Battles on the health-care front

Published Brownsville Herald 2/13/2012

Our insurance company refused to pay a recent medical charge, saying the document said Medicare was to pay the amount.
As it happens, the Department of Veterans Affairs never collected it from Medicare and refused to present any other bill against my insurer. The company said that the document indicates that Medicare paid it. If it was documented that Medicare did not pay, the company would.
The VA then determined that because I did not have a serviceconnected disability and was not financially wanting, it billed me for the unbilled Medicare amount.
The VA refuses to send any kind of document to my insurer saying Medicare didn’t pay the amount.
I chose the DeBakey Hospital in Houston because it was the best for my particular problems; it treats a large variety of serious dermatological and rheumatic diseases and performs the kind of amputation I needed.
Now it seems that even though I am a veteran of combat participation during the Vietnam War, they go to lengths to avoid even proper payment of charges by my insurers.
President Obama claims to support veterans but seems to advocate a medical policy that further disenfranchises them.
We are certainly aware that there are co-payments for nonservice-connected conditions, but they should be covered by the additional insurance we buy to cover those costs. Instead I am expected to pay the part that Medicare normally would pay for in a public hospital.
I don’t know what caused the strange lesions that caused the removal of my legs or whether they could have been connected to my combat service, but I believe I should be able to go to a veterans’ hospital and at least get the care it specializes in and allow the insurance that I pay so much for to pay its portion.
If any of you have received hospital care you know we all are required by law to contribute to Medicare, and it is normally required to be the first payer for hospital services. This is the current government health plan!
I served in the military and in a law-enforcement capacity in the federal government where I worked in airports, seaports and along the borders as well as training foreign officials in Asia. I suspect that I might have contracted the conditions that caused my malady anywhere along the way.
A related issue that really concerns me is that the GOVERNMENT, in big letters, seems to have forgotten those vets who served in combat but somehow were not present on certain ships or in certain areas of Vietnam at certain times when it is believed Agent Orange was sprayed.
I wonder how the chemical or any others we might not be aware of got onto the aircraft; who loaded the canisters on the planes and on which aircraft carriers; who was also working on the flight deck at that time as well as the armorers.
Unfortunately combat risk takes place in many other locations and many unpredictable times. One cannot always identify the risks that could have resulted in serviceconnected disabilities, and certainly cannot identify situations that precipitated them, which is what our government tries to do. It seems to me that if you are playing in the game you must pay the entire price and not quibble about some that might indicate less-than-honest playing of the game.
Vietnam vets are excluded from most benefits that other combat vets get. Do I have or have I had post traumatic stress disorder? Perhaps! My wife and I have dealt with my bad dreams, awaking suddenly in the night, or jumping suddenly when touched; it rarely happens anymore. Some vets I served with have had far worse problems, such as serious impairment in thought or communication, persistent delusions or hallucinations, inappropriate behavior, persistent danger of hurting themselves or others, intermittent inability to perform daily activities, memory loss for names of close relatives, their own occupation or even own name.
I have been very lucky. I survived and I’m still here.
I would like to call your attention to the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Founded in 1978, it is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families. It aggressively advocates on issues important to veterans of the Vietnam “conflict,” seeks full access to quality health care for vets and seeks to identify the full range of disabling injuries and illnesses incurred during military service, hold government agencies accountable for following laws mandating veterans’ health care and work to create a positive public perception of Vietnam veterans. Lastly, it seeks the fullest possible accounting of America’s POW/MIAs, and supports the next generation of America’s war veterans as well as serving our communities.
I urge you to support them when you can.

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