As a member of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard, John Byrnes served his country both at home and overseas. When he joined the Marines in 1991, he was continuing a legacy of service, having family who served back to World War I. But when John tried to seek care at the VA, his service and legacy were lost in the massive VA bureaucracy. He became just a number.
John reached out to the VA for an appointment, and after a two-week wait was told he could be seen in 90 days. “This is a veterans’ hospital, and here’s a veteran in pain, and the best we can do – the best we can do – is a 90 day wait,” John stated of his interactions with the VA. After a consultation, he was told he would need to speak with a surgeon – another 90-day wait. At that point, he was directed to the Veterans Choice Program. But that program included neither real choice, nor timely care.
John waited another 120 days in the Choice Program to see a surgeon. “The feeling you get when the government treats you like a pawn in their health care system rather than like a veteran who served his country and has earned this health care…it’s dehumanizing,” John said.
John now advocates for true choice over health care decisions, not the poorly-managed and ineffective Veterans Choice Program. Real reform would allow veterans to take the benefits they’ve earned to a health care facility of their choice rather than remain trapped in a broken system. John’s story is unfortunately not unique; he and veterans in the VA system deserve the care they were promised.
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