WILTSE: VA is doing a remarkable job

Much has been written about the Veterans Administration lately, although the media seems to have put it on their back burner because of the mess in Iraq recently.
Jun 26, 2014


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



I'm pleased that Mr. Wiltse is happy with the services he is provided at the Grand Rapids VA (I have heard similar comments from friends who use that facility). I am surprised and saddened that a long term professor from Grand Valley State (presumably tenured) has such poor health insurance from that position and that institution that " Without the VA, I couldn’t afford to be alive."

That said, it is hard to believe that someone can say the equivalent of "good job, Brownie" (George Bush) or "“I thank you from the depths of my heart.” (Rep. Elijah Cummings to IRS Commissioner) regarding an agency that for decades has been shown to be incompetent, uncaring, or worse in many areas of the country. Has Mr. Wiltse not read about the number of vets who have suffered and died needlessly as a result of Government medicine as practiced at the VA?

Maybe he should look at the latest report by a Congressman/Physician:

"Delinquent doctors and nurses and lagging medical treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs may have caused the deaths of more than 1,000 veterans and cost the U.S. $845 million in medical malpractice suits, Sen. Tom Coburn charged in a report released on Tuesday." http://www.politico.com/story/20...

President Obama and both parties should be working to ensure ALL VA facilities get the same kudos that Mr. Wiltse gives to our local facility, and that heads roll in the bureaucracy that has overseen this horrible situation.

Sticking one's head in the sand rarely results in achieving much other than clogged eyes and ears.


Just an FYI Mr. Wiltse . . . 7 years ago I could no longer maintain my own Health Insurance and had to begin using the VA's services (which I am grateful for). However, for a 10 yr period prior to going to the VA, every 3 years I underwent recommended cancer screening (due to a family history of cancers) and each time a number of biopsies had to be taken, thank God they were benign.
When I explained family history to my primary it was agreed the regularly scheduled screenings should be continued, Ann Arbor said no, not necessary. That was their response to my and my primary's repeated requests two or three different times. I just got my screening 10 years after my last one outside the VA.
I take offense at your comment about politicians being "all up in arms because a few desperately in need of care are forced to wait a year or more for care." I think your comment is insensitive, short sighted and ill informed. "A few desperately in need of care"?? More and more reports are coming out showing that it is much more than just "a few" vets died waiting, I could have been one of them.
Just for the record, again, I am grateful for the VA and the timely care, but it's not all been timely.

Greg Harr

Yes, the GR VA is very efficient, but it's not a hospital. It took me just short of four years to get a hip replacement from the Detroit VA, and just recently went there for a check up that I made the appointment for 10 weeks prior... and that is 'normal' for everybody that goes there!


VA's everywhere are staffed by people who may start out with compassion but are eventually beaten down by the system they cannot change and upper management that see's the care of veterans as overhead to be trimmed as though your bonus depends on it…how many dead vets waiting for treatment equates what in a bonus check?

Harry Kovaire

Mr. Wiltse:

Thank you for your service and everything. I am really glad you had a nice day at the doctor's visit. Your little anecdote notwithstanding, the VA is NOT doing a remarkable job. Frankly, your article comes across as a blend of grossly insensitive and addled commentary.

I realize that your generation is inclined towards mindless deference to authority and imbued with a keen sense of entitlement. Perhaps this is why you defend the VA and the services you continue to take in such a ridiculous manner.

You really showed your mindset with the statement that the 80 and 90 year olds will ONLY be with us another twenty years. You seem to think you are entitled to be tended for a dozen decades. Remember, all of those prescriptions that the pharmaceutical industry convinced you that you need, didn't exist when you served.

Next time you are waiting with hundreds of veterans to exercise one of your many apparent healthcare options, consider giving up your spot in line to one of the younger returning veterans. The Ponzi scheme won't be paying out if they live to be your age.


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