In the Parking Lot
“Because I like happy endings, I will just tell you that everything is going to work out just fine. It says so in the manual.”
I wrote this the other morning, in summing up what seemed like a dead-end situation, in obtaining veterans health benefits. As it turns out, I was right to have drawn that conclusion. Because I am beginning the fourth in a series of posts, concerning the state of my health insurance, I need to do a quick review. Form DD214 told the tale of the original quest for my documentation, that verified I had served honorably, in the US Army, for two years back in 1972/1973. The Blender describes my mixed feelings over the acquisition of these veterans benefits, and Die-in-the-Hall Insurance describes the steps leading up to a seemingly impenetrable wall, halting the whole process, temporarily.
Now, a scant twenty-four hours later, the haze has cleared, some emails have been exchanged, and I have an appointment for September 21st, down in Ukiah with a doctor named Shepherd. I don’t even know if Dr. Shepherd is a man or a woman. Having to wait close to five weeks is better than having the three-to-four month delay that was mentioned on the recording, when I first called to see if my application had been accepted.
It was that recording that started all the problems, because upon hearing about such a long delay for an appointment, plus the fact that my name had not appeared on the list, designating that I was eligible for benefits, I felt myself plummeting into the depths of depression. With a keen sense of bitterness, I fired off an email to my older brother Brian who has spent the past few decades (quite a while, anyway) as the chief-of-staff of a Bay Area veterans hospital. The gist of my email was that the whole veterans health benefits package was a joke, and that my personal sense of disappointment was extremely sharp.
That all took place on Wednesday. Thursday morning, while sitting in the parking lot at J.C. Penney’s, I received a call from Brian, who asked simply for my social security number, and told me to sit tight. I was contacted by two different individuals within the next hour. The first was a follow-up call from the office I had phoned, when I had learned of the long delay. At the time, my call had been transferred from the original speaker, to a second office, but in frustration, I had hung up the phone.
Now a person named Christopher called and asked for the last four digits of my social security number, told me he had found my application, and that he would process it immediately. He said that he would inform me of when that had taken place. I had barely hung up the phone, when another call came in from a man named Dan, who identified himself as the Administrative Officer of Veterans Affairs for the region, and could he help me out in any way?
I explained about not being on the list, after being told that my application should have proceeded through without a hitch, and that the three-to-four month time period, alluded to on the phone, seemed inordinately long, for any sort of efficient health care. He explained that his job was to make sure that any issues that arose from veterans’ needs, were solved to the best of his ability, and that he would fire off a few emails, and see what he could do.
When I expressed concern about the possibility of being leap-frogged over fellow veterans, he assured me that I would not be usurping any other brother veterans’ spots in my journey. He set up a time for me to call him back the following morning (Friday) at nine o’clock. I went home and posted an email off to Brian, letting him know what was up, and thanking him for any assistance, he may have extended to me in the matter.
Brian responded that since I was in the NorCal region that included San Francisco’s Veterans Hospital, he had placed a call to the chief-of-staff there, a fellow with whom he had worked for fifteen years, at some earlier point in time. It seems that in addition to working together, they had also played softball together on a team, and were fairly good buds. Brian had called him, and he had evidently called Dan.
Included in his response to me, Brian had written, “...He [the chief-of-staff of the veterans hospital] was concerned about your experience, so he immediately mobilized the team, but he would have done the same thing for anyone else. We have worked so hard to be welcoming and to provide the best care anywhere, that it is profoundly disturbing when something goes wrong. I am sorry for your experience.”
The net result is that I have an appointment for September 21st, about five weeks away, which is a far cry better than three to four months. I feel supported and I feel fortunate to have plugged the gap from the elapsed health insurance. I may end up dying in a hallway, but at least it will not be because I have no insurance.