Reasons & Remarks Redivivus

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2015

If you don't have a plan, you'll be part of someone else's

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It’s rare that a month goes by when we don’t receive some form of correspondence from the widow of a veteran.

These letters, emails, etc., are full of anguish and can be difficult to read if you have any compassion at all. They all have a common theme. Their spouse has died and they believe it’s the result of a failure, in some part, by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) because it didn’t properly provide care.
Often, it’s a woman who has been the caregiver of her husband for many years and her life is now turned upside down. Many times, they ask us to do something to remedy what they believe is medical malpractice.  

Other times, they’re asking for help because they don’t know what to do since the compensation or pension their family was receiving has now stopped or changed dramatically.
There’s no question that some hospitals within the VA medical system don’t provide competent care. I can personally vouch for that. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) works very hard to try and make sure its members, as well as veterans who don’t belong to PVA, receive competent care.

In the case when a veteran isn’t a member, it’s necessary that PVA receives a limited power of attorney to have access to medical records. The previous sentence is very important. Don’t wait until you, your spouse or a family member is in a medical crisis to ask for help.
In the most recent letter, a woman wrote canceling a subscription to PN because her husband was deceased. Her letter to us also described what she considered serious concern about the care her husband received in the VA hospital closest to their home.

She explained that after three weeks in the VA facility she ultimately moved him to a civilian hospital where he eventually died. I could go into greater detail of what she claimed transpired, but since we have no firsthand knowledge of what took place, I will not do so.
I’ve written numerous editorials regarding the importance of making sure the disabled veteran in your family has competent representation by a qualified National Service Officer (NSO). I believe PVA’s NSOs are the highest qualified people to represent disabled veterans, especially veterans who have a spinal-cord injury.

But, in order for NSOs to help you, you must give them the medical power of attorney they need. You should notify them when the veteran goes in the hospital, and you should follow the progress of the veteran’s care while in the hospital.  
If the veteran has a spinal-cord injury, he or she has specific rights which are spelled out in the VA manuals. If you don’t know about them, the NSO will know and make sure they’re followed.

When we receive correspondence like this, we immediately forward it to the PVA national office in Washington, D.C. The people there are the most qualified to deal with what actually took place and to assist the surviving spouse in any way they can in a period of mental anguish and mourning.  
PVA’s benefits department will immediately contact the spouse or family member and take steps to find out what took place leading to the death of the deceased veteran. If medical malpractice has taken place, there may be actions that the surviving family member can take. In any event, such as I’ve discussed, try to avoid it happening to you by not waiting until the medical problem has progressed from routine to critical.

After reviewing what I’ve read, make sure you’ve planned for the unexpected and arranged to get qualified help. There’s no charge for PVA’s assistance. PVA’s medical experts and NSOs will help you. If you don’t have a plan in place now, please make one.  
We do feel your pain when you write us.  PVA will help you to the best of its ability. 


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