VA 911! Is Your VA Patient Advocate Giving Veterans Bad Tort Claims Advice?
Victims and families of victims of VA malpractice are always shocked when I inform them that their VA patient advocate provided erroneous legal advice when helping fill out an SF-95. Here is what you need to know when filing a Federal tort claim against the agency.
The biggest mistake I see as an attorney on the SF-95… Well, there are two big mistakes… And beyond these two that I will discuss below, I cannot help but wonder why veterans and their families are taking legal advice on negligence from VA employees, at all? Maybe trusting VA for legal advice is the biggest mistake of all? Would you trust an insurance company to be honest with you about damages from a car accident? So why do we keep trusting VA about any legal advice, at all?
Veterans and their family members come to me with this problem a lot. The big picture mistake was trusting the VA patient advocate. The two procedural mistakes that resulted from this big picture mistake, which I will address in this article, could cost a claimant millions in potential recovery for the veteran, spouse and affected children.
Sound like an expensive mistake?
TWO PROCEDURAL MISTAKES IN NUTSHELL SUMMARY
In a nutshell, the first mistake affects the amount of damages the person can receive if they win in court by putting in a low estimate that cannot be increased in court. Do not lowball yourself by underestimating your own damages.
The second mistake affects a spouse’s ability to claim damages alongside the veteran victim by omitting the name, signature and damages alleged by the spouse for loss of consortium type damages. Do not forget to include your spouse. I will get into these issues below.
This article is not intended to be an “end all be all” of FTCA tort claims, so be sure to do your own independent research and consult an attorney with questions. Instead, it is written to highlight problems and to help veterans and their family members keep from getting misled by erroneous legal advice from VA employees.
VA 911 articles are geared of issues that, if not fixed immediately, can have a lasting impact on a veteran’s ability to seek justice.
FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS PROCESS OVERVIEW
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides a limited waiver of sovereign immunity by the federal government to allow lawsuits for claims of negligence and medical malpractice. Generally, you cannot bring a lawsuit claim under FTCA for intentional torts or due process claims. This means the limited waiver created by Congress does not include intentional acts or acts related to Constitutional matters.
Statute 28 U.S. Code § 1346 and related statutes provide the framework wherein a private person can sue the Federal government in Federal court.
RELATED: Read About Federal Tort Claims Act Law On Wiki
The premise of FTCA is that the Federal government should be liable for the same negligent acts that a person would be liable for in the state where the incident occurred. However, without a waiver of sovereign immunity, a private party cannot sue the government. This falls under the whole, “The King can do no wrong,” argument against suing the government.
For that reason, FTCA created a waiver where the government is on the hook for the same causes of action any other person in the state would be liable for under a theory of negligence including medical malpractice in most instances.
A new area in FTCA that applies to disability compensation relates to standard of due care any VA medical examiner pays to a veteran examinee in a disability compensation evaluation. If the examiner deviates from any standard of care recognized by a state court for independent medical examiners, they could be liable for negligence under state laws. I will touch on this in a separate article.
One of the conditions of FTCA relates to notice. Before you bring a lawsuit in federal court under FTCA, you must provide notice to the agency in question and allow that agency a chance to remedy the problem. That notice can be in the form of a signed writing or the SF-95.
SF-95 or STANDARD FORM – 95 – SAME THING
The SF-95 is short for Standard Form-95, Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death.
This is the public form Federal agencies give a claimant to file a grievance against the respective Federal agency. The form is pretty short and provides boxes where information should go that are numbered. The form is somewhat misleading.
[I will explain why at the end of this article.]
RELATED: Download SF-95 From VA OGC
You are not required to use the form but I suggest using it at least as a kind of cover letter while providing an attachment or addendum to fully explain the issue. Sometimes, the issue is as simple as, “I came in for an amputation and the doctor cut off the wrong leg.” Other times, the issue can be quite complex and require many pages of explanation.
Here is a hypothetical to try to fill in.
