White House Veterans’ Hot Line is a Joke – Robert O’Dowd

(PHILADELPHIA, PA) – The White House Veterans’ line is a farce. My VA primary health care doctor refuses to approve any of my scripts, except for the adult diapers. Even with that I have to remind him to reorder from the VA pharmacy or be forced to buy them from at CVS out of pocket. I needed help so I called the White House hot line.

The White House veterans hot line is staffed by 22 VA employees; none of whom have the power to initiate corrective action. They simply send you back into the VA system on your own to fight the battle. If you want frustration, Trump has found the perfect solution.

President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398 and elevated the Veterans Bureau to a federal administration—creating the Veterans Administration—to “consolidate and coordinate Government activities affecting war veterans.”

Fair or not, Herbert Hoover is also credited with the Great Depression.

The VA is an immense burearacy with a $170 billion annual budget, and a many on the staff badly in need of personal management skills.

If you think the IRS is bad, you haven’t seen anything.

If President Trump was briefed on the Veterans Hotline, you would think that he would ask if the subject matter expert had any authority to take corrective action. I doubt it. Mr. Trump, please ask the next time.

I spent the better part of an hour talking with one of VA’s subject matter expert on Friday, Sept. 9th. Nice person. Good listener. However, she had no power to correct a horrendous medical situation in the Philadelphia Regional Hospital. Her recommendation was for me to present my prescriptions to the VA pharmacy and then see the VA’s Patient Advocate, if they weren’t filled. That sounded to me like a fast track to nowhere.

I have been a 100% disabled veteran since 2009. My VA primary health care doctor refuses to approve any of my scripts, except for adult diapers. Even with that I have to remind him to reorder from the VA pharmacy or buy them at CVS out of pocket. I pay thousands of dollars annually for health insurance, and prescriptions. These are for medical conditions linked to military service.

My VA doctor’s line that since I have a civilian doctor and Medicare and other health insurance, I can pay for medical services and prescriptions out of pocket. I’m okay with that when the deductibles are low but when the cost is $120 or more per script, it really impacts the family budget. And, the catheters provided by a civilian company are paid by my health insurance. Last month, the supplier cut the supply from 90 to 30 days. I asked if there was a problem with Medicare. I got no answer. I thought, “This is not going well.”

My many medical conditions are directly linked to service in the Marines. I have been seriously ill for 32 years. I had to fight for disability benefits. Marines are good at fighting. They can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I won the battle but had to retain an attorney. He was good but it cost me $27,000 out of my lump sum payment.

I had three cancers and never been referred to a VA specialist. Without Medicare and my Blue Cross/Blue Shied, I would have been dead years ago. I have been through the ‘cancer mill.’ Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I had good doctors. All paid on my dime.

I have to admit that I was really angry today. Based on a second call to the VA last night, a VA social worker will call me Monday or at least that was the promise. Maybe this person can take action to fill my many scripts. I’m not asking for medical help from a VA medical specialists. No need to access VA medical doctors or nurses. No, just fill the scripts and I’ll go my own way.

Giving him the doubt, it’s possible that Trump trusted the judgement of his new VA Administrator, longtime hospital administrator Dr. David Shulkin. Well, I’ve got news for both of them. The use of SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS is a ploy used by the government to hold down costs and give the illusion of service. For example, not too long ago, disability claims for Camp Lejeune Marines were sent to a VA Louisville office for review by SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS. The denial rate was over 90%. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m hoping that this is not a political move on Trump’s part: “Look how I’m helping veterans. They have direct access to the White House.”

Mr. Trump, if you really want to drain the VA swamp and help veterans, then take action to do away with the VA. Allow disabled veterans to seek medical care from private doctors and hospitals. Let them use CVS or other successful retail outfit to fill their prescriptions at no cost to them. You would save billions of dollars. The VA’s budget in 2017 is $180 billion. Looks to me like you could save billions, and maybe even build your magic ‘wall’ or better yet, come up with a national health care plan.

