One veteran is fighting for his life after a VA death panel denied him a lung transplant saying he is three years too old to receive the lung. The veteran is 73 instead of 70.

Bill Root, a Vietnam veteran, served as a tank commander during the war. Now, he barely has enough lung function to walk his dogs. “I walk a little over two miles. I do get winded but the oxygen helps. I have to maintain a certain oxygen level,” Root said.

Root is now dying of pulmonary lung fibrosis. “You’re not able to access air, so eventually you just suffocate and that’s it,” said Root. But a VA death panel decided Root was too old for a lung transplant citing its cutoff of 70 years old.

VA Death Panel Logic

In an email explaining the denial, VA wrote to the press about the death panel logic:

VA’s patient selection criteria, as determined by VA transplant centers, are in place to ensure a fair and non-discriminatory distribution of organs, as well as optimal outcomes for transplant recipients.

Per federal regulations, VA provides eligible Veterans medically necessary care and treatment that meets the standard of care.

Mr. Root was deemed not to meet VA transplant center selection criteria, therefore there is no basis for referral or authorization to a non-VA provider.

BS Detector

I know the BS detector in many of my readers is probably going off right now after reading this response. Any veteran reader this should immediately seek answers to the following questions based on the vague VA email:

  1. What is the patient selection criteria?
  2. What are the optimal outcomes for a 73-year-old with this condition?
  3. What VA regulations were considered?
  4. What are the standards of care for a 73-year-old with this condition?
  5. Who made the decision to exclude the veteran?

My friend AJ Lagoe at Kare 11 here in Minneapolis has repeatedly covered massive failures in VA’s application of health care policies and laws when it comes to transplant criteria. (see bottom for AJ’s coverage)

You can rest assured that VA criteria is applied in a host of arbitrary ways depending on what side of the bed the VA official wakes up on that particular day.

VA Whistleblower

According to CBS Channel 8 News in San Diego:

Jamie McBride works as a transplant manager for the VA in Texas. He researched Root’s case and now he’s blowing the whistle on the VA’s transplant policy.

“This happens to veterans all over the United States,” McBride said.

“In the case of a lung transplant some facilities say that age 70 is as old as they will accept. Other centers say it should not really depend on chronological age but more on physiological age. How old do they look or how young do they look?” said McBride.

Root received a referral to be evaluated at UCSD health in La Jolla.

The doctors at UCSD told him he was actually a good candidate for a lung transplant because he’s healthy and in good physical shape.

Unfortunately, since UCSD is a private hospital, it does not accept VA health insurance.

“This veteran has a local transplant center that has said for his age he looks good and that he would definitely be acceptable as a candidate for transplant consideration,” said McBride.

“My message to them is to get their head out of their ass and get this thing moving, not only for me but for other veterans who are going to be in the same situation,” said Root.

“This doesn’t only apply to lungs. It’s also hearts, kidneys and livers,” said Root.

If you are interested, please check out Root’s Facebook page chronicling his fight against VA for access to lifesaving healthcare.

Kare 11 AJ Lagoe On VA Tranplant Stories

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34 COMMENTS

  1. My BS meter never shuts off and fluctuates between Defcon levels of importance, issues and needs.

    For one: We, many, are NOT allowed to question.

    Two: We rarely if ever get answers besides the dismissive attitudes or ability to ask those ‘at the top.’ Or allowed to get the ears of politicians, DC leaders, or media. No negatives allowed in some areas. Media and others reinforce that mantra.

    Three: What the VA allows or does many times flows out to civilian care as well. Like with age issues, drug testing, etc.

    Four: This has been an issue for many many years yet the “discussions” continue. Why? As usual. Like with suicides, what is the body count today or for the week?

    Five: The same attitudes apply with other issues say like … torn rotator cuffs and torn muscles. VA or no… ages 63 up are “too old for possible repairs and probably will not mend the condition at those ages.” Or ‘must consider the months long of being in required casts (loss of quality of life and restriction), then all the physical therapy required.’

    Six: The back and forth among the “professionals” or PAs not following suggestions/orders/treatments from specialist. Or info not being put in files. But they all have those rules, laws, guidelines, allowables, acceptables, excuses to follow.

    Seven: They left out the obvious spring-board issues of how the wealthy, prominent families say like in DC or state levels etc., Veterans or not, can easily jump to the top of waiting lists for organs in a day or as needed. Leaving those who have been waiting in the dust. Certain names pop up in my mind and age didn’t seem to be an issue. Seems that would be a mentionable in a news segment for thought. But insider news only, compartmentalized issues, and censoring stifles any news or info on that.