One veteran has the wrong leg cut off in surgery. The anesthesiologist calculated the wrong amount of anesthetics to use, which resulted in brain damage. The veteran cannot speak or work and is in a catatonic state most of the day. Six months later, after rehabilitation, the wife is forced to quit her job to take care of the veteran. Both individuals were 35 years old and happily married. He worked as a lawyer and earned $100,000 per year. She worked as a banker and also earned $100,000 per year. They have two children. Both have a life expectancy of 50 more years.
To complicate matters, let’s say the VA did not inform the family that the wrong anesthetics were used, provided false information that the brain damage was the result of natural causes, and then refused to provide the family with all the medical records. This resulted in the family not finding out for five years about the real cause of the brain damage.
Ready, go! How much do we claim? Do you think the VA patient advocate has any idea how to assess a complicated legal damages scenario?
YOU MUST FILE WITHIN TWO YEARS OF KNOWLEDGE OF INJURY
The FTCA has a two-year statute of limitation (SOL). This means must file your claim within 2 years of your having knowledge of the incident in question with that agency. For the VA, this means you have two years to file with the Regional Counsel that is responsible for that respective VA in your area. For example, in Minneapolis, you would file with the Office of Regional Counsel for the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. This means the claim must be in the hands of Regional Counsel via fax, mail or email within two years of the incident.
If malpractice was a simple botched surgery, then you have two years from the point at which you knew the surgery was botched. This is obvious if they cut off the wrong leg, which would show that you have constructive knowledge even if no one told you. But, for some issues, the matter of having knowledge is less obvious.
For example, let’s say a psychiatrist like Mr. Candy Man, VA psychiatrist David Houlihan, prescribed a drug to treat a misdiagnosed issue. Let’s say VA took three years to finally correctly diagnose that condition. Let’s complicate this hypothetical by indicating the drug prescribed was permanently damaging and unneeded for the particular condition that was actually causing the symptoms. In this hypothetical, the knowledge would start when the patient did know or should have known about the misdiagnosis and that the drug prescribed was harmful for no reason.
See how this can get complicated based on the facts and relevant state law?
It is important to consult an attorney if you have any question, because the issue of knowledge can be complicated if the matter lasted for longer than two years.
Once you file the claim, the agency will investigate the matter for six months. After the six-month point, you should receive a decision with an option to request reconsideration if you think the agency was wrong or if the offer they provided was lower than justified. If you disagree with the decision, you can request reconsideration, which gives the agency another six months to review the matter.
If the agency does not contact you, then you may need to call the agency immediately to find out why. If they still fail to speak with you, consult with an attorney right away to not miss the window to bring your claim in Federal court. Generally, you have six months after a decision to bring suit in Federal court.
YOU MUST INFORM AGENCY OF ALL CLAIMS AND ALL EVIDENCE
If you fail to provide accurate information to the offending agency within the first six months of the claim, you may be prevented from brining suit on that issue or for that amount when it comes time to go to court. Once the agency renders its final decision after six months, that decision is generally final with few exceptions related to new evidence or claims you can provide. You can request reconsideration, but the process is not like a disability compensation claim, and you really need to get VA all the evidence and claims information immediately the first time around.
Any failure to fully inform the agency will be used against you by way of not making the claim in court. Beyond this, if you fail to claim an adequate amount of damages up front, most law firms will not take on your representation. This is the one instance where veterans tend to lowball themselves by downplaying the severity of the injury or issue.
Here is a quick fix. If you already filed an SF-95 that is pending, immediately fax, email or mail an amendment to your original claim that provides updated information, damages amounts or the addition of a new claimant like a spouse or child.
IGNORE ERRONEOUS ADVICE FROM VA PATIENT ADVOCATES
This is where erroneous advice from VA employees such as VA patient advocates can really harm a veteran’s claim, permanently. I liken VA patient advocates to corporate human resources professionals. While they claim they are there to help, their real purpose is to cover the butt of the company’s executives. That is my take on their position and why I strongly encourage all veterans to get a second opinion after speaking with any patient advocate.
