VA hospital opinion

It may be an outlier but I just spent several days accompanying my father in the VA Hospital in La Jolla. Maybe it’s one of the top VA hospitals as there are several bases here, and I understand there is a huge military retirement community in the San Diego area. Also, it’s a teaching hospital connected to UCSD.

My father is a WW2 Pacific Theater and Korean War combat vet who had 10% disability owing to war wounds. Went in 10 days ago to the ER with shortness of breath. He’s finally responded to treatment for heart failure, kidneys shutting down and pneumonia, and is being downgraded to direct observation today and I’m heading home.

He’s had great care. Good caring people. Doctors that were very consultative, and didn’t mind salty talk from a dogfoot. It was clean and pretty modern. Frankly, I couldn’t really tell a difference from a civilian hospital.

Anyhoo, how pervasive is real experience of some of the horror stories one hears (including walter reed :mad:) for the actual care once vets get into the system?

My understanding is that, as in any large system, some parts are great and some suck. It seems to vary according to the tone set by the folks running each facility or area. After 37 years working within the government - specifically the Dept of Defense - I personally encountered outstanding individuals doing outstanding jobs and slackers doing their best to do nothing, and everything in between. I expect the VA is no different.

Sounds like your dad was very fortunate. My husband has a shoulder that he can pop in and out of joint at will - service-connected - and the VA in Florida declared him disability-free. We got tired of fighting it decades ago.

My Father-in-law used to go to Bethesda Naval Hospital, 15 years ago - that’s VA, right? He is retired Navy. These days he goes somewhere in Florida and seems to get excellent care.

Bethesda was of the nicest hospitals I’d ever been inside of and they seemed to have a ton of personal for the few patients there. At the time we were going up there every week or so and the place was almost deserted every time. There were glaring differences between the crowded hospitals I, as a civilian, go to. At the time I figured the goverment just heaps the riches on vets, health care wise, but now I’m thinking only officiers get that kind of treatment.

Bethesda is not VA. As a retiree, he can still use active duty locations, as can I. Retirees can actually use both systems, and I much prefer the active duty hospitals. Unfortunately, the base that I am at is closed right now to retirees, but that means my PCM is a civilian doc out in town, and I can use regular emergency rooms. I have been to the VA Hospital in DC. In fact, i was there yesterday. All of my appointments have been for assessing service related disability, and I have never had any problems. It did take over a year to get my assessment appointments, but I did not have any acute problems. It took 18 months from claim submittal to final award. The good news is that I will get back pay for the time I was waiting. The bad news is that my award letter was sent last October, and I am still awaiting the back-pay, which they assure is coming. I would never use a VA hospital for acute care, but as a retiree, I don’t have to.

P.S. the VA hospital in DC is adjacent to Washington Hospital Center.

Thanks for the info tonyfop. I know so many military retirees, I never thought about those service people who do an enlistment or two then return to civilan life. So, I guess they are the ones who count on the VA, right?

I spent a bit over 11 years on active duty and I’ve never gone to the VA for anything. I’ve heard I could use them for my prescription meds, but frankly, it’s not worth the hassle. My copay is very small and I didn’t have any service-related issues, so I never looked into what I might be entitled to.

My dad was a Korean War era vet, and while he never left the states, he did get some of his meds thru the VA later in his life.

I’ve had good experiences at Sacramento (Mather) VAMC. They seem to be a little understaffed, but they’re doing they best they can with what they have. They’re undergoing construction right now to accommodate more veterans with modernized facilities.

I count on the VA and all my experiences with Drs. and nurses and medical specialists are very positive. Its the bureaucracy that gets in the way of having those interactions that bother me. Every time I have to fight the system, I win…I just should not have to fight it to begin with.

My mother-in-law started as a nurse and retired as an administrator at a VA hospital in the Bronx, NY. Years ago (while she was still working) my husband and I watched a movie called Article 99, which was a fictionalized view of the red tape in the VA system and asked her if there was any truth to it. She said it wasn’t exactly accurate, but also wasn’t completely false. She had many frustrations with the system and budgets and so forth. I remember her saying "We have good doctors, wonderful doctors, and they can’t do their jobs because of [sorry, I don’t recall the list of problems more specifically than misallocation of funds]. After she retired and moved south her husband received care in a Florida VA hospital and she said the difference was like night and day.

My uncle enlisted in the Navy in 1965, and was still serving when I was born in '68. The details and dates of his service are vague to me because until about six years ago he would not speak about his experiences in the war. At all. Ever.

For most of his life he required little to no medical care. Bandaids, gingerale and chicken soup covered all of his needs until he reached a certain age (about 68). At that time he began getting all of his care and medications through a VA medical center, also in NY but not in the NYC metro area. He’s very happy with the care he gets there, and as far as I know has no complaints.

I work at a VA hospital about half the year (medical resident). It’s a major city hospital and a major referral center for the other area VA hospitals. From my end, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s a mostly self-contained system so getting a patient appointments and follow up after leaving the inpatient wards is fairly straightforward. On the other hand, the quality of ancillary staff (nursing to technicians) varies greatly. I’ve worked at several major hospitals, academic to private, and the VA has the widest spectrum of quality by far. The electronic medical record system (CPRS) was ground breaking when it first came out, but now it is slow, cumbersome, and burdensome to use.
Like most systems, it works well for people who know how to use it well. Unfortunately, due to the large number of homeless vets, vets with substance abuse problems, vets with untreated/poorly treated mental health problems, and vets with all of the above and more, the system gets bogged down and that affects everybody. I’ve had patients who have been amazed at the care they get after switching from non-VA providers, and I’ve had patients who verbally (and at times, physically) abuse me, nurses, other support staff, and even other patients. Nothing I haven’t seen at other hospitals, but the VA seems to have both ends to extremes I rarely see in other systems.

If you want an example of bureaucracy, the VA is the place for you! The horrible, disorganized, every office run by petty dictators and staffed by apathetic, mouth-breathing idiots place for you.

On the clinical side, my one and only appointment for literally the simplest possible reason resulted in my attempting to make a complaint with the patient advocate, but see above regarding bureaucracy.