    Eight: Any long distance travel that creates issues for patients is not good or acceptable. Especially for those like Mr. Root. But he, and others, are up against others that can or will treat such travels as vacations and love the travel pay, sight-seeing, for some odd reasoning and think it’s okay not taking others into consideration.

    Nine: There are a heck of a lot more hospitals out there that do transplants and surgeries others claim they cannot do. There are those like with liver transplants, the MDs will fly in with their own teams to hospitals to do liver surgeries, try to remove cancers, tumors, from bile ducts others won’t do, and such. So what’s the major issues allowing so many to just wait and die off? Seen it up close and personal and been part of the after care line-up for cleaning drainage tubes, care giver, etc. So they can’t feed me their BS. Do the sheep, cheerleaders, DC crowd, or unaffected care? No or not much. Defcon level 1.

    Ten: Why interview politicians or those claiming to be MD professional types, in offices, when they know damn well what is happening out here whether it be this topic to pain meds, all the corruption, to traveling issues? They are intelligent (sic), in the know, read the medical journals, go to conferences for the elite/pros, heard the news reports, must have heard the complaints for years unless their insulating secretaries and staff shit-can all the attempted communications over such things.

    Eleven: Turn those puppy dog experimental wings into major transplant zones to cover it all.

    The finale: After creating a stir, or being a target or possible target for VA retaliation or for other reasons for being an enemy of some, I would not trust any VA for such surgeries, period. Mr. Root would be wise to do the same. After what I have been through the past several years I’d have to say… trust no-one due to politics and those with bruised egos and such.

      • No kidding! Neither does your BS and thinking things are all the same nation-wide. I made some points… debate them or go stifle yourself. Or the wanting for others to stop “bitching.” Point out my wrongs. Great cheerleading, again.

      • We should know better than try to respond to a person not man enough to use their name. It is like attempting to nail jello to a wall.

    • Good Work—keep repeating it over and over and over–until it take holds. It took two to three years for the Mass Media to catch on to a subject matter Benjamin Krause had been advocating VA Voc Rehab Reasonable Accommodations At School, Home, Or Work.

      Don Karg

  2. Chemical exposure why in service is known to cause organ fibrosis. But many times by the time VA recognizes one organ issue there is multiple issues with organs. Example of this is many Vietnam Veterans and Camp lejuene Veterans, plus all other exposed bases over the years of military poisoning.

  3. would not be a problem if he was the son of a Senator. The treatment you get from the VA totally depends on ones social status.

  4. This is the paradigm for all VA Care according to my current Primary Care Physician I Have. ( I have had six since 2005) . During a recent visit (I turned 70 a couple of months prior to this visit) I was essentially told by this Physician who has been working at VA for only a couple of months that VA would not perform any tests other than routine for any conditions anyone over 70. I was left with the impression that palliative care was all that was available. Another insult to us Vietnam Veterans who are now all over or approaching 70. Cost saving measure?

    • Medicare will pay for a Lung Tx if a Lung Tx Center Evaluates and Assigns an LAS. Without an LAS, their is no Tx. Not much info to judge that.

      He needs to go to a nearby Lung Tx Center and bring his Tx Eval

      • Thank you for the information. I was wondering the same thing…Doesn’t Medicare cover this. Now I know the procedure. Perhaps Ben can help Mr. Root out by passing on the info! It seems that people are too caught up in the anti-VA rants While I am no fan of the VA, the thing that concerns me is getting Mr. Root a new set of lungs.

  5. DEATH PANELS…. hmmmmm

    My biological father was a retired Master SGT after 26 years of active army service. He went on to be a very successful construction manager.

    VA failed to inform him of an issue in his lungs documented in an X-ray. 10 years later the issue had progressed to a point they couldn’t hide it from him and he quickly lost the ability to breathe unassisted. He was immobile without his scooter and continued to work from a desk he crafted to fit over the arms of his scooter.
    After several years of ER visits and ICU stays and the VA DENYING him a lung transplant; he decided to accept the death panels decision and FOUR DAYS before he was to turn 65 he ate a bite of steak then had us turn off his oxygen and he suffocated within a few unnecessarily painful minutes.

    VA message to this veteran?!
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE…..