Further, they are usually not trained in law and have a limited understanding of how their erroneous advice will harm your claim later.
VA patient advocates hand out SF-95’s to veterans and family members who believe VA health care professionals committed medical malpractice or some other form of negligence. On numerous occasions, I was relayed stories where the VA patient advocate did one of two things, and both of which are wrong:
- They recommended a low-ball damages award without analysis.
- They failed to inform the family that the spouse or caregiver might also make a claim.
#1 LOWBALL DAMAGES AWARD
Be sure when filling out this form that you consult a lawyer first. Generally, regular Joe’s will have no way of knowing how expensive a particular claim might be. However, most personal injury attorneys will know. You can also conduct a web search yourself to find settlement information or court awards for similar injuries.
Attorneys generally advise claimants to aim at the higher end as to how much a person believes the injury caused. To give an idea, one veteran received $18 million from a botched dental visit in his FTCA lawsuit. Another veteran who received brain damage during a surgery received $8 million.
Veterans who suffered brain injury at the hands of VA doctors will generally experience greater costs of recovery and greater impact on their former lives and marriages than the majority of other kinds of injuries.
The damages really depend on the life expectancy and expected lifetime earnings of the person. Sadly, elderly veterans will receive lower damages than younger veterans. Employable veterans are deemed to also be more valuable than unemployable veterans. The question here is generally economic in nature rather than based on sentiment. Other factors are the cost of long-term health care following the injury.
#2 ALL CLAIMANTS MUST SIGN
If you have a claim for damages, you must provide a signed writing that explains the context of your damages and the total amount of damages you seek. A spouse can claim generally referred to as a “loss of consortium” claim brought at the same time as the claim by the injured party. In some states, children can also bring claims for this. You must include your signature and state what your damages are. Then, add your damages into the total.
Most spouses (or children) who fail to include a claim based on the impact of their marriage from the malpractice are nixed when it comes to making the claim in court following the administrative review.
If you are a spouse and you believe you have a claim, I suggest putting your name at the top right where the form asks for the claimant’s name along side the claimant’s name. Then, also include your signature at the middle left side of the form where it asks for the claimant’s signature. You both need to sign the form. You should do the same when you write out an addendum as I explain below.
Here are some common names for these kinds of damages that spouses can assert. Be sure to double-check what your state courts allow related to claims for spouses or children:
- Loss of Consortium
- Loss of Companionship
- Loss of Society
MISLEADING SF-95 FORM
Many attorneys and advocates feel the SF-95 form is misleading. Try to fill one out in a hypothetical case. Do you think it could be misleading for the average claimant with no information on how to fill it out while in distress or pain? I focus my legal practice (Krause Law, PLLC) on brain injury, and often times these victims get the run around while seeking justice.
In the boxes, it only indicates one claimant and does not clearly indicate anything about the spouse. The damages line is somewhat confusing and it includes an auto addition feature that does not allow you to manually add in the total damages. Finally, the signature line does the same and gives no space for an additional signature.
This is why I suggest filling out the form with both signatures and names while also providing an addendum to more fully explain the nature of the claim and the amount of damages you are claiming.
But no matter what, be sure to sign your name and include the total amount of damages!!! You can rarely fix this error once the agency makes a final decision.
What do you think? Did you ever receive erroneous legal advice from a VA employee or VA patient advocate as to how to fill out the SF-95 or a related document?
