Guest Opinions

Keep VA structure the same, just make it better — it works

Recently the mail let us know the VA had paid for my spouse’s visits to various non-VA medical facilities. Our local VA in Boise coordinates care outstandingly. I remember in the ’70s taking my father-in-law to the Gainesville, Fla., VA. It was hard to get him registered even though he had been wounded in World War II. Eventually he got his pension, all the while VA footing the bill for tests.

That was during Vietnam, without computers; all the recent wars plus earlier vets magnify red tape. We will still have to have approval to get treated, and the red tape needs streamlining. The treatment system itself in place now is superb. Some powerful folks have used news of individual facilities to push “vouchers for veterans.”

I am wary of going wholesale to some voucher solution. We should not abandon the system, but continue to make it better. Those hospitals that were messed up have been revamped, received notice, some closed; all now closely monitored. Please don’t let them take away our VA. My veteran and I are elderly and disabled and cannot fight for this. We look to you to go to Washington if you have to, but please prevent what they want to do come January.

A partial list of medical issues my spouse has had treated:

▪  2009: VA nurse talked him into screening for prostate cancer; as a result he caught it early, did not have to have surgery but was treated and cured of this disease. Radiation was done through Medicare, but if not for this government employee’s exemplary understanding and caring, he would have died or now be dying painfully.

▪  2015: He wasn’t even scheduled but came in on the wrong day, when a Boise VA practitioner alerted the team to diagnose and treat blood clots.

▪  Doctors actually called us at home twice, tests were accomplished quickly, transportation augmented, and it was determined lung nodules be radiated with a new kind of radiation. This was done at the Portland, Ore., VA.

▪  Meanwhile he was given a thorough heart exam due to his age for ability to withstand treatments. Determined to have a weak area in the heart, he underwent triple bypass surgery at St. Vincent in Portland. VA and Veterans Choice paid most of that.

▪  After a monitored recovery, radiation was begun in Portland. The Boise VA had put us in touch with privately funded Vancouver Fisher House, a guest house for veterans and their families, where we stayed during his treatment.

I cannot say enough about the staff and volunteers of Fisher House, a nationwide organization that is a worthy cause for your charity list.

We live our life without time for negativity, paying attention to trends when they affect our health choices. Large institutions like small ones reflect individual personnel — including management.

Burning down the VA by giving our taxes to thousands of institutions unbound by veteran standards is not the answer. Our nation’s veterans will end up paying many more dollars along with dignity and quality of life.

Lois Armstrong Shuck resides in Weiser with her husband. She is a retired nurse, author and grandmother.