My name is Ronald Parmelee, and I am the Paralyzed Veterans of America Liaison in Montana for the Mountain States Chapter in Denver, Colorado. I appreciate the opportunity to take a few minutes of your time.
Montana VA Healthcare System is good and helps many veterans. The Outpatient Clinic along with the DAV Transportation Network helps Montana veterans in rural areas. Like all systems there are some veterans who get lost. This is true in the case of spinal cord veterans in Montana. They have no one place to go in VISN 19. Montana spinal cord veterans have connections with the first spinal cord units where they received treatment such as Woods, Palo Alto or Seattle. This is where they continue to receive treatment.
With the purposed spinal cord injury unit in the Denver VA Hospital, at Fitzsimmons, there was to be a 30 bed acute care unit. The numbers jumped between 15 to 20 to 30 acute care beds, depending on who you talk to. The number of spinal cord veterans in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Montana really need the use of this 30 bed acute care unit. We need the Montana Congressional delegates to support this program.
Other veterans in special categories also get lost. For instance, the VA doctor orders a heart cath and the VA cardiologist just by looking at the veteran says "no". The veteran is not stable enough to be transferred to another VA, but when stable the transfer will take place. The veteran is concerned of the treatment he will receive at the other VA. Being in a strange city and not knowing if he will be okay. What will Denver doctors think when Fort Harrison says no? Ten days later when he is in fair condition, using his own heath insurance (Tri-Care) he has the procedure done at the Community Hospital and is told he will have to pay what Tri-Care doesn't pay, that just does not seem fair. Especially when the community cardiologist finds there is a problem and has to put 2 stints in. The veteran is returned to Fort Harrison for recovery. At the VA no one says anything to him about the procedure one way or the other. Thank goodness his ward doctor insisted that he have the procedure done. Even when it was noted that this was a necessary thing to save this veterans life, the VA refused to pay for the procedure even though the veteran is 100% service connected. Part of this service connection is for his heart condition.
Another problem is doctor's orders getting lost in the system. One example is a special floor to wall railing. There were special specifications and this was given to Prosthetics by the doctor. The veteran has waited for over two months. He called the VA and was told they would check on it and call him back. That was over a month ago. He still calls and no return calls; answering machines are great.
Other areas of concern are when the veteran's primary care physician is reassigned and the veteran is left with no one to turn to. The seriously ill veterans get to see a Physician Assistant or a Nurse Practitioner.
Appointments that are supposed to be made for 2 week follow-up visits sometimes take 6-8 weeks .
A lot of frustration is working with a Nurse Practitioner and waiting for who ever is pinch hitting for the transferred physician to make a decision and get back with the NP who gets back with the veteran.
When there is a problem the veterans does not know where to go, who to talk to. Also when the veterans want to put input in their cases they are ignored.
Again, 90% of the Montana veterans are taken care of with little problem. There are good doctors, nurses and staff. Some bend over backwards to help. I have seen patients waiting to see their provider and a staff worker comes and taken them where they need to be ahead of schedule because of their condition.
Thank you for letting me take a few minutes of your time.
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