Tag Archives: Department of Veterans Affairs

How is the doctor going to campaign for this congressional seat?

Our return over the past few days to the 13th Congressional District exposed us to some TV ads touting the candidacies of those who are running to succeed Rep. Mac Thornberry, who’s leaving office at the end of the year after serving for 25 years representing the Texas Panhandle.

I didn’t hear a TV spot from one guy who’s caught my interest, although I did see some yard signs as we blasted through Claude and Clarendon on our way to Amarillo and then back home to Princeton.

Dr. Ronny Jackson is among the huge number of Republicans seeking the GOP nomination. He intrigues me to the max? Why is that?

He’s kind of a national figure. Donald John Trump, the nation’s current president, nominated him to be the nation’s veterans affairs secretary. It turned out, though, to be a bad call on POTUS’s part; Jackson has zero administrative experience and he also allegedly prescribed drugs wrongly. Jackson pulled his name out of consideration as VA secretary.

Now he wants to run for the U.S. House — in a district where he’s never lived. Indeed, the only West Texas connection he has is his place of birth … in Levelland, which sits in a congressional district that is near the 13th.

What does this guy know about Pantex, the nuclear weapons storage complex known colloquially as the “Bomb Factory”? Or how does he comment intelligently about the nitty gritty of the V-22 Osprey aircraft assembly plant in Amarillo? How about federal farm policy, which is vital to cattle ranchers, cotton producers, corn growers throughout the Texas Panhandle?

I am hoping that my GOP friends in the Panhandle will know better than to cast their vote for an individual whose only notable achievement was to be nominated as veterans secretary and to serve as physician to two presidents: Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

Hey, I honor Dr. Jackson’s military service, given that he’s a now-retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. That’s it and that is far from sufficient for anyone to be nominated by a major political party to serve in a congressional district with which he has zero familiarity.

VA medical care: still top notch

I am happy — indeed, delighted — to report that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical care system is still tops in my estimation.

Now I will explain why.

I had an appointment at 10 a.m. today way down yonder at the VA’s Medical Center in south Dallas. Why mention that? Because I live about 40 miles north of the medical center in Collin County.

That meant I had to leave my house in Princeton at 8 a.m. to get there in time to check in and prepare for a medical examination I had scheduled. The VA told me to get there 30 minutes before my appointed time, which meant I had to leave extra-early.

Hmm. Eight in the morning driving along the Central Expressway through Dallas is dicey, yes? You bet it is! I got caught in morning rush-hour traffic. It became obvious to me around 9:15 that I wouldn’t get there 30 minutes early. I took a moment while stopped on the highway to call the office. I informed the voice mail machine that I would be late, that I was stuck in traffic; I’ll get there when I get there.

Right around the LBJ Freeway, the traffic jam broke up and we sailed along the Expressway, then on to Interstate 45 toward the exit I needed to take.

I pulled into the VA parking lot at 10:10, parked the car and rushed to the clinic where I was to be examined. I checked in. Then I waited for about, oh, 15 minutes before a young resident doc called my name.

We went to the exam room. He asked me a few questions. Then he got started. The exam took all of about 50 minutes. Then he said his “boss,” the attending physician would come in to go over the results of the exam.

She did. We chatted. I got a reasonably clean bill of health and was on my way.

I walked out of the VA medical center at noon. 

They could have pushed to the back of a long line. They didn’t. They could have asked me to reschedule, given that I didn’t get there 30 minutes beforehand. They didn’t.

I waited just a few minutes, which has been my experience dealing with my pre-paid medical plan.

I have been blessed since enrolling with the VA medical plan with good health. I have suffered no medical emergencies. My visits in Amarillo, where I enrolled initially and in Bonham, where I go now for my routine checkups have been routine. In and out just like that.

Today, though, presented a situation that could have turned out differently. It turned out just fine.

And the young resident, as so many of his colleagues have done whenever I have been examined, thanked me for my service to the country.

Still an ardent fan of the VA medical services

You might have seen on this blog that I have received marvelous service from the massive U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical operation.