I join the ranks of those being unable to find an attorney with any experience filing under the federal tort act-I’m now blind in one after needing some eye surgery. My civilian eye Dr said I need some eye surgery and he would be referring me to a hospital on the NW side of Milw Wi for it as I needed to be put under for it due to the excessive amount of pain meds given to me in an Army hospital before my discharge building up my tolerance and resistance to std pain meds negating the ability to do surgery in his ofc bldg.. He suggested I check with the Lovell Center-a/k/a N, Chgo VA hospital to see if they would do eye surgery on their site-if so have their surgeon consult with him and schedule it-saving me a 60+/- mile interstate trip when Lovell is 19 Mi from my home. I repeated my request at the VA-they ran me in circles for months-frustrated I discussed it with my regular VA nurse practitioner who said I need a good lawyer-that hospital has been sued for negligence and malpractice before, It took 10 months to get into their eye dept. for 3 return trips to find out they had me seeing Navy Corpsmen instead of an eye surgeon–then after some words with the last one-he had me see a female VA staffer who said to me OMG I may have to do some emergency surgery-then instead of scheduling surgery she was referring me out to a VA contract physician-I told her after this much time I’d have to give that some thought..but I went there on 1st available appt-went thru my story again-told to make another appointment-was hospitalized later that day on a different matter- when I regained conscious I could not see very well out of one of my eyes-thought it might be due to an advancing cataract-got another appt with the VA contract Dr-asked him if he consulted w/my regular eye Dr-he said no-asked if he scheduled the surgery anyway-he said no–then he says there is no sense in doing surgery now-your sight is gone-once it is gone you cannot get it back–but you should go out and make another appointment and come back,,,The VA took over a year -never said they would not do the surgery on site and now I’m permanently blind in one eye
Hi I need to fill out of form 95 , for miss diagnose.
Hi. I need help and I don’t know where to go or who to talk to. Can you email me? I don’t want to put all the details out in the open. Thank you.
Plain and simple…went to Phoenix VA Dermatology by referral from my PCP Southeast clinic, had an appointment 9/28/16, exam and was told needed skin biopsy. Asked for hard copy of Informed Consent form for review and was told could not print. Went to Patient Advocate and requested hard copy for my review and decision making and was postal mailed a “blank” 10-0431a. Dermatology has never sent me the completed form, even after several more Patient Advocate requests. Now the Chief of Dermatology stated he was willing to provide a full body exam “and then provide an informed consent”…..coercion. Response also included pdf copy of SF95. Need advice Contact Rick at [email protected]
I am in the last phase of the legal process with the V.A. now they will have to settle with me or I will file in federal court. I am seeking representation at this point. The damages are for 1.5 million.
I need a tort claim lawyer asap can anybody help me
Veterans with TBI, are at a very big disadvantage, we (I), would not know what type of lawyer to hire, where to find such a lawyer. Filed two claims against Two doctors and of course received letters back denighed, need more proof.
I felt I had no way of getting more proof, the Patient rep, had sent e-mails to the director, chief of staff. I sent freedom of information act, to retrieve those e-mail and the VA refused to release them, So not knowing what else to do or where to find the type of lawyer needed, I felt I had to just let it go.
I even called the police in Sheridan and they told me to call the FBI, since it happened in a federal facility, that is the best way. I did contact the FBI, to no avail. The VA Chief of staff yelled at me and veterans were telling me you better watch out they will kill you. I was so afraid of them, I went to the chaplin and told him what happened and if I should end up dead, he would know why.
Their should be a list of Lawyers who veterans can call for assistance this was many years ago
9 days ago i took a pain killer the VA doctor prescribed, I fainted 3 times and fell, got a concussion , fractured a facial a bone. Was taken to local hospital. Had ct scans, ekg and was told to follow up with primary. Needed a referral but could not get one for 9 days. Ive decided to file a tort claim. I need some help in doing so. Where can i get help? Still not feeling well.
I am a disabled veteran, who has messed up his right knee, while on active duty over thirty three years ago. When I got out of the military in 1982, I was rated @ 10%. I received this compensation for October, November, and December. January 1983, they discontinued my 10% compensation. I filed twice in 1983, twice in 1984, once in 1985, and twice again in 1996. I was finally awarded 10% again in December1997, but VA made it retroactive to January 1996.I now have 3 herniated in my back, degeneration in both knees, both ankles and I, suffer from depression. I also have radiculopathy(nervous damage) in both legs, due to diabetes, that I have never had before. I have been trying to find an attorney, for over thirty years, Can someone please, help me find a tort attorney, because I have been wrongly diagnosis, and accused of having a C&P exam in October of 2012, which they didn’t send paperwork, to my POA, or me.
