VETERANS CORNER: Contacting VA for help should not be a negative experience

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

I will try to hit on several of the things that seem to be of interest to our readers regarding veterans and their perceived difficulties with first contacts with the VA System. We receive a lot of phone calls which ask about receiving VA help and the best way to approach that perceived negative.

First off, it should not be approached as a negative but some tell stories of demeaning responses and degrading attitudes of those in an advisory position both administrative and service organizations. Some feel fearful to approach the VA to ask for assistance in areas of both medical and emotional distress. All it takes is one demeaning answer to send someone in need down the road to suffer alone. I have seen this and it is very sad to say the least. When a veteran extends his/her hand for assistance it should be taken and given the assistance that is needed. Actually, that is one of the reasons that person receives a paycheck.

I have always been of the opinion that the employment screening process should be very in depth. Those without sensitivity to our veterans should never be considered for employment no matter “who or what” they know. Have you ever seen a veteran cry? Well, a negative visit by a veteran to the VA leads to one of two things, tears or extreme anger. Both of these responses are tragic and unnecessary. One leads to withdrawal and dangerous depression and the other leads to adrenaline rushes and cause extreme anger and possible violence.

I have been asked on many occasions by other veterans to accompany them to the VA and help with the development of their cases. So, I end up doing a lot of that sort of thing and sometimes become privy to exactly what they fear. However, I am equipped to handle those sort of things to the benefit of the veteran. Usually we successfully handle the situation to the veteran’s benefit.

Another question that is very popular is how does one qualify for outside consultations and treatment? All veterans that receive treatment at the VA due to these service-connected disabilities have the right to ask for an outside consult. This is usually done through your Primary Care Provider (PCP). If your circumstances warrant it, this will be allowed and the charges for this will be forwarded to fee services via VA Community Care. I myself have been referred to outside providers in this manner.

I have been a VA watch dog for many years and have seen many negatives over time, but I must say, Fee Services and the VA Community Health Care teams have never been one of them. Their teams are extremely well versed and solid. They handle millions of dollars in payouts for medical situations every year. They are very compassionate and are there supporting us 24/7. Sometimes things move a little slower than some of us would like, but that the team is, without any doubt, behind us and will never let you down. That is one team in the VA system that is under greater leadership and sees that we vets are protected in the medical theater.

Learn to understand the different departments and what they do and you will know how to approach these areas in a meaningful way.

Next week we will try to approach BVA which is an entirely different department than the one I have discussed today and I know many of you are anxious to know more about that other area that appears to be a stumbling block to a lot of you. God Bless.


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