Tag Archives: VA

VA deserves shout out

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has earned a shout out from one of his constituents.

That would be yours truly. Me. Myself.

He said today in the White House press briefing room that more than 1.4 million veterans have received vaccinations to protect them against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Of that total, he said, more than half of us have received both doses of the vaccine, meaning that we’re totally inoculated (or we ought to hope for the best) against a virus that has killed more than 500,000 fellow Americans.

I was able to get vaccinated through the North Texas Veterans Medical Center. The first vaccine required a bit of a wait, but I could spare an hour of my time. The second one was slick and smooth; in and out in 20 minutes.

As a proud Army veteran who signed up with the VA some years ago, I want to thank the Department of Veterans Affairs for the great care it has given me during my enrollment.

I get that Secretary McDonough has been on the job only a short time. He’s the man standing watch now, so he gets the shout out, as do his predecessors.

Thank you.

Boorishness goes bipartisan

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well now, what are we to make of this item?

Just as the political world is all agog over the troubles descending on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who stands accused of sexual harassment by three women, we hear about a Republican member of Congress who’s been accused of the same thing … plus of drinking and taking sleeping pills on the job.

I happen to believe Andrew Cuomo ought to resign and return to private life.

What about Rep. Ronny Jackson, the newly elected House member who represents the congressional district where I once lived?

It turns out that Jackson, a former Navy doctor who once served as White House physician for three presidents, has been accused of misbehaving badly while caring for commanders in chief George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Here is part of what CNN.com is reporting: The Department of Defense inspector general has issued a scathing review of Rep. Ronny Jackson during his time serving as the top White House physician, concluding that he made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted concerns from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper care.

Well …

Rep. Ronny Jackson drank alcohol and took sleeping pills on job as top White House physician, watchdog finds – CNNPolitics

Jackson moved into the district in 2020 to run for the House seat that became vacant when GOP Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon chose to retire from the House after serving for 25 years. His candidacy was fascinating from the get-go, given that he never lived in the 13th Congressional District. He was born in Levelland, Texas, but moved away to pursue a career in the Navy; he achieved the rank of rear admiral while also serving as physician to the three presidents.

None of this should surprise anyone, if you think about it. Donald Trump nominated Jackson to become secretary of veterans affairs, but then the fecal matter hit the fan when allegations surfaced of alcohol abuse on the job as well as his alleged habit of writing prescriptions for drugs that, um, weren’t necessarily for medicinal purposes.

Now the DOD inspector general is examining fresh allegations against this guy.

Nice …

I love being a statistic

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

OK, I am just a number, but I welcome it.

I happen to be one of the 15 million or so Americans who’s been completely vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic. My bride will join me in that category of Americans in just one week.

What I want to report is that today’s second dose of the vaccine was done with a fraction of the anxiety of the first one. How is that? No lines, man!

We drove again from Princeton, Texas south along U.S. Highway 75, through Dallas and ended up once again at the North Texas VA Medical Center. We parked our truck and walked in.

I peered down the hall, looking for a line of veterans waiting to get vaccinated. There were none there! Huh? The nasty weather might have kept some folks from making the trip to the VA center. A VA staffer told me the morning crowd was much larger. Whatever. I guess I am the master of impeccable timing.

I checked in and then was ushered immediately into the large room with 20-something booths where vets were receiving their vaccines.

The nurse peppered with a few questions about my health at the moment. I answered them correctly, I got the shot in the arm, walked into a waiting room for the obligatory 15-minute post-vaccine observation period and then walked out. My wife and piled into our truck and returned home.

In and out in, oh, 22 minutes!

Wow! I will sing the praises once more for the service I receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA came through for me when I needed it. I expect the same kind of treatment for my bride when she reports for her second vaccine provided by Collin County’s Health Department.

VA comes through once again

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I consider it a “pre-paid benefit,” and I use it whenever and wherever possible.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stands ready to assist 18 million American veterans for whatever needs arise. So with that, I will tell you that I got a phone call the other day from the VA. The automated voice informed me that I could call a number and make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the VA North Texas Medical Center in Dallas. I jumped all over it.

I ended the call, then phoned the number the “voice” gave me. After a lengthy wait, a human being picked up on the other end and she set up an appointment. I could come in the very next day!