Never be swayed by anything the VA has to say about anything period! Those fools have a day of reckoning headed their way. I will be at the helm. And I take no Prisoners. My enemies in Southeast Asia and Central America all unite in the fact that “Something Evil Lives in the Jungle”. I guess they mean maybe the Fer de Lance or the Krait, semantics as far as I’m concerned. I don’t really care what they think. Born a Killer, Die a Killer! A friend to the American Veteran!!!!!
Hi….Im also a disabled veteran and im living in Phoenix az metro area………The V A regional office way back didnt help me to obtain a job to well at all and also to go to school and this is just for starters with going through the Phoenix voc rehab…….I was discharged with 20% disability and now finally after fighting V A Hospital and all for 25 years or so got the 100% for all it is worth!!!!!……Going through doctors who didnt care at all and everything……the service officers are even bad sometimes to……………I have had dental problems and the V A dental wont help me and have been to the patient advocate and also senators office here and none will help…..I have all teeth missing but four on bottom and have a partial on bottom but cant wear upper dentures because gagging disorder and they wont do anything and also lied about it for dental implants………now im still trying to find someone that could help me and i have been not able to eat right at all and cant smile in front of people with no uppers unlessi want to be embarressed……there is a bone loss problems also in gums and dental implants help to save that bone……its been an ongoing fuked up deal and im still not giving up on it…..wonder if there are any lawyers who help with this………….and need to find help to get this taken care of and also wonder if I can sue the V A dental………im 100% disabled veteran and fully covered they said for dental and they do have dental implants there and also they send you to outside places to get things done……..I dont want that idiot lier dentist to ever touch my mouth and dont like him and so on at all and others there to…….can someone tell me what i could do next or find a tort lawyer or other lawyer for this type of situation…….thank you…..
I agree, the VA is out of control, rife with corruption all the way up to and including the VA Secretary! They believe like Obama and the Clintonians, that they are above the law, the Constitution and Bill of Rights means nothing to them. I have my share of VA negligence, malpractice and outright violation of my civil rights under the constitution. It took me 3+ months to receive a Pill Splitter, and now I need a portable oxygen generator and a Hose/Dispenser Kit for a VA issued Nebulizer, do you think they can respond to that, nooo. They just pass it on (To Whom) they never inform you, you just have to go without. All my ailments can be traced back to, Agent Orange, and they will NEVER admit that, God that might take money out of the pockets of the corrupt abusers. The only VA Medical Center that delivers and is dedicated to VETERANS Health, can be found in Manchester NH, VA Medical Center. The rest of the VA Medical Centers, would prefer that you would just die!!!!
I think a class action suit is needed in order to shut the whole corrupt organization down. I’m looking for legal assistance, interested in taking on this challenge and want other veterans to sign on. I’m willing to organize this effort and split any settlements with the legal entity and what ever remains, a percentage going to the Wounded Warrior Program, they are obviously not getting the care they need from the VA. And will the VA Secretary please stop polishing the VA TURD on national TV, because no matter how well you polish the VA TURD, it still and always will be just a TURD! One of the statements that really slays me is the PCPs’ always say to never stop taking your medication, but it’s all right if the VA Pharmacy fails to deliver your medication in a timely manner or just fails to deliver your medications period.
Veterans’ feel free in contacting me at ([email protected])
I need a tort claim lawyer badly. My name is Willard Hoffman,Alamogordo New Mexico,575.434.8616,please call tuesday thru friday 10am till 5.30pm mountain time. Thank you.