    • Nonsense. It was a Panel which made that Decision. Temple is the Best Lung Tx in the Country and did 131 last year with excellent survival rates. And many Lung Tx were mid to late 70’s, with 1 at 80! All of the Over 65+ (total of 71) transplants were paid by Medicare! And Temple Turns Down more than they Transplant! Are those all due to your silly “Death Panels”? With your claim, every Hospital as used a Death Panel to Turn people down! Do you really believe that BS?

  6. We’ll that just sums it up the VA system is chronically full of BS, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out and it should be ashamed the way veterans are being cared for or the lack of it

  7. I’m a retired veteran, 73 is too old, unfortunately your body is dying just like all ours will eventually. Suck it up, die with dignity, and let that lung go to someone a lot younger who will get more than a few more years out of it. We don’t need or deserve to live forever.

    • Zachy. Been anticipating some kind of bull and exactly this kind of attitude and wording I’ve only heard from certain types of people. Or obvious ‘newbies.’ Wanna know how many times I’ve heard that crap from those who have never served or playing games? Point made but that is not the reasoning or main issue behind the article. Go to his FB page using your real name and tell him to “suck it up.” Or have the gall to tell others to have “dignity” when suffering or dying before their time. Especially when modern medicine can fix it. Great phony bed-side manner ya got there bucko. That’s what Oprah would think and say, and her followers. Easy for you to dare say for whatever reason or possible make believe. “WE?” Maybe you don’t need to or deserve things… maybe some others do. Why is obvious.

      Average life expectancy for males today is what? But longer life or quality of life for those in need are to be judged by clowns or those who are not dealing with the issues or having family involved in the same? Possibly like others or the elite, the connected, get to live into their eighties or nineties like many others do and have after special medical care?

      What shortages when there are those who have been caught dealing in countless organs – of all sizes and types- and with special DNA or ancestry, on the black market, by city mayors (New Jersey), to synagogues, mafias, from here to Mexico or China? Stolen too. If time allows to ship or gain the access to them.

      • Unable to respond to that total nonsense! Borders on unhinged ramblings…

        How do you know he would Survive a Lung Tx. Are you an MD who has examined him and put him thru all the Eval Tests? Do you know how to analyze the Tests to see if he SHOULD BE Translated?

        Frankly, you obviously know little about Lung Disease, Lung Tx Eval, Selection Criteria for Listing, LAS calculation, Listing, and the Calls That then Occur until a fit is found, and then the Tx itself – Bilateral Tx for about 70 and under, and Singe for over. You have Not a Clue demanding he be arbitrarily given a Lung.

        Give it a rest. You are no help…

      • William. Wow give it a rest Mrs activist. Change your panties old girl. You are still claiming I wrote and think things you are spouting about. I know and dealt with plenty … newbie. You a MD or expert? Thought not. Fine activist attack dog though. What pissed you off so much towards me? Truth or mentioning black market goods?

        Clue. Don’t know me, unable to respond, gotta use the same words… ramblings, unhinged, diatribe, blah blah. Then don’t respond, simple. And don’t expect me to lay down and take your crap junior. You have some issues Mr. Have it all and I’m perfect watch me ego shine.

      • Well Mr T, it is interesting to read your pontifications about all things VA. Especially interesting to me you “The same attitudes apply with other issues say like … torn rotator cuffs and torn muscles. VA or no… ages 63 up are “too old for possible repairs and probably will not mend the condition at those ages.” Or ‘must consider the months long of being in required casts (loss of quality of life and restriction), then all the physical therapy required.’”.

        I happen to have a very severely torn rotator cuff w/torn muscles and the Miami VA hospital offered to repair it in August of this year. For my own convenience it has been rescheduled for February, 2019. I did not want to go into a 4 – 6 month recovery right at the beginning of deer season.

        Having read a number of your responses, you come across as nothing but a big time bully to anyone disagreeing with your “expertise” with very simplistic ad hominem responses laced with profanity. I certainly agree with Spencer W. Kimball — ‘Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.’

        By the way, I am a 100% service connected, 74 year old Vietnam veteran with myelodysplastic syndrome, Type 2 and a few other Agent Orange associated problems.

  8. He has Medicare, he can self refer to a Lung Transplant Hospital that does over 70. That VA Hospital may NOT have the experience with High Risk. Fighting that VA Hospital is fruitless; he needs to go to a Hospital that doeas mid-70’s. And that VA Hospital may have OTHER Comorbidities and Issues which they just can’t handle. Commenters arbitrarily demand that he should get a Tx are just plain silly. NOT EVERYBODY WOULD Survive and they wont waste Lungs on those who won’t survive Surgery or Recovery.