I enrolled about a half-dozen years ago at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. It took me about 20 minutes to get signed up, after which the admitting officer said simply: “Welcome aboard.”

I received great care there. It was timely. The medical staff is always courteous. I rarely had to wait for anything.

Here is what I wrote shortly after enrolling at the VA in Amarillo:

Better late than never

Then we moved to the Metroplex. I have switched my enrollment to the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham. The early verdict? It’s still great.

I went for a routine checkup this past week. The doctor asked me if I had any concerns. I mentioned that I have these “skin tags” on my neck. I told her I want them removed.

“You will have to go to our VA clinic in Dallas,” she said. Fine. I’ll do it.

As I checked out of the Rayburn center, a young secretary took my information and said I should expect a call to set up an appointment in Dallas. Great. Have a good day. I got the call later in the week. I set up an appointment for this morning to have those annoying “tags” removed.

Here’s where it gets really stellar.

They told me to report 30 minutes prior to my 11 a.m. appointment. I drove this morning from Princeton to south Dallas … via McKinney. I got to the massive VA complex in Dallas. I blundered my way around the chaotic complex, parking finally in a covered garage. I walked into the main entrance and asked the receptionist: “Where is Building Two?”

“You are standing in Building Two,” he told me. Well, OK, then. I am living right.

I took the elevator to the clinic where I was told to report. I checked in. The young man behind the counter said I’d be called in for blood pressure testing prior to the doc’s visit. Fine. I waited about, oh, 8 minutes.

They called me in. The nurse took my BP, weighed me and escorted me to an exam room. At this point it was about 10:45 a.m., 15 minutes prior to my appointment.

Then a young man in physician’s scrubs walked in and said, “I’m sorry, I have another procedure to do before I get to you.” No worries.

He returned at 11:10 a.m. Dang! My appointment was for 11! He was 10 whole minutes late! He took care of the issue I had. He told me to call if I had any problems. Roger that.

I walked out of the building at 11:25 a.m. and headed straight for the house.

With all of this reported to you, I hereby declare categorically that my pre-paid medical plan obtained through the Department of Veterans Affairs remains a stellar benefit.

Happy Trails, Part 156: Change coming in health care

I learned a while ago that I am not crazy about change. At my age these days change can be a bit problematic.

This latest change chapter, though, seems a good bit less so as it approaches.

I’m hitting the road Thursday for Bonham, Texas, a few miles northeast of our home in Princeton. I am going to see a new health care provider at the Sam Rayburn Veterans Center.

The Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo had been my health care provider since I enrolled in the Veterans Administration program a few years back. I have been impressed with the care I received at the Creek center.

Now it’s time to relocate to a more conveniently located VA center to obtain my pre-paid health care.

I managed to transfer all my medical records from Amarillo to the regional office in Dallas. Modern technology allowed me to do all of it via the phone. No sweat, man.

Well, now comes a bit of a test. We’ll see if I can get in and out of the Bonham VA center with the same timeliness I was able to do when I reported for my regular checkups at the Thomas Creek center.

The Department of Veterans Affairs came under intense criticism during the final years of the Obama administration. The DVA had that scandal involving patients who were dying while awaiting medical care in Phoenix. I’ve been fortunate to date in that I have been relatively healthy. My visits to the VA medical staff have been routine. I know that eventually my luck is going to run out, given that I am approaching my 70th birthday near the end of this year.

I might be retired, which gives me a lot of time to think about “things.” I have no particular concern as I change the place where I receive my regular medical checkups and care.

My experience with the Department of Veterans Affairs has been trouble-free. I intend to ensure that it stays that way for as long as I possibly can.

Hoping the VA health system keeps working — well!

You know already that I am a big fan of my pre-paid medical insurance plan provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My wife and I are venturing back to Amarillo in a few days to get ready for a trip out west in our recreational vehicle. Before we shove off, I have a routine medical examination scheduled with my health care provider at the Thomas E. Creek Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To date, the VA med center has run like a well-oiled machine. I show up at the appointed time, I wait a few minutes, I get called back, the nurse practitioner gives me the once over, tells me I’m in good health and I’m on my way out the door.

