Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


VA bureaucracy is the culture...

Posted 1/26/16 (Tue)

I want to tell you a story about the VA and how that organization has infuriated me more than once.

But first I want to also tell you that for seven years I could have been considered a poster child for the VA. That’s all changed.

In the past two years, it’s gotten to where I can’t trust anybody in that organization.

Most of this started on Aug. 1, 2015 when the VA decided that it wasn’t going to reimburse veterans in cash any longer and that the mileage reimbursement would be direct desposited.

In my case, that’s $240 every time I make a trip to Fargo. I was there to see my doctor on Aug. 6, went back in December and will again in February.

When I went to collect the reimbursement, I was told it was changed and that all of us had to fill out a form, drop it in a kiosk and the money would be in our accounts in seven to 10 working days.

Two months later I began making phone calls and the individual in the finance office in Fargo told me he was doing everything he could to make sure I would get that reimbursement.

Four months passed and still nothing. I was then told a check was issued instead of a direct deposit and a trace was placed on it.

I wasn’t satisfied with that so I contacted Sen. John Hoeven’s office in Fargo.

Twenty-four hours later, that money was in my bank account. Then, a supervisor called and said I could have contacted her to fix the problem. But how would I have known that?

As it turned out, the man who was “doing everything he could to help,” didn’t even let his supervisor know about this situation.

On Dec. 22, I had another appointment, but this time with a civilian doctor who the VA transferred me to see.

Six days later I received a letter denying mileage reimbursement and the letter said that after compassionate and careful review, this was being denied.

It took six days to deny but more than four months and a push from a U.S. senator to get the last reimbursement.

In that letter, it stated I have the right to appeal and have to fill out a form which wasn’t in the letter, nor were there instructions on how to obtain one.

This time, I contacted Hoeven’s office right away, and again, they went right after it, got back to me and instead of admitting they were wrong, the VA said it found a “hole” and was trying to rectify it.

Because I saw a civilian doctor, the finance office didn’t officially recognize the doctor. Therefore, it was denied.

But after several conversations with the senator’s staff, I was told the reimbursement had been deposited in my account on Dec. 30, two days after the denial letter.

The funds were actually deposited on Jan. 14, after yet another call to Hoeven’s office, so the VA was giving me and Sen. Hoeven’s staff a line of baloney!

OK, I’m not whining about not getting $240. Instead, I see a pattern here of false promises being told just to keep veterans and authorities off their backs.

To me it’s the principle of it all. I’m just one veteran who has crossed all the Ts and dotted all the I’s, and I get burned.

Imagine those vets who have serious conditions to have to deal with. Are they getting the same analysis that I’ve received?

Who’s helping these people? It sure isn’t the VA. If you call them, they just pass the buck to someone else and refuse to take responsibility for any prior action including a denial letter. I can’t say it enough, it’s infuriating.

So I asked Monica, who assisted me from Hoeven’s officce, if she is the only advocate veterans have?

The Minot Air Force Base clinic told me there is a veterans advocate at the Fargo VA hospital. Unfortunately, after leaving a message about this fiasco, he hasn’t returned any phone calls. That was a waste of time.

This beauracracy they call the VA doesn’t look at these situations with compassion and careful review. I think it’s what suits them and what’s easy.

Now, I have to clarify that the health care has been good, if not superb. Unfortunately, the administrative side of the VA is a mess and it needs to get fixed.

So how can veterans get a fair shake? I’m sure a lot of times if a claim is denied, they are so sick of the beauracracy that they forget about it, like I nearly was.

The VA says they put the veteran first.... I seriously beg to differ.

This cookie-cutter style of solving problems isn’t working. Maybe more heads ought to roll like three years ago to fix this culture.