    I had one at 76. BUT NOT ALL do mid-70’s or Higher. I had IPF since 2011. And VA DOES NOT recognize AO as a Cause of Lung Issues except Cancer!! And I spent 22 years in the Army. A year in VN as an Infantry Platoon Leader in the 101st walking thru acres of Agent Orange in 65-66. And living with burn barrels in Base Camp. And in 67-68 I was a Captain Commanding a Rifle Company on the DMZ Barrier in Korea, with Defoliation with AO everywhere. VA won’t recognize AO so quit bitching about it for people with current needs. Ain’t happening for them. Medicare covers at every Transplant Center, so the issue is finding a Lung Program that will List him!

    • W. Henry, which state would that be? Indiana. Here we can’t “self refer” for anything, nothing. Difficult enough finding a GP or Pcare giver. No geriatric specialist to be found. Part of the problems I am having now and have been for a few years. And over a civilian hospital that refuses to release to me my own files or send them off to specialty MDs I want to see. Which is ‘legal.” With no ‘professionals’ wanting to get involved. Why I don’t know besides the gaming and stuff. The MDs I want to see claim their policies or ways is of not asking for files from someplace, cannot legally demand files, but require referrals just like all the all others do. About the same game as the VA before. No referrals from a PC or to see the same clinics having been seen for years, same deal, just cut off. Why? Games and retaliation is the only reasons I can think of, same with others.

      Medicare will not cover many things nor address our/mine referral issues. If I want a blood test or something I can’t just pop in somewhere to get something done without a referring MD and Medicare being an insurance company alone has informed me of the ‘rules’ and applications. Those on Medicaid with referrals have been cleared for surgeries… fast, not all but some. Not wanting anything to do with the VA just because of AO red tape and games. Using that insurance (medicaid) a few here got faster referrals and surgeries but had to travel. Insurances as we know are all different and Medicare here, coverages, supplementals (differ state to state greatly) are also different from county to county… oddly enough. The games are all different in the USA.

      In the article one clinic said he was fit for a transplant.

      Glad they took care of you but the issues are the same and we aren’t all treated the same way or have the possibles others have in other states or towns. And without “bitching” things will remain the same with no change no concerns. And those like my brother can die because of the shit and not many care but think it’s better to suffer in silence or self medicate, or something.

    • William Henry, I did the same thing through Barnes Jewish/ Washington University Center for Advanced Medicine in St. Louis. After approval I went to VA hospital to get set up for meds post transplant. It can be done just like you said, just a matter of getting in touch with the right people and jumping through the VA hoops

  9. As a vet and a lung transplant recipient, I have to say that you’re screwing the pooch with this article. All transplant centers in the country have their own eligibility criteria regarding age and health. They vary from place to place. Each center is allowed to set age and morbidity criteria as part of their organizational guidelines, in an effort for them to put their own stamp on ensuring that the few lungs available go to the likeliest chances of success. They all make these same age-related decisions, because they have to. Lungs don’t grow on trees and are the hardest organs to find.

    Calling the determination team a “VA death squad” was a low blow, and sloppy journalism on your part. A little research goes a long way. Otherwise, we all appreciate the advocacy. Keep it up!

  10. The Medicare self-refer is to a Dr in Practice and at a Hospital. Indiana can not change Federal Law for Medicare.

    And of course you can’t sel-refer for Tests as they are all all invasive in one way or another, and there needs to be Medical necessity. I have self-refered to many Doctors. In Va and Md. I was turned down fo age at Inova for age, as I did not fit their Risk Profile and their Capabilities. Self referred to a High Risk Pulmonologist at UoMd and after Testing and Eval was Listed. Rest is History. Medicare has Rules that you can use to your benefit.

    Regarding one Clinic saying he was “fit for Transplant was it after full Tx Eval? If so, why wasn’t he Listed? And if not evaluated, totally meaningless comment. And each hospital has it’ts Own Criteria! Obviously he did NOT meet that criteria or do you believe he met their Criteria and lied to him? WHY?

    And Death Panel is pure Bullshit. You are claiming the Hospital can’t ever say NO based on their capability or the Patiet’s Medical Condition. So despite their Medical Eval and Analysis, the should take him – and any other person who says he wants a Transplant- just because????! Right? What idiot Surgeon would agree to Tx If he doubts the Patient will survive.

    And only 2,449 Lung Tx last year while thousands died awaiting a Lung Tx. So they have to use them frugally! BTW, of them 819 were over 65, so Seniors are well-represented!

