Sitting around the coffee table the other day at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, we talked about our care at the VA. Here are some of the harvests from that conversation.

When something goes wrong with your health care in the VA system what is the first thing you do? Right, you address the issue with the individual that you have an issue with. If that is not satisfactory, then you might touch base with the ‘VA patient advocate’ located at the hospital. There is a process you can take that, in most cases, works. In the cases that don’t work, then more aggressive action needs to take place and each direction is different. What is important is keeping a calm manner and understanding that most staff in the system are truly there to help. It is the few that we have to deal with that challenge even the best of us.

It has been around 15 years since I was in Florida and signed up for the VA medical system. It was last year, about 14 years after I did that, I got a letter that I should make my appointment at the VA Hospital, in Florida, for my first check up! They were a little late since I have been living here in Ontario since 2005! I smiled when receiving the letter but realized that if I did have a serious problem this could have been an example of a serious disaster for me.

Today is 2021 and just in the last month the Department of Veterans Affairs added three more conditions that would be covered because of Agent Orange. Do you think that after over 50 years of fighting for help at the VA and after the suffering and death of many of our veterans the Congress and the VA would just stop for a moment and trust our veterans that have made these complaints 40 or 50 years ago. Veterans have been suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s like systems all these years and know that the reason for all this suffering and or death was because of the chemical herbicides that WE sprayed, not only on the foliage in Vietnam but on many of our own troops. We were drenched with the stuff when the containers spilled over when transporting it, hell I remember when working on a C-130 transport slipping on a batch of it, I was working on the auto-pilot system and had no idea the danger. I can imagine the troops that handled it or happen to be in an area that was being sprayed or walking through it on the vegetation in the jungle. Or even when the planes were sent back to the states for maintenance or rotation all that stuff still contaminated inside the cargo hold. Do you think any of the troops back home were warned about the danger lurking all around them, and they were not even in the war in Vietnam? Yet they also were exposed to this dangerous chemical.

“War is Hell” was included in General Sherman’s speech in 1879 but I bet it was said way before he uttered those words because of the ingenious ways that people have learned to kill, mutilate, torture (and the weapons have become very unique). Physical, psychological and destruction to man/woman and the environment is not for the faint of heart. We as a nation need to understand that when we send our men/women to a conflict the responsibility of caring for them should not stop at the time of discharge.

Yesterday I sat down with a veteran that was mad at me for saying something negative about our VA Health Care: he said that he has been given great care. He is not an isolated case, for most veterans the care is great and our local Boise VA Health System has given great care to most of our veterans that have used them. Concentrating on the good, and not on the negative, will be putting our head in the sand and not be able to fix the bad and the ugly that exists in the system today.

Every branch of America’s armed forces has units steeped in combat and we need to consider those that sustained injuries and they deserve to be given the best of care. Do you think that our politicians in Washington D.C. would consider giving our troops the same care that they receive? I think that would be fair. Don’t you?

“It is during the worst of times that you get to see the real colors of the folks who say they care for you.”

Anonymous quote but true to the care for our veterans.

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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