Veterans Affairs Secretary designate Ret. Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki listens as President-elect Barack Obama, not pictured, speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

It had to end eventually—defense contracting. Granted it never actually “ended” as it is alive and well; it’s just… different. The ultimate ex-military, money gun-club, the “golden age of contracting” has passed. Between the military and PMC work it was a good run at that. We are most pleased.

So in the process of executing the exit plan, one’s personal healthcare is an issue that requires increasing attention as you get older. Those injuries do not get better as time drags on. No pain is not weakness leaving the body, it’s just pain. While the VA has always been laughably absurd as far as medical help, it seemed to me for a brief moment that it would not be bad to let them handle some minor issues.

I arrived, and the parking lot was packed with cars of every make and model; from the post-apocalyptic Ford Stranger generously adorned with death-dealing Glock, Nobama, cold dead fingers, Infowars, and colors that don’t run stickers, to the ZO6 Corvette with a DV tag. I pause as I give way to a morbidly obese man who was cruising the crosswalk at a Wal-Mart pace, overtaking an elderly gentleman in a bomber jacket and cane.

I entered, and the education began. Going from years of gun-work in the free market to the screeching halt of government run anything was like hitting a wall at 60mph. What immediately follows is more or less and op-ed. The memories reside as flashes, and with a slew of paperwork the whole thing seems to tell a story. To wit: 

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Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch – What is offered for free is dangerous—it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way, you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit.

—48 Laws of Power

 

While VA healthcare should be a contractual agreement between the veteran and the government for services conducted in the military, it is just purgatory—limbo for disabled vets dependent on the government for paltry healthcare. Anyone who has ever been in a VA waiting room can attest that words like “efficiency,” or “progress” are about the last things that come to mind. What is on the docket is your VA appointed Vogon, taking their looming lunch break—which will be taken on time, Hard-charger. So why don’t you join the rest of your salty people back in your chair and watch the news about Kanye’s twitter war, hmmmm.

 

The problems with the VA are nothing new. Washington DC will claim they care about your health and well-being because it is an easy election slogan to get around. Veterans dying while on waiting-lists for care makes great political currency; it does not equate to actual, tangible money, however. For the problem to be solved budgets and allocation of money have to be fixed. In the end it is government mandated healthcare. Therefore your overall well being isn’t the priority of the institution; providing the minimal amount of services for the least amount of cost to its budget is. Money is the ultimate monkey. Sweet, sweet taxpayer money.

Solution? There is no easy one. Being aware of this, an important question eventually looms “why go at all?” Some have no choice due to lack of income. Some are immediately locked into the system due to severe injuries sustained in combat.

Yet many go because it is “free,” and they were told that its presence is there to help them. This is a mistake. The overwhelming evidence of abuse and corruption makes a pretty convincing case to the contrary.

The VA is not without its proverbial charm, however. I would highly suggest referring to our past piece on acquiring some of those benefits: One needs to realize clearly what kind of animal they’re facing.

Look at the VA like Denny’s.

If you go in expecting to get filet mignon Au-Poivre you will be sadly mistaken and given your country fried steak with mashed browns and a side of fried diabetes—and you’ll like it, god damn it.

If you have legitimate injuries and disabilities the VA, through a long, lengthy process that is more tedious than sitting through another don’t-beat-wife-and-kids-post-deployment brief, you can eventually be compensated for those injuries.

Once received, however, that same money can and should, I argue, be used to subsidize/pay for medical care from a more competent and vetted provider. Use the VA for basic needs like the flu or minor ailments. Anything relating to the utilization of a scalpel should be handled by a highly rated physician and/or private healthcare system. Nothing with the moniker of free is going to be worth it or an adequate measure for results. Being in control of your healthcare is invaluable.

Private insurance and healthcare allows you to acquire the services from most qualified, verified doctors in your area who will see you sometime this century. The private sector will always be superior to any free lunch prescribed by the government. Hell you lucky bastards in Colorado can have medical marijuana prescribed for your, ummm.. “glaucoma.” This is, the US of A—for good or for ill—in a land championing free enterprise over all else . . . you get what you pay for.

Did you pay for it by serving in uniform? Yes. But did you see “Honor and Service” as one of the payment options next to Visa and Paypal when you order your patriotic star spangled Truck Nutz off Amazon? Private healthcare is not perfect, but it is better than waiting in VA purgatory, only to maybe end up contracting HIV or Hepatitis.

I would wager that if we made it personal for lawmakers and took all five hundred and thirty-five members of Congress and replaced their very first class Gucci healthcare with that of the VA, the issues that are plaguing it will be rectified with a quickness. Suddenly those political slogans and platitudes have merit and real intent behind them.  Suddenly your well being, is their well being.

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I was late for my appointment but only because parking was at a premium with the outside looking like a swirling Mongol horde of cars and Rascal scooters. Not like it made much of a difference considering that my appointment wasn’t showing up on the kiosk, nor was it on what appeared to be a 90’s era DOS system computer. The Vogon instructed me to wait and fill out more forms, forms that I had already submitted online. In the waiting area I sat and perused what was once a fully grown spruce tree, turned white rectangles peppered with “on a scale of one to ten” questions.

“Uh. . . what?” I asked. The man leaning toward me held a smile, mid-block in a leathery face. He was well dressed and powerfully built for a senior citizen. A small CIB Vietnam Veteran pin was on his carry bag, and his hands—which looked like something that belonged on a rock biter and geared to crush skulls—curled around the head of a cane.

“Yeah” he laughed then cleared his throat. “The VA thinks I’m dead. They cut off all my benefits. I have no idea how or why, but I called ‘em after I didn’t receive my payment. They told me I was deceased.” He went into a fit of laughter, looked down, and then cocked his head back up. “I’m like ‘the hell I am.’ I’ve been fighting with ‘em ever since. I’ve shown up with my ID, passport, bank statements, everything I can find to show I’m . . . alive. They still won’t fix it. They tell me I gotta fill out these forms, and I do, but nothin’ happens.”

“Jesus tapdancing Christ,” I said, “the VA literally killed you. Goddamn man, how long has this been going on?”

“Six months.” He grabbed his cane with one hand and his armrest with the other. Lifting to his feet he said, “I’ve been at this with them daily. They don’t want to believe I’m still alive.” His loud, gravelly laughter rang in my ears as he hobbled out the door.

 

—Thulsa

Thulsa

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