I just received a text message from the Creek Medical Center. It asked me to confirm my scheduled appointment next week. I did.

Then it sent a message immediately after that, ordering me to report to the medical center “15 minutes before your appointment.”

Here’s the deal. My appointment is late in the morning, which means that the VA will have plenty of opportunity to get backed up. That means — at least that’s been my experience over the years with private medical providers — that the later in the day one sees a doc, the longer the wait times. Am I right about that? Yep. I am!

So, my question is this: Is the VA going to ask me to wait 15 minutes longer than I need to wait or am I going to see the health care provider at the appointed time?

I will have faith that the latter is going to happen.

Oh, I do cherish public health care.

Trump gets it right — apparently — with new VA pick

How about this?

Donald J. Trump has nominated a proven administrator to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yep, Robert Wilkie is the acting VA secretary who’s been filling in since the firing of David Shulkin in March over Shulkin’s expensive travel habits.

The president turned first to the White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to lead the VA. This, despite Dr. Jackson’s lack of administrative experience. Then came allegations of some bad behavior: hostile workplace, over-prescribing of medicine and — oops! — drinking on the job.

Out went Jackson.

Now the president has selected Wilkie. Man, I hope he sails through the U.S. Senate confirmation process and is able to assume the role formally that he has been performing for the past three months.

Let’s not just yet put this nomination in the bank. Trump’s inability to vet these nominees has gotten him into trouble.

The president didn’t vet Jackson’s past adequately before nominating him to lead the VA.

The VA is a huge federal agency that needs an experienced hand to lead it. The agency also needs someone who is clean, ethical, sharp and has the veterans’ issues at the top of his mind at all times.

I am one of those 20 million veterans who is enrolled in the agency’s medical care program. Therefore, I demand a careful selection process when choosing a veterans affairs secretary.

Meanwhile, I will hope Robert Wilkie is the right man for the job. It’s good that senators on both sides of the aisle are much more enthusiastic about Wilkie than they were about Jackson.

My first benchmark for the correctness of this selection is whether Wilkie will reject the notion of privatizing VA functions.

Do not go there. Ever!

Trump wants Sen. Tester to quit because … ?

I’ve said this before and I will keep saying it for as long as I damn well please … but Donald J. Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing or saying.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., led the U.S. Senate criticism of Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president’s nominee to become secretary of veterans affairs. Allegations surfaced from within the military that Jackson — a Navy admiral — enabled a hostile work environment, that he over-prescribed medication and drank on the job.

Tester called on Jackson — the White House physician — to withdraw his nomination. Dr. Jackson did this week. He pulled out, calling the allegations false and saying they had become a “distraction.”

Fine. Hit the road, Doc. Don’t let the door hit you in the … whatever.

The president, though, once again talked way past the sale by saying Tester should resign his Senate seat. Why? Well, because he was overly harsh in his criticism of Dr. Jackson. Tester, though, is far from the only senator to say Jackson shouldn’t serve as head of the VA. A number of, um, Republicans joined that anti-Jackson chorus, too. Is the GOP president going to ask any or all of them to quit? Of course he won’t. That’s because he suffers from selective indignation.

As for Trump’s call for Tester to quit, it is just so much more malarkey coming from the mouth of the guy whose White House staff failed miserably in vetting Dr. Jackson. All they had to ask him was: Is there anything in your background, given the current climate in Washington, that should cause us any concern?

They didn’t. He did. He’s gone. Tester — and others — called him out.

Mr. President, just go find another VA secretary and this time, be sure he or she is free of the baggage that scuttled Admiral Jackson’s nomination.

VA nominee on the ropes?

So help me I didn’t see this one coming.

Navy Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to become the next veterans affairs secretary did raise an eyebrow our two. Mine weren’t among them initially.

Now we hear that the White House physician allegedly promoted an inappropriate workplace environment and might have drunk on the job. What’s more, the president of the United States has given Jackson some cover, enabling him to withdraw his nomination if he believes it is in his best interest.

It well might be, given the crescendo of criticism that is building.

