This post is taken lock stock and barrel from my friend Jonathan LaForce’s post on the Book of Faeces. I’ve added a couple of illustrations (if you like the T shirt you can buy it here), links to relevant news articles and tidied up a couple of typos. Take it away Jon!

People keep talking about single payer healthcare, and universal healthcare, as if somehow such systems are spontaneously going to save all of humankind from some sort of dreaded mass bodily failure- “millions will die without this!” and any other number of alarmists claims which have been ranted about for months and years. Guess what? The alarmists are full of crap. Nothing but lies. How does Jon know? What could Jon possibly know or care about healthcare? Go ahead. Ask.

The VA.

The Department of Veterans Affairs. Founded specifically to handle men (and women) who joined the uniformed services of these United States, signed a blank check made payable for an amount up to and including their lives, then did their very best to go and do what they raised their right hand and swore an oath to perform, regardless of that cost. The VA is expected to “to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.” They are expected to do it without regard for race, gender, sexual preference, religious creed or origin. And they routinely fail.

Go online, it’s not hard to find their failures. 12 May 2015, Phoenix, Arizona– a man seeking help is turned away from the local clinic. He walks out to his truck, turns a gun on himself and blows his brains out. 4 May 2016, a young soldier who the VA refused to admit for psychiatric help does the exact same thing. 24 March 2016, A 51 year-old vet in New Jersey tried to obtain help at the local VA Clinic, was refused and did the only thing he felt he had left to do- he doused himself in gasoline in front of the clinic, lit himself on fire and died. Within the last 2 years, we’ve seen seen reports of vets who threw themselves out of of the upper windows of VA hospitals because some moronic bureaucrat decided these men were “all better now and didn’t need or deserve further help.” The bureaucrats wouldn’t listen, and these people felt they had nowhere else to go. What else did you expect them to do?

We talk about the 22 a day. Take a hard look around! That’s what it looks like! There’s a reason for the commentary about “A Second Chance to die for your country.” Even amongst non-lethal events, it’s enough to make me unhappy. We have ancient men, well into their 70s, who spend hours waiting on needed medication at VA Facilities and wind up sleeping on the floor with bags of pill bottles for their pillows! HOW THE HELL DOES THIS HAPPEN?

Single-Payer healthcare is defined as a healthcare system in which the state, financed by taxes, covers basic health care costs for all residents regardless of income, occupation, or health status. The VA is such a system. Its budget is (FY 2018) $186.5 billion. The last census I can find, dated May 2014, has 8.92 million people enrolled in the VA health care system (for which the budget then was $150.7 billion). That takes in 350 hospitals, 820 clinics. All of really makes you wonder: “Why, in the most technologically capable, productive, First World Country on the planet, do we have great grandfathers sleeping on cold linoleum waiting to see doctors and get real treatment? Why is committing suicide preferable to waiting any longer for help to come?”

I’ll leave you to ponder on that, while I explain some more facts of life.

In addition to medical care, the VA also provides compensation and pension for those whom are injured in the line of service. You go in, speak with a Veteran Services’ Officer, you present your medical records, you file for those injuries which continue to be an issue, and then you wait.

Why wait? What are we waiting for? Good question. First, the electronic paperwork has to move through a labyrinthine process of review, after which you will randomly get a letter in the mail telling you the VA has now received your paperwork filed a month or more prior and somebody will be getting in touch with you to determine what’s next. A couple months will pass (if you’re lucky) after which you will randomly receive a phone call telling you that appointments have been scheduled for examination. You must make those appointments or you cannot receive a rating. Notice what’s missing? If you said a human being to check if it’s compatible with your schedule, you’d be correct. The appointments are filed without any input or knowledge on your part. Oh you’ve got work and can’t make it? Tough luck Joe. Oh you’re a single parent and you don’t have anybody to watch your kids so you can do this? Too bad. Guess you’ll have to do without.

Nor is this something where you can go into a local doctor with forms for them to fill out, they do so, and then mail said forms to the VA- oh no. These are 3rd Party contractors hired by the VA to be “impartial judges.” They do nothing more than diagnose what’s wrong, and how severe. In order to limit who can handle these things, the medical reviewer has to be certified by the VA. Please tell me how that’s supposed to be trustworthy? Especially when I have been told by one such person that the VA actually orders them to deny guys as much as possible or under report the damage and findings.

After your visit with the “impartial judge” finally occurs, the paperwork is routed to a VA Rater who reviews it all, and makes a determination about your case. A faceless, unnamed, un-elected bureaucrat with no knowledge of the person beyond what’s in front of them is supposed to make an educated intelligent decision about the future and condition of someone they’ve never met. If, for whatever reason the rater decides that this person really doesn’t need or deserve a high rating, the veteran will receive “not service connected” or “0% rating.” And the appeal system if you disagree with that decision is lengthy.

In LA County, the average time to complete a claim, right now today is 3 years. Finished and done. Not 3 weeks, not 3 months. 36 months. During which time you may or may not be fit to actually work, nor receiving the care you need. Now do we start to see why there might be a problem?

When I came home from Afghanistan, I noticed my hearing was… problematic. To the point that unless someone was speaking with sufficient volume, I did not, could not, make sense of what they said. But every ear exam came back as “You’re good LaForce, nothing’s wrong with you.” This kept happening from November 2011, all the way to December 2016, when I told an audiologist in the St. George Clinic “I ain’t crazy, I can’t hear. Great you keep giving me the tone tests, I keep passing. But when I’m in a classroom, when I’m at home, when I’m anywhere and awake, the whole of humanity sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Unless they are in my face with the volume of Drill Instructor Sergeant Fischer, I cannot understand them! You’re the guy who knows ears and hearing. Figure it out.” I may or not have been slightly unkind in my choice of verbiage and adjectives.

