“It is only too easy to make suggestions and later try to escape the consequences of what we say.” Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India.

I normally am in praise of the health care that I receive from the Togus Veterans Hospital and related outpatient clinics as I have seen a vast improvement in the staff and facilities. Unfortunately, two things happened recently that disturb me and one comes directly from Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald about waiting times at the VA. The other is my first and lousy experience with a relatively new program that was put in place because of those long waiting times for health care at VA facilities. However, make no mistake about it, I still am very happy with the staff of both the Togus VA Hospital and its outpatient clinics that I use (mainly Portland and Saco).

Using a poor choice of words at the least, VA Secretary McDonald stated that waiting in line for health care at a VA facility should be like waiting in line at attractions in Disneyland. He implied that waiting time for those attractions wasn’t important as long as the people were happy with the experiences of the attraction. I have to guess the most important statement I can make is that the people standing in line at Disneyland aren’t waiting for medical care that could very well save their life. I wonder if he thinks I will be happy in July when I finally get to visit the Pain Clinic at Togus because of a pinched nerve in my back. He might not know that I would only be happy if I introduced him to one of my size-12 shoes. Due to others in Washington not being punished for their misdeeds, I am doubtful that President Obama will begin by firing the VA Secretary anytime soon.

Wouldn’t you just know it, at the same time I was introduced to the Veterans Choice Program. This program is used to shorten the waiting times for a veteran to receive medical care if he or she lives more than 40 miles from a VA treatment facility or has to wait more than 30 days for an appointment at a local VA facility. In my case, it was medical treatment because the Togus VA Hospital is more than 40 miles from Windham. Unfortunately the telephone lines from Augusta must not be connected to Windham because after weeks of waiting I finally received a letter from someone running the Choice Program stating that they couldn’t get in touch with me. That’s strange because as far as medical appointments go, I have never had that problem before.

If anyone pays attention to the news, the VA Choice Program is receiving lots of news coverage and some of that is really bad news for veterans. When I tried to contact the people at the Choice Program at Togus, all I received was a message that also stated if that if I had an inquiry as to a payment, don’t call that number. Evidently the VA system is not the fastest when it comes to paying its bills, and some veterans using the Choice Program have been harassed by collection agencies. Well, that happened to me before the Choice Program came into existence, and let me tell one and all I never paid a dime and darn sure would never ever pay a dime.
I just watched a news report on Channel 6 about a new VA hospital located in Charlotte, N.C. Really was quite interesting to watch as it appears to be a state-of-art medical facility, but unfortunately it cost over $100 million so I doubt every veteran will ever have such a facility near where they live. Maybe it’s time to combine both military and VA facilities in order to save money and increase medical care. I know that both kinds of medical facilities understand veterans much more so than a normal civilian facility. Many years ago I tried both simultaneously and suffered with the problems the dueling doctors caused me. As the VA healthcare in Maine steadily improves, more veterans agree with me.  

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wonders when politicians will become less goofy. 

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