Almost all of the comments about the VA have been negative, so I thought I would deliver some positive remarks.
I go to the VA in Grand Rapids about once a year for medical advice. I won’t trouble you with my various ailments, but simply will state that I use plenty of drugs. Without the VA, I couldn’t afford to be alive.
The VA makes it affordable by furnishing me with drugs at an inexpensive price. However, it is necessary to go there for a checkup once a year in order to justify the necessity of my drugs. Thus, I must go to see a VA physician who listens to my heart and lungs and pokes and prods a little, but mostly he reviews my records to see if the drugs are necessary.
I see a certain Dr. Koyer, who spends about a half-hour meticulously reviewing my case. He is very thorough, even though he must be very busy.
Each time I go, there must be between 100 and 200 people waiting to be served. Most of them are waiting to see a physician. A smaller number are waiting for prescriptions to be filled and some are there for lab tests. It is similar to your physician’s waiting room, multiplied by 10.
They tell me to be there 15 minutes prior to my appointment, so I do and I am always called upon by my appointment time. I don’t have enough space here to describe the system they use to take care of such a great number of patients, but let me just say that it is marvelously efficient. I’m always in and out of there within 90 minutes, so I think they should be commended for developing such a wonderful system.
I am fortunate in that I can afford to see an internist (Dr. McAree) here in Grand Haven, and he may occasionally change some of my prescriptions. If that is the case, my wife makes a phone call to the VA. Once the information is in their system, the drugs are ordered through the VA automated information system, which we have found to be very efficient, and the drugs are delivered by mail in 7-10 days.
The politicians are all up in arms because a few desperately in need of care are forced to wait a year or more for care. I’m sure that this is the exception and not the rule. It also may be due to the incompetence of a few individuals, but also the exception and not the rule. But you can find that in any organization.
I’m not making excuses, but only telling the truth. In other words, the politicians that are yelling are blaming the whole system and demanding extreme measures for the whole system.
I have heard some politicians say to hire more physicians. Where are they going to find them? There aren’t many in the unemployment line. They are hard to come by; also, they are rather expensive and the VA doesn’t have an infinite amount of cash.
Keep in mind that World War II veterans are now in their 80s and 90s, and are suffering not only from war wounds but the many ailments that come with old age. But, of course, they will all be gone in another 20 years. So, grin and bear it, for we soon won’t have them to worry about then.
In the meantime, we will have to bear with a very busy VA.
All in all, I think the VA is doing a great job, considering the resources that they have, and I applaud their efforts. Considering the human resources they have available, they do a remarkable job.
— By Ralph Wiltse, Tribune community columnist