I have a question, In 2011 I was operated on for the removal of my prostate due to cancer, this was due to the Agent Orange that I was sprayed with in Vietnam. DoD directed the doctor at the VA hospital to remove the entire prostate, this was told to me and placed in writing to the doctors, while on the surgery table the Chief surgeon decided to only take part of the prostate. Well the cancer came back and the nerve spearing surgery did not spear any nerves at all, I have leakage and wear 5 to 7 pads a day and for the last 3 years there has been no erection at all. My wife for 41 years has done everything and nothing , even with injections pills the pump NOTHING! I was told that the cancer would have probably come back any way. My argument is that because they did not do as they were instructed and as they told me they would, I will never know if the cancer would not have come back. So I ask you all what if anything can be done???
Veterans: Please be advised of Congressional Research Services / Statutory Presumptions (by law clerk Nichols October 2010) ; The Nehmer Court Order ( The Nehmer Training Guide ( 211A ) February 2011 Revised; DVA January 2010 Compensation & Pension Bulletin Policy (211) : Information on Vietnam Naval Operations and June 2010 C&P Bulletin Policy (211): ADDITIONAL Information on Vietnam Naval Operations. The gist of the information of Congressional Research Services / Statutory Presumptions should be very helpful to many Veterans. The CRS / Statutory Presumptions and The Nehmer Court Order has a lot in common.
If you trust a VA Rep to help you sue the VA — you are obviously smoking some bad s—. It’s like getting a divorce and both you and your wife use the same lawyer. (I am a former VA employee — you can trust ME — I have been low-balled in the past, but NEVER again. Don’t trust anyone in the VA — they are NOT your friend.)
Thank you for this article! I relate to both SMK and Figure8fan, although I am not yet in their situations but, when I was active in veterans issues I saw each of their dilemma’s in many veterans in the Northern California VA Health Care System. I was wounded in Vietnam on May 14th, 1967 this was a penetrating head wound which left a 2 sq inch whole in my skull and shrapnel in my brain in the right Occipital Region of my brain. Right now, It is dealing with a VARO that denied I had a TBI because, “we can’t find were any reference is made to TBI!” (I was retired from the United States Army for those wounds!) Ridiculous! They sent me through another C&P with doctor’s I believe they picked up in front of Home Depot and said, I have a “minor TBI” WTF! They didn’t even consider anything I brought to refute the VARO statement and with great care screwed me without the use of KY Jelly! In watching CSPAN Hearings that the VA Secretaries and other personnel I learned quite a bit on why the VA has stock in the KY Jelly and it exposed the VSO and NSO are pretty much useless and all they seem to care about is $$$ and not the low quality care at certain VA Clinic’s which seems epidemic within the entire VA Medical System. I have been the victim of “we can do that, it says so in regulation blah,blah,blah!” The Tort information is what I needed and the additional information is much appreciated. Since you and I spoke on the telephone Ben, I have been getting additional medical and have done more research and I feel that my wife and I can sue both Chevron and the Martinez, California VA Medical Clinic for what they did to me and my family. The only issue is the time this abuse took place but, I just found out last summer so I believe I do have a chance to wipe those smug grins off the face of the FUBAR doctor’s and other administrator’s within this SNAFU Northern California VA Medical Health Care System…a group of word’s that are hypocritical at best! Why? Because no matter what the VA doctors and administrators say, the bottom line is that they DON’T CARE! They cause harm to men and women VETERAN’s in these United States every day…We United States Veterans are considered CUSTOMERS! If that is our new label? Then I want everything the VA has caused me to lose back, not only for me but everyone of us that walked the walked and signed on that dotted line to serve in the United States Military! Thank you again Ben!