The audiologist, clearly wanting to pass the buck along to somebody else called a speech pathologist in Salt Lake City and scheduled an appointment. 2 months out was the soonest I could get in to see her. For the record, in the entire state of Utah, there are maybe 2 speech pathologists who are directly employed by the VA and work in the Salt Lake City Facility. After undergoing a series of tests, and 3 separate trips from St. George to SLC, the pathologist finally figured out what so many had missed- I had a Traumatic Brain Injury. Somewhere along the way, somehow, I had gained sufficient damage to scramble the nerves between my ears and my brain such that I could no longer properly process what I heard, above a certain volume level. It’s so bad that on the bell curve, I’m in the 61st percentile! Better yet I show signs of gradually getting worse!

That diagnosis occurred in April. I amended a claim filed in February to include this. Take a guess what we learned in July, 3 months later- the VA Rater only bothered to check my medical record till February when the original claim was filed, and then stopped. I have the paperwork to prove that they did this. I had to file an appeal at the beginning of July. The VA will not start to address it until the end of August.

Today, I received information that somehow, an injury which has plagued me since boot camp on through my time in the Fleet, and all since then, has somehow magically improved in the month of February. I will now have to file an appeal for this. Meanwhile, I still cannot work a regular job, at all. No sitting for long periods, no standing for long periods. No lifting over 20 pounds. No squats. Nothing. I have to be flat on my back in order to not feel pain, and that can only last so long. When your wife and both toddlers become ill, they either suffer, or you choke down a couple thousand milligrams of motrin and stumble around doing what you can to help ease their problems.

But Jon, what about physical therapy? The VA only authorizes 6 appointments at a time, after which the physical therapist has to call and get more appointments authorized. That of course will happen, if the VA ever bothers to pick up the phone and call them back. I’ve been waiting since February for that and I have my doubts. Not that the VA cares. You had physical therapy! You must be better now! Show me how 6 appointments over 3 weeks is magically supposed to make years of damage disappear. I had to leave the service over these injuries. I still can’t run, 4 years after having left active duty and no longer pounding my body into submission to maintain good physical condition. I was running as much as 66 miles per week, most of it on my own time, to stay in good shape. If you held a gun to my head right now this second, I could maybe do a quarter-mile before my back gave out on me, and then I’d tell you to pull the trigger.

Because the VA controls the means of communication, because there is no means of accountability over decision making, and we the veterans are forced to undergo this, without being able to speak out for fear of retaliation, it continues. I have no means of recourse beyond what I’ve outlined. It is frustration and aggravation to the extreme. But we’re supposed to just live with it.

To some degree, I do just endure it. I get good care at my local clinic, and the doctor has done what he can for me. I endure because the compensation and pension which I receive is enough to keep my family in a house and off the street. But something has got to change. A man cannot live on pain pills alone. Either cure him or kill him, because hanging out in limbo is NOT LIVING. It is simply suffering. And that ain’t right.

In a better world, the VA would operate less hospitals and spend the bulk of their slimmed down budget directed towards enabling veterans to seek out private care through vouchers or a similar system, and there would be no trouble getting those vouchers accepted because they [the VA] paid on time (if you think that isn’t a problem, you’re nuts). I could go to my local, private hospital here in St. George if I needed surgery, I could seek out and obtain physical therapy from a trained private professional, create a plan that addresses my issues and through several months of sound medical care, become sufficiently well that I no longer received VA Comp & Pen for it. Why? Because I was healed. Made whole. Not drugged up to the gills and screwed over. In a better world, I’d be pursuing a commission from the USMC upon my graduation from college with a Bachelor’s. I would be able to work a full time job right now that took care of my family so we weren’t living month-to-month.

When all we are is a rising cost to be pruned by bureaucrats, those who control the system will be our overlords. Go take a look at how many times VA personnel were charged for misconduct and misbehavior, then let off without reprimand, or worse promoted to a new billet in a different region to cover up the misconduct! Senator Tammy Duckworth tried to screw over whistleblowers! She’s a veteran, shes’s supposed to be one of us who knows better. But like John McCain, she has forgotten that. Her values have been superseded, replaced by the elitist notion that we common folk, we the peasants, we the none important little people don’t matter anymore. Vets like me get excited when we hear about how the new VA secretary is running things. We’ve seen more people fired from the VA or placed on suspension pending review and firing, since Inauguration Day 2017 than we have in the prior 8 years of the Obama administration combined. But it’s not enough. Even a Roman style-decimation where every 10th man was promptly executed wouldn’t be enough at this point.

If you want long waits, even inside the doctor’s office, multi-month waits before actually seeing a doctor about pressing issues, if you want faceless bureaucrats determining your life, if you truly in your heart of hearts think that somehow this is healthy and good, you go right on ahead. If you want to see more babies wind up like Charlie Gard, you go right on ahead and do that damnably awful thing.

As for me, I want a better world. But the only way I can have that is to make it for myself. Because the system is failing those who need it. And I’m tired of suffering. I’m tired of the pain. My wife needs better. My children deserve better. The American people deserve better.