I have spent the last four weeks visiting friends and family back home in Florida. Since here, I have accompanied my 76-year-old father from consultations to surgery to follow up appointments with a few unfortunate complications along the way. It has been emotionally taxing. Witnessing a parent, who has always been the fixer of the family, struggle to walk to the mailbox is hard to watch.
My father is a veteran, a Marine. He proudly guarded Presidents John F. Kennedy and Dwight D Eisenhower during his service. He is a proud patriot, tough as nails. He was injured in the line of duty. As such, he is one of millions of veterans of the Armed Forces fortunate to have rightful access to the services of the Veterans Administration (VA). Some of my earliest memories are of visits to the VA with Dad. In light of the recent controversy and scrutiny the VA has faced, I decided there was no better way to say thank you than with a post.
The first Veterans Health Administration (VHA) dates back to the Lincoln era with the signing of a post Civil War law that ensured asylum and respite to ailing veterans of the Union Army. They were called “soldier homes” or “military homes.” Since then, the VHA has evolved to be, according to the U.S. Department of Affairs, “America’s largest integrated health care system serving 9 million enrolled Veterans each year.” While no system is ever perfect, here is a glimpse into an excellent example of functional social welfare in this country- a country that today still struggles with the idea that healthcare should be a fundamental right.
The VA offers benefits to most of its veterans with individual benefits depending on factors including but not limited to time of service, if there was injury in service, and that the discharge was anything other than dishonorable. According to the site, “most veterans qualify for cost-free health care services, although some veterans must pay modest copays for health care or prescriptions.”
The VHA is an excellent example of fully functioning social welfare in our country. I have spent the last 30 years of my life following my father to the VHA. His out of pocket cost for any doctor’s visit, diagnostic test, treatment, surgery, specialty consultation, or medications have been minimal. He has never received a bill in the mail for multiple surgeries through the years. His out of pocket cost for medications are no more than between $8 and $10 a prescription. Any travel cost to and from the VHA is even reimbursed for any visits to cover gas and any tolls. The VHA even recently referred Dad to a private surgeon as they were overwhelmed with patient need. The bill was fully covered.
Each and every interaction we had through the VA, whether visiting the lab, pharmacy, or emergency room my father has been greeted with a “thank you for your service” and the respect his years and wisdom deserve. This was a stark contrast to a private specialist visit where my father was talked to like a three-year old. Each interaction was noted with a sense of dignity all elderly individuals should receive.
My father is a brittle diabetic. He is textbook with a tiny frame and swinging blood sugars. Over the past couple of weeks, we have watched his blood sugars climb dangerously high following an infection, regimen of steroid treatment, and a complicated surgery. A wonderful nurse on his team at the VA made multiple phone calls to check on my dad, ensure that he talked with his diabetes doctor, and check that his sugars were improving. She even got on the phone with him to tell him to listen to his daughter when he was refusing to go to the E.R.
The VA does its best to ensure veterans are cared for following a short time or a lifetime of service. It is called social welfare and could teach our society a lesson in what it means to care for and help those in need. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the doctors, surgeons, specialists, nurses, techs, and ancillary staff that cared for my father. Thank you especially to the sweet Filipino nurse that made countless calls to check on Dad and ensure he was getting better. Your kindness and generosity will be forever remembered.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.