work in our "economy," may after years of fighting be able to collect a part of that as a "death benefit" beyond the $500 burial money the VA hand out, along with that nice flag and a spot in a national cemetery if you want it.

      Yes, that is more than a lot of people who are our fellow citizens get, or can even hope for, and that is the fucking idiocy and cruelty of what we have become (not, in truth, that we the people were EVER as decent as we imagine we were). Too many of us applaud shit like taking defined benefit pensions away from union and public and corporate-slave employees, as "too good for those lazy bastards." Too many of us buy into that shit that's illustrated by this little "joke:"

      A CEO sits down at a table where a group of ordinary people are looking at a big plate of nice warm chocolate chip cookies they have baked. The CEO reaches out and grabs all but one of the cookies and stuffs them into his mouth and pockets, and then looks slyly around at the rest of the folks and says, "Better look out! That person sitting next to you is planning to grab that cookie!"

      To me, the battle cry should be "THERE'S ENOUGH TO GO AROUND!" with a reminder that that requires sticking a fork in the wrist of the grabby fucker in the $5000 suit who with his trained reflexes makes that first grab.

      Honor us damaged citizens who are also veterans of all the Wars of Choice, AND DON'T FUCKING MAKE ANY MORE OF US.  And do what you claim you were going to do, pay for what you broke.

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 11:27:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I haven't heard any similar stories coming out (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      msfitz, flycaster

      of our local VA Hospital in Canandigua, NY. That's not to say they don't have their problems. I just haven't heard of any at all from local veterans.

      But they've had to fight closures over the years and always manage to do it, once enlisting Hillary Clinton to come to their aid, which she did with powerful results.

      Lead with love. Forgive as a reflex.

      by Gentle Giant on Fri May 30, 2014 at 12:34:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Last year my Korean war vet Father (5+ / 0-)

    needed heart surgery.  The VA hospital in Indianapolis brought in a great heart surgeon, provided outstanding care and excellent follow-up.  They had a team of Doctor's that took care of him and he still has regular appointments and follow-up.

    A year before I'd taken him to the VA emergency room because he was having shortness of breath and chest pain and he was in the back into a room and hooked up to the machine within two minutes of the time we walked through the door.

    I have "Cadillac" health plan and wish I had the level of care provided to him.

    One thing the VA could do would be to go through their system and re-evaluate those who have disability claims and make sure they are actually service connected.

    "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man..." Robbie Robertson

    by NearlyNormal on Fri May 30, 2014 at 07:32:40 AM PDT

    •  NO (0+ / 0-)

      One thing the VA could do would be to go through their system and re-evaluate those who have disability claims and make sure they are actually service connected.

      If you served your country, then your country can damn well pay for your health care. No more of this stupid short-sighted "prove you were injured" nonsense.

  •  I watched an interview (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, Bernie68, Jim Domenico

    on MSNBC, that had Medal of Honor recipient Ret. Col. Jack Jackobs, Former representative & Iraq veteran Patrick Murphy, and another veteran, and Col. Jack remarked that the smartest manager in the world could not manage the current issues in the VA.  

    The facts that the GOP "I Support the Troops" senators filibustered Sen. Sanders funding bill should be front & Center in this debate, along with the failure of the Bush 43 administration to:

    1. Take full responsibility for the war in Iraq, and the death of every single service member who took part in that false war.

    2. Failure of the Republican Majority during the Bush administration to fund the VA to an appropriate level when they KNEW what was coming.

    3. Go to JAIL for Lying to the American People about starting the war in Iraq.  

    U.S. Navy '64-'85 | The man who knows and knows he knows not is a wise man.. - The ink of scholars is worth more than the blood of martyrs.

    by OpherGopher on Fri May 30, 2014 at 07:40:04 AM PDT

  •  yet another case of much blame to go around. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gentle Giant

    Shinseki needs to go. Pelosi's comment that it would be rewarding the people who lied to him is absurd. He was a freakin' Genral for cripes sake and in charge of the place for 6 freakin' years. If he couldn't figure out he was being lied to, at an agency with big problems he was brought in specifically to reform,  then he is incompetent.

