The Department of Veterans Affairs has long been touted as the best health care option for those with SCI/D, and comprehensive lifetime care is why.
No one likes getting sick, but besides general health concerns, there’s a whole host of secondary issues that must be kept under observation when you have a spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D). Receiving effective, timely care for those issues can be a matter of life and death, and it’s often hard to come by outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as clinicians who specialize in SCI/D are few and far between. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) has long advocated for veterans who are eligible for health care through the VA to seek care there rather than the private sector, especially for veterans with SCI/D. However, the reasoning behind why the VA provides the best care for veterans with SCI/D is sometimes forgotten. It comes down to the difference between comprehensive lifetime coordinated care and fragmented care.
Ken Klein, PVA Minnesota Chapter president and national director, is familiar with both types of care. After becoming paralyzed in 2001 in a private airplane crash, the Navy veteran sought care at a private health care clinic. But for the last seven or eight years, Klein has gone to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System for his yearly exams and says what he finds most comforting is that it’s a “one-stop shop, everything under one roof.”
“At times when I was on the outside world and getting a physical, you’re in there, you see one person, he takes your blood pressure, takes some blood samples and stuff and that’s about it,” Klein says. “You don’t see anybody, [a] PT [physical therapist] or OT [occupational therapist] or social worker or psychologist. None of that is available to you on a physical on the outside world.”
Klein says the biggest factor in his decision to switch to the VA permanently came when he had to have surgery in 2009 and the medical staff didn’t turn him for two days.
“They didn’t know how to handle a paraplegic at the time,” Klein says. “So, I just lay there in bed for two days without turning myself. If it hadn’t been for my wife complaining, they wouldn’t have started to turn me.”
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