And so … the demystifying of this process kicked in.

I received the Pfizer vaccine the next day. My wife and I drove from Princeton all the way through McKinney, Allen, Plano, Richardson and then through Dallas. We navigated our way through the Interstate 30/35E/45 interchange next to downtown Dallas and then arrived at the VA medical center.

We parked in a garage close to the building where I needed to wait for my shot.

I walked in, got my temperature taken and then trekked down the hall to check in with the clerks who were running the inoculation entry station. Here is where my heart began to sink. Why?

Well, when I talked to the lady on the phone the previous day, she told me that a mid-afternoon appointment was likely to mean sparse attendance at the clinic where we reported for our vaccination. What I saw upon arrival, though, was, um, vastly different from what the lady on the phone led me to believe would occur.

I walked down the hall past a long, seemingly interminable line of masked-up veterans. I turned down three more halls and found the end of the line.

My first thought when I got there – which I believe I muttered out loud under my own mask – was “holy crap! I am going to be here forever!” I phoned my wife, who was waiting outside and informed her that I was at the end of a line with at least 300 people in front of me. “I’m going to be here a while,” I told her.

Then a bloody miracle happened! At least it seemed like a miracle. It seemed as though I had been waiting for less than 30 minutes when I found myself suddenly at the desk where I had checked in. I was about to enter the room where 24 inoculation stations were set up.

Jeff Clapper, public affairs officer for the North Texas VA Health Care System, suggests it’s all according to plan. The system, he said in a statement, “has been remarkably effective at immunizing VA North Texas staff and patients, successfully delivering 11,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to date, with wait times consistently below 45 minutes.”

Clapper added, “The Dallas (point of distribution) is currently vaccinating both eligible veterans and VA North Texas employees by appointment only; no walk-ins allowed.” He said the North Texas VA office “contacted over 25,000 priority eligible enrolled outpatients via phone call.” He said the Dallas POD is now booking new vaccination appointments for not earlier than the first week of March.”

I have been enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs medical program for just a few years. I signed up when I was living in Amarillo and have found the VA level of service to be exemplary. I had nothing but smooth sailing at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. The level of service remains high at the Sam Rayburn Medical Center in Bonham, where I go these days for my regular wellness visits. That brings me to another point: I have suffered no medical emergencies, but at my age I am aware that my luck is likely to run out … eventually.

The Dallas visit to obtain my first Pfizer vaccine shot to prevent me from catching the COVID virus only enhances my good feelings toward the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I am sure I can speak for many veterans who appreciate the care they get. I understand that no massive government system is perfect. For me, though, it’s been pretty close to perfection.

For now, at least.

NOTE: This blog post was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

COVID vaccine awaits

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Somewhere on a tray full of little medicine bottles there is a dose of medicine with my name on it.

I’ll find it Friday. It sits in the Department of Veterans Affairs medical complex in south Dallas. I will arrive Friday afternoon to receive the first of two doses of vaccine aimed at preventing me from contracting a disease that has killed more than 400,000 Americans … and could have taken the life of someone with whom I am quite close.

I had received a recorded phone call Wednesday evening. The VA automated voice told me to call a phone number to make an appointment for the vaccine. I did as I was instructed today.

My wife and I have been on a Collin County wait list. I decided to take the VA up on its offer for a vaccine. My wife is still on the list but we remain hopeful that the county will call soon to let her know that her name has been called and she, too, can be protected against the COVID pandemic virus.

I feel the need to speak kindly of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I enrolled in the VA program in Amarillo about six or seven years ago. The care I received at the Thomas Creek Medical Center in Amarillo was exemplary. We moved from the Panhandle to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in 2018 and I transferred my VA care to the Sam Rayburn Medical Center in Bonham. My care continues to be stellar.

I say this because the VA has been panned by some in recent years. I remember, of course, the scandal that rocked the agency during the Obama administration, with veterans dying while awaiting medical attention that required urgent response. We don’t hear of such tragedy these days.

For me, the issue has centered on routine care. I have been fortunate in that I enjoy relatively good health. I have encountered no medical emergencies. I rely on the VA to be my go-to source for medical care.

So, with that I want to declare this small victory in the fight against the pandemic. We still intend to follow the prevention protocols to the letter. This is no time to let up.