    The Republicans on the other hand are using the old tactic of deliberately kneecapping a Govt. agency so they can scream about how lousy Govt. agencies are in order to privatize them.

    Both parties get full credit for doing their very best to create as many new disabled vets as they could, but involving us in pointless stupid wars.

    And......
    All us voters deserve some blame for allowing this shit to go on and on for years while we continue to vote so many of these assholes back in, term after term.

  •  May the God they flaunt serve the GOP (0+ / 0-)

    as they deserve. Hell is too damned good for them.

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 09:35:55 AM PDT

  •  So much better than the private sector (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gentle Giant, msfitz

    I'm biased as my wife works for the VA, but I agree that much of the blame lies with Congress and the inadequate resources. But let's also look at how this compares with the private health care sector.

    The only reason we know about this issue is that the VA (as a public health system) is required to track wait times. What private health system does that? And the impetus to cover up long wait times again comes from the misguided approach to applying big-business "service metrics" to a public-run system. Wait times are a problem, let's track them, and tie bonuses to them. Well, duh, it's not a surprise that managers will game the system, especially since they have no way to get more resources to solve the problem. This behavior goes on all the time in big business - how many times have we heard that CEOs and managers fudge accounting numbers to keep the stock price up and get their bonus?

    Don't get me wrong - the managers at the features VAMCs should have been honest with the vets and the bean counters that they could not meet their wait time targets (and if they were smart they would make that VERY well known so the vet groups could push for more resources). Rather than using these metrics as incentive or blame, they should be used to identify where more resources are needed.

    And my wife points out all the time - the reason that wait times are long is because vets WANT the VA care!

  •  Thanks for the telling imagery. But wait! There's (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gentle Giant, Jim Domenico, msfitz

    More!

    WE are turds, too -- letting this play out the usual way, sacrificing the scapegoat dude who told the truth too many times, and applauding the Only POresident We Got for doing what, again?

    A little aside: I'm a disabled vet, and a nurse. I get VA and Medicare medical care and treatment. Both have problems, the Medicare from greed and special interest warpage, the VA from overloading and underfunding, and a bureaucracy that includes a lot of Reagan and Bush-attracted and selected employees with their fuck-the-citizen/soldier attitudes, just like a lot of other Big Federal Agencies, that all being a part of the Reagan Revolution to cripple, though not reduce, Big Government. (And let me add that as a former federal enforcement attorney with the EPA, and long-time user of VA services, and nurse with experience in several "health care" settings, a lot of the problem is that across the board, uniformly, such places tend to be run for the benefit and convenience of the people who work there, not the population to be served, and the set of behaviors they bring to the job sometimes leave a whole lot to be desired, a problem exacerbated by the New American Business Model of "Making fewer and fewer people do more and more work for less and less money," which approach has spread into our neoliberal "government" offices as well.

    Guess what? Thousands of people with private health insurance, and Medicaid, and Medipass, and even Medicare and Tricare and stuff, DIE WHILE WAITING FOR APPOINTMENTS TOO. Anybody taken a look at equivalent statistics for the general public? A person in the last stages of CHF or cancer may die "waiting for an appointment" and stuff like that. What a surprise that it happens to VA patients too... especially since all those flag-lapellers with "Thank you for your service" in their mealy mouths and "Cut The Government (and you voiceless fucking veterans too" in their greedy little Imperial hearts...

    What the VA hospital admins did is sick and wrong, but it's part and parcel of the hypocrisy that we all swim in every day.

    Maybe we could concentrate on NOT MAKING ANY MORE WOUNDED WARRIORS, since "we" are finally seemingly leaving Notagainistan via a "Vietnamization" scenario that can in no way prop up the Kabul regime, in no way create a self-sustaining national police and army, and once again do a Big Huge War, $4 or $6 trillion, find out that trying imperial land wars in Asia is a losing proposition, and now Obama is making noises about pulling in our Imperial horns a little bit, but not until enough damaged troops have been made and enough of the nation's wealth has been transferred to the War Machine and corruption in far off places.

