EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 1, 2014

Column: We owe it to veterans to fix VA hospitals

(Continued)

OK, we appreciate that information. If you get care, it’s really good.

I rarely miss the Memorial Day parade and cemetery service in Marblehead. But this year, as I watched wreathes being laid for each of the U.S. wars, I felt not just the usual gratitude for service, but embarrassment for my country. How could any veteran not receive the best of services from a grateful nation? Is the problem limited to a few mismanaged regions, or is it systemic?

That afternoon, I started my search for information from my World War II resource, Chip’s father William Ford of the 107th Evacuation Hospital, which served our wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. During the family lunch I asked “Woody”, now age 95, about his own experience with the Boston area VA hospitals; he says his care has been “excellent.” His daughter and Chip quickly noted that their extroverted father doesn’t mind the long social time in the waiting rooms.

Chip doesn’t use the VA. I was surprised to learn that the same is true of my previous boyfriend and my second husband, though all three are Vietnam-era vets. I emailed my first husband, a retired Navy officer, and he responded: “Sad situation...VA is just overwhelmed... huge #s of returning (and dispossessed/unemployed) vets who turn to the VA. DoD/VA spent huge $ on trying to automate their handoff process & found it to be ‘too hard’.”

He notes that his younger brother is getting good service locally, but that another brother who works at a lab is the only one qualified to run an assessment machine that handles four VA centers.

“I’d guess scheduling is a weak area, but they do well and are on the forefront of many areas of medicine, e.g., preventing SARS/infections, etc.,” my ex told me.

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