    • Wil, you are inserting things I never said or wrote. Apparently you’re new out here cause time and time again I’ve posted about the state’s, whomever, whatever, including professionals of every stripe breaking laws, scamming, misconduct, in the VA or out, etc. Some here are shut down regardless of where they go for legal aid or try to report various kinds of mis-conduct and that includes attorneys claiming DAV benefits/pay/back-pay are NOT exempt from bankruptcies over medical bills, whatever. Sound legal and upright?? No federal laws broken there??? Others have proof of that… I’ve the proof for a lot of it but the corruption here is well supported and protected. Sorry if people out of state or not having any issues or dealing with VA retaliation, to hard censoring, attacks, and more can’t fathom of just how some areas are so corrupt. Or why so many fear or stay silent not wanting involvement or the troubles with.

      Why go to a hospital where severe games have been played already. Medical info released to local activist and politicians… from their elite spouses or special staff there just to play identity politics (very big issues here), activist games due to associations, or bad political blood, bruised egos, and harassment due to reporting about the VA and others to medical boards and such that just dismiss and cover-up. Also where lousy VA staff went to work after being canned or quit or offered better pay. I’ve got plenty of proof and plenty of recorded phone calls and logged numbers, etc. So none of us are playing the same sand-box or have the same issues or live in fine upright communities, gated communities, or around those who might have a lick of decency about them. Not locally.

      Not bad enough for ya? How about the VA shattering my jaw pulling a tooth. Besides the swelling and out of joint claimed all is well, until bone and tooth chips began to show. And not one damn local dentist or oral surgeon would X-ray it due to not wanting involved or cross lines because of, and I quote..”professional courtesy.” Not tell me about decency and laws or how perfectly covered we are by laws or surrounded by good caring folks. OH, I can prove that to along with statements and no investigations from the state agencies or attorney general. So I really don’t need people trying to tell me how life is or what can be done. TY anyway.

      • Life sure sucks for you. Not interested in your stuff. You clearly are into conspiracy shit and all the evil out to get you. You definitely are unhappy! Sad..

        What Service, What year’s, What MOS And What location?

        Me, i’m Happy as a pig in swill, living the good life with my new lung.

        You should try it…

      • Got the proof, conspiracy? Mr activist, control freak, know it all. Your intentions out here are clear. Done with you too. You trolls sure show your agendas and it’s not about discussing or debates, or sharing. Like you and others it’s all about attack and tactics, same old same ole, labeling, blah blah from the control freaks/cheerleaders. Happy for ya, and don’t bother me none…at all. Enjoy it and things before it rejects your ornery lying butt with phony stats by mouth. Have a nice life, joker.

      • T. Your constant bullshit is giving veterans, disabled or not, a bad name. You’re are harming your fellow vets, and yourself for that matter, with your racist, misogynistic, jingoistic, antisemitic, anti-academic and inaccurate rants. I cannot recommend the disabledvets.org website to others whether they be veterans I am assisting, family, elected officials, or civilians honestly interested in veteran issues because I don’t want to subject them to your crap. Mostly, I don’t want them to believe that I am anything like you.

        You butcher the English language, have no familiarity with spelling, grammar or punctuation which makes your comments unintelligible and confusing. You post the same miserable shit day after day. If you have nothing meaningful to contribute, then why don’t you give it a rest for a while, STFU, read legitimate comments and, Heaven Forbid, learn something.

        And before you even think about getting into a dick measuring contest, beware because my military career and veterans advocacy are above reproach.
        Disabledveterans.org is one of Ben’s business enterprises. He asked very politely the other day to rein in the irrelevant rants. His request was directed at you and a small group of other daily ranters. Yet, today you felt compelled to make 7 more ignorant meaningless comments. Why do you feel you have the right to damage Ben’s business?

        Please, go away until you grow up and comport yourself like a reasonable adult.

    • T is full of misinformation. He calls my UNOS.org stats BS, yet can not show what he thinks are the right stats on Tx.

      I suspect he is a wannabe as he won’t answer any questions on his Service. IF he was in the Military, he was a REMF for sure. He has not one clue about Lung Tx

  11. 11/05/2018

    Dear Benjamin Krause,

    Veterans Affairs’ move shifts emergency health care costs to vets. Lawsuit aims to undo that.
    BY TOM PHILPOTT, 11/03/2018.

    Apparently they think they can reduce cost by ripping off the ones they serve.

    Sincerely,

    Don Karg

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