Maybe you could do a cost/benefits analysis to evaluate turning over the VA hospitals to private management and allowing them to clean house. Congressman, VA staff, and many Veterans Service Organization that collect dues from veterans and give lip service to helping veterans will be mad as hell. You’re a tough guy with a reputation as a counter-puncher. Here’s your chance to demonstrate the skills that you and your staff boast about and do some good at the same time.

I had three cancers and never been referred to a VA specialist. Without Medicare and my Blue Cross/Blue Shied, I would have been dead years ago.

Based on a second call to the VA today, a VA social worker will call me Monday. I will see if this person can take action to fill my many scripts. Note, I’m not asking for medical help from a VA medical specialist. Here’s my laundry list of prescriptions:

Medications

  1. Gabapentin, 800 400 mg/day
  2. Catheters, FR 14/4.7 mm/2x/day
  3. Myrbetriq Tab, 50 mg/day
  4. Clonazepam, .5 mg/1-2/day
  5. Procardia XL Tab, 30 mg/day
  6. Losartan Potassium, 50 mg/day
  7. Hydrochlorothiazide, 25 mg/day
  8. Atorvastatin, 20 mg/day
  9. Cabergoline Tablets .5 mg/2 wk
  10. Onglyza, 5mg/day
  11. Betamethasone DP, .05% CRM/ 2/day

Medical Conditions

  1. Peripheral Polyneuropathy/Foot Drop
  2. Incontinence
  3. Erectile Dysfunction
  4. BPH (TURPs 1987, 2001)
  5. Bladder Cancer (2005 & 2015)
  6. Prostate Cancer (2013)
  7. Urethral Stricture
  8. Tinnitus
  9. Chronic Gastritis
  10. Hypertension
  11. Hyperprolactinemia
  12. Osteoarthritis (hips)
  13. Skin Rash

I served 52 months on active duty in the Marines, exposed to toxic chemicals and radiation. When I fell on my right hip from peripheral polyneuropathy and foot drop in the VA hospital last month on a marble floor, the VA’s ER did take X-rays, give me an anti-inflammatory shot in the hip, and provide a cane. I’m thankful for the cane. A referral for orthotics may have been helpful but that didn’t happen. I’m on own dime, I made an appointment with Penn Spinal just to be sure there’s nothing that could be done to stop the falling.

The sad thing is I don’t think my experience is unique.

If Trump can’t fix the VA, he will never tackle more complex problems, like health care, taxes, immigration, North Korea.

President Trump is giving ‘lip service’ to helping veterans with a White House hot line. But, it won’t work. We have his number. If thing don’t change quickly, he will be voted out of office with the rest of the Republican ‘do nothings.’

Robert O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter

Robert O’Dowd is a Marine veteran who served 52 months on active duty with the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in the 1960s. At Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, CA, Robert was assigned to Marine Wing Services Group 37 (MWSG-37), the most environmentally contaminated air group on the base with 11 contaminated sites in 200 acres, and the area where CIA proprietary C-130s offloaded their deadly cargo of cocaine.  At El Toro for 20 months, he worked and slept on duty watch in a Radium 226 contaminated work space in Hangar 296.  He has survived three cancers linked to service in the Marines. After honorable discharge from the Marine Corps and graduation from Temple University, Robert worked in a series of accounting and financial management positions with the federal government, including the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Defense Logistics Agency. In 2008, he teamed up with Tim King of Salem-News.com to write about the environmental contamination at US military bases, the health effects to veterans unknowingly exposed to toxic chemicals and radiation, and the use of El Toro in a guns-for-drugs covert operation in the 1980s and 1990s. You can write Robert O’Dowd at rodowd@outlook.com. Robert O’Dowd is the author of TREACHERY: Murder, Cocaine, and the Lucifer Directive and A Few Good Men, Too Many Chemicals:  Toxic Exposure of US Marines and Government Lies.  Both books are available from Amazon.

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