New battles over health care

Published Brownsville Herald 2/27/2012

This summer I will have lived in Brownsville 27 years, which is longer than I have lived anywhere else; that includes northern New York, Florida, several military postings in support of the war in Vietnam, Guam, New York City and northern New Jersey.
When asked I proudly claim Brownsville as my hometown. There are good and not so good things about my hometown, but the most notable of the good things are the really great folks who live in this “small town” city.
Of the many considerate folks that work for the city bus, I have traveled with drivers Jesus Castillio and Raul Solis most frequently. They impressed me as remarkably thoughtful. Their consideration and thoughtfulness caused me to forget about the “bumps in the road” in the service, even when the bus has been delayed for one reason or another. While they deserve kudos, I am sure that most of the others I have ridden with deserve them as well.
Many thanks to all the nice folks who work with the Brownsville bus for the handicapped! They allow me to get out of the house and shake the cobwebs away.
Back to the VA; During the past week I received a final statement from the provider of my retired federal employee plan. I am being required to pay the part that Medicare would normally pay for in a public hospital.
People who have received hospital care know that we are all required by law to purchase Medicare but have the option of not purchasing part “B.” I understood that my retired federal employee health plan, which is a full secondary policy. I understood, would pay health costs whenever Medicare did not.
I am now informed that if I want to primarily depend on the Department of Veterans Affairs, I do not need to purchase Medicare Part B, unless I misunderstand the billing officer at the DeBakey Veterans Hospital in Houston. “Late News – Just informed that they have scheduled a forensic audit. We pointed out numerous payments made by my insurer that were not posted.”
Alternately, for the most inexpensive choice, I can keep the paid policies and try to depend solely on civilian hospitals.
Unfortunately, the VA hospitals are most knowledgeable about my personal circumstances.
If you think all Vietnam veterans are receiving service-connected VA health care for exposure to Agent Orange, you are wrong.
I have lived with diabetes and some autoimmune health problems my adult life since I left military service. When I applied for health care with Veterans Affairs, I was told my afflictions did not qualify as service-connected????
Yes, I did serve in the Vietnam War from 1965 through 1967, but I did not set foot on land in the right location during the dates specified to qualify for health coverage for Agent Orange exposure.
We are told Agent Orange was dumped over Vietnam by C-130 cargo aircraft, which surprises me as I understand that the plane does not lend itself to the efficient spraying of a defoliant. I wonder if perhaps it was also dropped during bombing runs from aircraft flying from aircraft carriers or airfields in Thailand —or elsewhere!
Approximately 21 million gallons of deadly herbicides were sprayed on Vietnam between 1962 and 1970.
Where do you suppose it all went?
As they say, “If it’s in the air, it’s everywhere!”
I served with a reconnaissance and bombing squadron aboard a carrier. A few of our RA5C aircraft made emergency landings into the Hue airbase in Vietnam where they were fixed up enough to get them back to the ship.
I guess all the Agent Orange they were contaminated with was removed from the aircraft before being brought back to our ship, where we tore them apart in order to make them ready for service.
I suppose my shipmates and I are imagining the sicknesses and diseases we are suffering.
And I wonder: If we can send all kinds of money all around the world, why can we not take care of our war veterans properly?
Just think: Nearly a 100,000 members of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Marines who fought in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 currently suffer disabilities from the effects of the dioxin found in Agent Orange.
I would be interested in hearing from any veterans that have had both good and bad experiences in getting medical care with the Veterans Administration.