“We have a VA hospital back home in St. Louis. Like many of our colleagues, we hear continued concerns about the access and the service. I have seen a statistic that more than 60,000 veterans today are waiting more than six months for an appointment at a VA hospital.”

Russ Carnahan, former member of Congress and member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


What’s important is that Congressman Russ Carnahan, quoted here, left office in January 2013 before all of the recent mess about veterans who died in Arizona waiting for health care. In Maine there is a member of Congress who has sat on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for years and is Chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. That is, of course, Congressman Mike Michaud. The circus has already began as to who is blaming whom for problems within veterans’ hospitals but one can surely bet that no member of our Congress will ever take the blame. We get the typical buck-stops-here routine but in the end that is nothing more than a joke and who needs politicians making jokes when we have so many that might die from lack of medical care.

Unfortunately I fear that politics has overshadowed the problems at the Phoenix, Ariz., VA hospital instead of curing what is wrong there. Certainly no politician seeking election or re-election would want to blame the doctors, nurses or even the veterans for any problem, so they continually blame mid-level bureaucrats. Please remember the above quote because it’s obvious politicians on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs have been caught with their pants down which is something very common in the District of Columbia cesspool. While there is a lot of negativity about veterans’ hospitals, let me remind you that the VA hospitals have high approval ratings by the veterans who receive care there.

Years ago I did a column on how the Togus Veterans’ Hospital had improved since I first went there in 1988 and vowed never to go back. Just for the record things are still improving and I am impressed that I have had the same primary care doctor for years although he moved from Togus to the Portland Veterans’ Clinic. That is important to me because I have had a slew of medical problems and just when I think everything has smoothed out, I get blindsided again and that just happened to me about a week ago during an annual eye exam. Only God knows what’s going on this time but it is serious enough for my wife and I to hesitate moving down South anytime soon because if I am going to be experiencing any eye troubles like loss of vision I want to be in familiar surroundings.

I was shocked by suddenly finding out that I have some serious eye problems. The ophthalmologist (or as I would say eye doctor) was very thorough as she had another doctor exam me as well, which I found comforting. It’s early in the process of diagnosing whatever the problem is but I have always been confident with the Eye and Ear Clinic at Togus because I have a couple of hearing problems as well. It took me years to understand the VA and how it works but once I knew the system I have never been happier and gave up my civilian doctor years ago.

Lane Hiltunen, of Windham, reminds veterans that a state of Maine veteran’s advocate comes to the Windham Veterans Center the second and fourth Wednesday at 9 a.m.