The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has postponed Dr. Jackson’s confirmation hearing indefinitely. Hmm. I think that spells big trouble. Jackson said he is “disappointed” but adds that he is ready to answer all the questions that will come his way.

What I believe we have here is a developing “distraction” that is going to yank attention away from the work that Dr. Jackson is supposed to do on behalf of the nation’s 20 million military veterans; I am one of them and I believe he needs to be focused exclusively on that important work.

Hostile work environment? Over-prescribing of meds? Drinking on the job?

Good grief! This is on top of the criticism that Dr. Jackson hasn’t run an agency anywhere near the size of the monstrous bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Donald Trump is right: Whether he stays in the game is Dr. Jackson’s call. I won’t be a bit surprised if he pulls away from this big job.

And that brings up another question: Why can’t the president find competent and squeaky-clean folks to do these jobs?

Where are all the stars seeking to work for Trump?

Donald Trump is fond of proclaiming that he has to fend off the “many” top-flight government administrators who are seeking to work for the Trump administration.

He said recently that despite the exodus of members of his personal team of legal eagles, he’s got the pick of the best lawyers in human history to represent him.

Are we clear on this? However, after dismissing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin earlier this week, Trump hired the White House physician — Admiral Ronny Jackson — to lead the massive federal agency.

It am forced to ask: Where are the all-stars lining up to work in the president’s administration?

Admiral Jackson is a perfectly competent physician. He has served three presidents: George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and now Trump. I don’t doubt he is smart.

He is an active-duty flag officer in the U.S. Navy, which gives him some knowledge and appreciation of veterans’ issues.

But … he’s never administered anything, let alone the nation’s second-largest government agency that employs more than 300,000 individuals who are serving the nation’s 20 million veterans.

Expertise? Intimate knowledge of nuts-and-bolts administration? Political savvy? It’s all lacking in this fellow.

Still, the president who said he would surround himself with “the best people” has turned to someone whose sole qualification for this critical job is that Donald Trump likes him.

This is how you build a “fine-tuned machine” to run the federal government? I, um, think not!

Privatize the VA? Never!

David Shulkin isn’t going quietly away from his job as secretary of veterans affairs. Indeed, he is firing back, claiming it “shouldn’t be this hard to serve your country.”

What’s more, he is telling the world that one of the reasons Donald Trump fired him is because he resisted efforts to privatize the nation’s second-largest federal agency.

Oh, my! How many ways can I implore the government to avoid privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs? Let me start with this: Don’t even think about it!

There are roughly 20 million American veterans alive today. Many of them rely on the VA for services for which they are owed. By the government!

I get that many vets who live in rural communities have difficulty at times obtaining medical care from the VA; they live long distances from the nearest VA clinic. Thus, comes some of the impetus to privatize medical care and other services currently provided by the VA.

As Shulkin wrote in the New York Times: The private sector, already struggling to provide adequate access to care in many communities, is ill-prepared to handle the number and complexity of patients that would come from closing or downsizing V.A. hospitals and clinics, particularly when it involves the mental health needs of people scarred by the horrors of war. 

I now will say this another way: The government that sent young men and women to potentially die in service to their country owes them the best care possible. Period! A government that accepted these Americans’ voluntary enlistment or drafted them for service must remain responsible for their health care.

I happen to be one of those Americans who once wore the uniform in service to the country. I am enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program administered in Amarillo, Texas. I visit the Thomas E. Creek VA Medical Center for routine medical checkups.

What’s more, I do not consider it a “free” medical service; I consider it a “pre-paid” service that I earned by giving my country two years of my life. My country sent me into a war zone in the spring of 1969. I returned home and finished my tour of duty.

I will not accept the idea that the government that sent me to war now can hand over medical care to a private provider. I disagree with this form of privatization the way I disagree with private prison management. A government that spends money to arrest, charge, try and convict a criminal should also be responsible for housing that criminal — for the rest of his or her life if necessary.

The VA serves men and women who gave plenty in service to their government. It now falls on the government to repay that service by caring for these individuals — and to provide care in the most competent manner possible.