USAF to send B-1 bomber on a loud fly-by

The Navy has its Blue Angels acrobatic flying team; the Air Force has its Thunderbirds.

The Navy and the Air Force have been sending their teams to cities across the land to honor health care workers and other responders for their heroism during the coronavirus pandemic. The Blue Angels just this week flew over the Dallas-Fort Worth area … which my wife and I missed because we happened to be out of town on that day — dang it!

Now we hear of another salute from an iconic airplane. A B-1 bomber based out of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene is going to fly over the Thomas Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center in Amarillo on Friday; then it will head south to fly over the Lubbock VA center before returning home to Dyess.

If you’ve never watched a B-1 bomber fly overhead, you need to understand that this airplane is real loud and I guarantee that if it’s flying low enough off the deck that it will set off car alarms and get dogs to barking for miles around.

Still, these tributes are so richly deserved and I am proud of the Air Force and the Navy for arranging these magnificent tributes to the men and women who work heroically every waking minute of every day to protect us from the killer viral infection.

Our heroes deserve all these tributes and so much more.

The B-1 will fly over the Creek VA Center at 11:21 a.m. on Friday and then visit the Lubbock center at 11:40. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges those who want to watch to practice “social distancing.” By all means.

And prepare for some serious noise. It’ll thrill you to no end. I promise.

VA takes ‘social distancing’ to a new level

In about three weeks I am going to have a first-ever experience, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

I had been scheduled to see my doctor at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Bonham, Texas. Then I got a phone call from my doc’s nurse, who told me that the doctor doesn’t need to see me in person.

My physician is going to call me around 11 a.m. on the day of my appointment and will visit with me over the phone.

We don’t want to push our luck with this “social distancing” matter in place, the nurse said. I get it, I said. No worries.

I am unclear as to how this “examination” will enable the doctor to determine the state of my health. I suppose she could make me take an oath to tell her “the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth” when she asks me my weight, whether I am continuing to exercise, whether I take my meds regularly.

What about the labs I was supposed to take when I visited the clinic, you know, the bloodwork and peeing into the cup? The nurse said I could go to the clinic “if you want to,” but said I could hold off until the next in-person visit with my doctor.

I’ll wait on that one.

And so … the pandemic has upset one facet of my life. I’ll report back to you how the “examination” goes. I will be anxious to see how my perfectly competent doctor determines whether I continue to enjoy good health.

Dr. Carpetbagger set to seek 13th Congressional District seat

What do you know about this?

A fellow who hasn’t lived anywhere near the 13th Congressional District for many years has decided to run for the House of Representatives seat being vacated by an incumbent who’s been there since 1995.

This Republican candidate, though, does have some name recognition. He is Ronny Jackson, a now-retired U.S. Navy physician who once served as personal doctor to two presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Jackson wants to succeed Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.

Dr. Jackson is a native of Levelland. However, he has been serving his country for more than two decades in the Navy. He also got tapped by Donald Trump to become veterans secretary. His nomination derailed, though, amid controversy arising from the absence of any administrative experience, not to mention allegations that he abused his staff, overprescribed drugs and drank too much while on the job as the president’s doctor. Jackson pulled out.

So now he wants to serve in Congress.

Jackson joins a crowded GOP field, with 13 other candidates running in the Republican Party. I am left to wonder whether this guy is going to parlay his name ID into a congressional job, representing a congressional district about which he likely knows next to nothing.

What fascinates me is that while he does have West Texas roots, Levelland is in the 11th Congressional District. Has the good doctor ever lived anywhere near the district he now wants to represent? Has he ever attended a grange hall meeting in Claude, or Fritch, or Dumas, or Memphis? What does this fellow know about farm policy, or water conservation, or any of the issues unique to communities such as Amarillo, or Wichita Falls?

The 13th District is spread out a long way, from the Panhandle toward the Metroplex. It is as reliably Republican as any congressional district in this nation. With apologies to my good friend Greg Sagan, who’s running as a Democrat again this year for the seat, it isn’t likely to flip to the other party in 2020.

However, the district’s constituents need to representation from someone who at least knows the issues that are unique to the sprawling region.

Dr. Jackson looks like a carpetbagger to me.

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.