I experienced the exact same type of runaround and disregard and in same type of scenarios. Lower level VA staff will most likely complicate and create errors that will be difficult to correct. Only assistance is legal counsel outside of the VA if you can find any to help you. Law schools often have programs. If I did not try the VA system would of allowed me to die. Getting adequate care is hard due to cost reduction protocol procedures the VA does not disclose to veterans. Ive been in 3 VA systems and they all have you start over and rarely use Vistaweb to compare. Our poor country wastes alot of money on the VA system. Civilian hospitals fair much better in process. At the very basic of options, veterans as with anyone else should have a CHOICE in where they go for treatment or who with, VA or non-VA. Especially with medications. Wow, what an unnecessary struggle for all involved. VA is not set up to ‘care’ if we are homeless. Tried HUDVASH for years and told no vouchers available or only a few for the most severe cases (people who are quads or cannot pay a bill on their own) because it is paperwork intensive for them. I was told I could check myself into a shelter and start from there (I have a service dog)..or check myself into mental ward if I cannot handle life – medication adjustment they will not do unless you check yourself in (again, I have a service dog and am not checking myself in). VA psych tell you to just “cope” and learn deep breathing exercises. Alternatively, Voc rehab does not provide housing, and so if you’ve no way to sustain prior to or during program they clearing demonstrate by lack of ability or wilingness to acknowledge, that they are setting you up to fail so their caseload will reduce…instead of informing the veteran of the process so the veteran can help themselves. I would like to say the VA is a great benefit to vetetrans, and with some twisted perspective it can be…but at what cost? The physical and emotional tolls are quite exhausting…I am on the fence often if giving up…there has to be a better way of veterans not losing their dignity, or control of their own medical care! The VA/VHA has a process that tells the veterans what will happen to them whether they like it or not. That should be illegal. Id like to help the process improve, really. But if I cannot help myself first, that wont happen. I feel horrible for all the misplaced homeless veterans and the veterans all doped up in the VA mental wards. It is a poor cycle that needs to be stopped. It is not saving this country money but the opposite and lives are being lost, quality of life aside.
Smk, I am living in a homeless apartment that is receiving a grant from the VA. I can’t get a job because of the VA not treating me correctly. If they would do one thing, I could obtain employment, accept the HUD-VASH that was offered to me in my second month of living here (which of course I had to turn down as I could not afford the 30% they were wanting as I am living off of my 40% disability), rise above being homeless and get on with my life. Sounds simple doesn’t it. Then again we have to remember, we are dealing with the VA and their complete lack of caring and doing what is right to help a vet when he/she is down.
I had no choice but to live in this place or in my vehicle. It is cold this time in Indiana so the choice was simple or so I thought. This place is like a prison. I have to sign out and in, I have to report to my case manager once a week (parole officer), I have to see the Manager over the whole housing thing (the warden). I am to give them a third of my gross income for a “program fee” they can’t call it rent and they collect the “program fee” monthly, they can’t call it rent or they would have to abide by a rental contract (I pay a small amount due to I basically have no income). I am required to do random drug urine tests (once a week is not random), I have to report any increase in my income (so they can take a third of it), I have to deal with random room checks by phone (this month I have been “randomly” checked 13 out of 16 days. Not random). I have to be inside the building by 11pm and can’t leave until 5am (unless you are working or something like that). I have no rights other than to follow what they tell me or risk losing my housing. They can make me leave at anytime and do not have to give me a thirty day notice.
This is how you treat a veteran who is already down on his/her luck. they don’t care about helping a vet, they only care about getting money from them and it is bad enough that we are trying to live off of our disability. They push for us to get SSI or SSDI, food stamps, and anything but something that would actually help the vet better himself/herself. I feel like a prisoner and I am subject to search, up to and including my person. This is wrong. I will be moving out of here when it gets warm.
Ben, my question for this is this:
I was treated at the Puget Sound VAMC Seattle for 10 yrs. for my service connected disability (Knee problems with very limited treatment options) that I was discharged with in 1985. They have all of my diagnosis, treatments, MRI’s CT scans, Knee injections, Ortho surgical consult reports, ETC… everything that has been tried and the result of that treatment and I was awarded an increase from 20% to 40% for that condition.