    Any bets on when we will find out who the last official KIA in Notagainistan will be? or the last to be blown up or shot for our sins, and then enrolled for such care as "we" care to afford to the mopes who, like me back in 1966, enlisted to go protect our country by abusing and killing peasants in far off lands, sent our patrolling to "draw fire," getting used as human mine and IED detectors, all of which create dead and damaged GIs that we so smugly elevate and so quickly forgetabout, troops sent by feckless and immune Brass on idiotic Missions for purposes that for the most part are just about the Grand Corruption that is the militarized Great Game that now divvies the whole planet up into Combattant Commands presided over by Generals and Admirals who live like kings, all part of what is called the Global Networkcentric Interoperable Battlespace?

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 11:00:02 AM PDT

    •  THAT^^^^^ is the first move: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      meinoregon, msfitz, jm214

      Stop making wounded and sick veterans!

      If I was leader, I'd be hard-pressed to send anyone into conflict that I, even as a young, vibrant man that I once was, would not be compelled to enter myself.

      Adventurism. Treasure hunting.

      Fighting for our Freedoms??? My flabby a@@! There hasn't been a war to protect American freedoms since... maybe WWII? yes? no?

      Stop spending the vitality or the very lives of our young sisters/brothers/daughters/sons/fathers/mothers/neighbors like so much copper, nickel and silver. Bring them home or keep them in noncombat arena bases.

      This Neo-con wetdream of the Era of the War for Profit has to come to an end. Now.

      Lead with love. Forgive as a reflex.

      by Gentle Giant on Fri May 30, 2014 at 12:45:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  DOUBLE A-MEN. Anyone listening? Starting to see (0+ / 0-)

        The REAL nature of the Great Game that's killing us and our planet for the insatiable greeds and pleasures of a very, very few? People who will live out their safe, pampered lives and die in comfort with the best possible care, free of any consequences for the heedless horror they cause? Check out "Soylent Green" for what the endgame is shaping up to look like...

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 06:42:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If you served in the military, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    msfitz

    you know about "hurry up and wait".

    I'm hoping that none of these scandalous waiting periods are intentional/politically motivated. I'm hoping. This IS Arizona we're talking about, 2nd only to Texas for batshit craziness.
    The idea isn't too far-fetched, not in conspiracy theory territory, when you consider the overt politically-motivated frustration of millions of citizens in red states who did not get the ACA or Medicaid expansion.

    And we on the Left will be castigated for saying the downward spiral in veteran care took off during GWB's administration, since he's been out of office for 6 years. Even though we would be correct in saying so.

    Lead with love. Forgive as a reflex.

    by Gentle Giant on Fri May 30, 2014 at 12:28:50 PM PDT

  •  Positive experiences with VA care (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jim Domenico, cailloux

    I have been using VA for my primary health care for about 10 years and have been happy with the care provided. I'm fortunate to be in good health so my needs are minor.

    I did have a hernia repaired a few years ago. It was my first surgical procedure since I had my tonsils out when I was 3.

    I was able to get an appointment with my primary care physician promptly when the hernia started to bother me. I must have aggravated it somehow. She confirmed that I had a hernia and scheduled a pre-op workup for the next week.

    When I showed up for that, the first thing that happened was that I was examined by the Chief of Surgery and 4 interns. The VA medical center in Washington, DC is a teaching hospital and I was today's lesson. I "turned my head and coughed" so much I was getting light headed.

    I don't think I would have had the attention of the Chief of Surgery at a for profit hospital.

    After everyone had agreed that  I had a hernia, I went for the rest of the workuo.

    I met with my patient advocate who would help me and my wife cut through the hospital bureaucracy if needed. Then I had a physical, a chest xray, and a consultation with my anesthesiologist. All under the same roof with very little waiting between appointments.

    I think I would have been chasing all over town to get this done in the private sector.

    The surgery itself was unremarkable.

    I was very happy with how smoothly the system worked.

    A couple of other points.

    I get my prescriptions through the VA. There is means testing, so they cost $9 each.

    I was able to retire early because VA health care was available to me. The ACA is predicted to reduce the size of the workforce (kill jobs in GOPspeak) for this same reason. People who are no longer locked into their jobs by their need for employer provided health care will quit and do something they would rather do.

    The politicians that start wars have to be forced to pay for them. If we forced them to do pay up front, maybe they wouldn't be so adventurous with other peoples' lives and money.

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