I moved to the Indianapolis VAMC in Sept 2014 and they have refused to look at the Seattle VA medical records and as a result, they took a couple of X-rays, informed me that I have arthritis in both knees (already known, in my other VA records) and that I had NOTHING ELSE WRONG with my knees. Therefore, my chronic pain med that I was on for over two yrs. was stopped (not tapered) and I cannot get anything done to help my knees. They have had me completely start over to prove to them that I have a service connected disability. And to this point, I can get no treatment for my disability other than Tylenol.
The Patient Advocate is worthless. She will only look into my Indy VA records and basically states that there is nothing more she can do. I have contacted the Hospital Director who in turn put it back into the patient advocate’s hands. She has e-mailed me and has informed me that she is sorry to hear that I have had a bad experience with this VA and she will look into it. This is the same person I was just talking to. I have been fighting this up to this day and getting nowhere. She has told me she would call me this day or that day and I am still waiting for the first call.
After all of that (sorry it was long) can I do something about this. I have brought it to the patient advocate about the difference in the records from one VAMC to another VAMC. The disconnect between the two. How the Dr. has told me he will not look at those records and will not hear me tell him about them or my previous treatment from the other VA. I have switched Dr’s three times and all with the same result.
Meanwhile, I cannot obtain employment (I was employed while at the other VA due to my treatment helping be able to do that), I am trying to survive off of the disability pay a month, I am now a homeless vet because of this. All of this has been told to this VA and it falls on deaf ears. I can barely make it through the day and they don’t care. I am at my end and do not know what to do.
I have contacted everyone up to and including “Bob” McDonald with no luck. I am at a loss.
You are not alone in your bad experience with the Patient Advocate office at the Indianapolis VAMC. In my dealings with that hospital, they were part of the problem – a big part.
Just my two cents, but there are a couple of things you might want to try. Since you’ve gone public here, you could tell your story to a local TV reporter. That could embarrass the VA enough to do something. WISH-TV always seemed to be the most aggressive about covering the VA, but any of the local stations would give you a fair shake.
The other thing is a long shot, but could be worth it. You could take all your medical records to the ER at Eskenazi Hospital (the county hospital next door to the VA) and hope you draw a compassionate doctor who will give you a second opinion.
If all else fails, Kentucky is just a few hours away. I doubt the VA in Louisville could be any worse than what you’re facing now, and I’m told it’s very easy to sign up for Medicaid if you move there. Then you would have some options for medical care.
Good luck. I’ll keep a good thought for you.
Usedtoliveinindy, My continued complaining, weekly e-mailing, contacting the news media, the director of the hospital, people above this hospital in the VA, and others finally got me some attention and they finally said OK to helping me with my problem (I also think that mentioning that I have ten years of proof from the Seattle VA and this VA has four months of NO proof and words like malpractice, legal actions, disconnect between VA’s, and that kind of talk helped). They still state that I have nothing wrong with my knees for which I am service connected for and that is the whole basis of the problem. If I have nothing wrong and they can find nothing wrong then why are they now willing to prescribe a chronic pain medicine? I guess the squeaky wheel finally does get the grease. I have not been completely filled in on what is going to be done; however, it is a start in the (hopefully) right direction.
I was all set and was planning my move back to WA when this happened so now that is being put on hold until I find out the arraignment of this deal. If it is not what I will accept then I will move back to WA. All of my treatment for the last 10 yrs. is from the Seattle VA and I was told (yeah I know, we all have been “told” this or that) that they would most likely be able to put me back into their system and continue with my treatment after all, they have all of the records to prove what has been done to my knees. Sounds like the easiest way to get what I need.
I did not think about the KY. VA and that is close to my deer hunting grounds (Corydon IN) so that would put me closer to that so that would be a plus.
Thanks for the info and hopefully this VA and I can come to an agreement on the treatment. If not then I may make a trip to the Louisville VA and talk to them to see if they can do the right thing. It would be a heck of a better move than to go to WA. I will let you know what happens after my appointment with my Dr.
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