That quote comes from Gore Vidal’s book “Julian”.

But what does it have to do with the VA?

Let me start answering by telling you a story.

I used to bad-mouth the VA any chance I got.  Lord knows, they have earned each & every criticism that’s been made.

One day not too long ago, a client that served in Vietnam said this to me:

“Chris, the doctors at my VA Medical Center saved my life.  If you want to keep bad-mouthing what I consider to have been better care than I’d had anytime in my life before that, that’s fine with me. I just don’t want to be your client anymore.”

Talk about “straight-shooting”.  I got the point.

Yesterday, I was invited to visit with officials at the VAMC in Dallas to learn about steps they are doing to deliver better medical care to Veterans.

Here are just a few:

Making MRIs less stressful.

The MRI is stressful for a lot of folks – mostly due to the fact that they are enclosed in such a small opening for such a long period of time.

Not at the Ft. Worth Medical Center.  This is one of the first VAMCs in the country to have an “Open Bore” MRI.  It’s much larger opening allows patients to have a much more comfortable MRI experience.

Scheduled for an MRI at Dallas, but want to have that comfortable experience in the Open Bore MRI?  Easy solution: simply ask to be scheduled for the Open Bore MRI in Ft. Worth, and “voila”, they’ll do it.

Beer and Wine on the Menu.

You are grown men and women, and are old enough to make your own decisions.

That’s the position that the Dallas VA Medical Center Director* took when ensuring that his facility allowed Veterans to have a beer or wine with their meal during inpatient treatment  — so long as their doctor approves it.

How cool is that?

Not the beer or wine part necessarily; the fact that the VAMC Director would set a culture where his patients are respected as independent adults.

That could happen more on the VBA side of the house and I wouldn’t complain.

New Specialized Medical Care Facilities.

The VAMC Dallas is in Phase 1 of the construction of a new state-of-the-art Spinal Cord Injury System.   Do you know what Phase I is?  Building a 1,000 car parking garage.

That, my friends, is forward thinking.

Build room for the capacity before you build the new system.  Brilliant.

Why Isn’t the VA talking more about the GOOD things it does?

The National Conversation surrounding the VA is largely negative.  At times its downright poisonous.

Clearly, the VA has some big problems, and I’ll be the first to call them on the problems I see.  (I’m a sharp-tongued guy, and I’ll do my best to keep my criticisms constructive: call me on it if I cross a line).

But any 21st Century business will tell you that success is “hollow” or “meaningless” unless you tell people about it.

Sure, there are problems at VA Medical Centers.

The VAMC Dallas treats 1.4 million Veterans on an outpatient basis, and 115,000 in-patient. (If I’m wrong on those numbers, let me know).

With those kinds of numbers, things are going to go wrong from time to time.  When they do go wrong, word spreads like swine flu.

But I really wish the VA would talk more about the GOOD things that they do for Veterans – there are more than a few things that the VA does really well.

What do you say, VA?

Will you engage us where we we live and work and tell us about the good things you’re doing?

Here’s my idea.

I’m going to start hosting a Monthly Internet Radio Show – I’ll give you the details later.

I was thinking the show might work to change the tone of the National conversation about the VA to something more productive, and more optimistic, and more positive than what it is now.

I’m not talking about polishing turds or sugar-coating bad news. I’m talking about celebrating success – there is a lot of it happening at the VA, I promise you.

What we focus on grows.  So let’s focus on the positive.

Would you listen to an internet radio show with this topic?

If so, who in the VA would you like us to interview?

If not, what would you like to hear on a Veterans Radio Show?

Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

*  VAMC Dallas Director Jeff Milligan has impressed the hell out of me.  In the past 18 months, I’ve had 3 distinct occasions to interact with him on specific Veterans Initiatives.

Each and every time, he actually sat and listened to Veterans and their advocates – even a certain fireball attorney that he’d never met before.

He loaned out his Spinal Cord Gymnasium once a month – absolutely free – so we could hold a Monthly Legal Clinic for Indigent and Homeless Veterans.  

Then he went a step further and offered the time of one his staff members to take phone calls and schedule appointments for those Veterans at the Legal Clinic.

No other company or individual made that offer.

Director Milligan is a solid man in my book.  If you see him walking the halls of the VAMC Dallas, give him an “attaboy”…he’s earned it.

7 Comments

  1. Carol Warren

    I’m a little confused. For a couple of months, I’ve been considering hiring an attorney to help with my 5 year adjudicated CUE claim that only followed half of the requirements for CUE. I received partial retro-benefits, but have been embroiled in the labyrinth of C&P error wars as far as a “current degree of disability” and consideration for the older records that VA couldn’t locate but I found, lay evidence never considered, and most of the topics you cover in your books.

    I just posted a comment about Jeffery Milligan, a stellar director and an example for all other directors to follow. I contrasted my positive comments about experiences in Dallas with my very poor experiences in WV. The comment appeared and immediately disappeared. Both comparisons were factually represented without resort to untoward language or emotional denigrations.

    It would appear that my comment was censored. An explanation would be appreciated before I continue to evaluate your firm or move on to another candidate. A previous comment was also sent without response. Clarification would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Carol – no posts are censored on this blog. I approved both of your posts within minutes of you posting them.

      However, due to the proliferation of spam, I do have to approve every comment.

      That way the spammers that try to use the comment section of the Veterans Law Blog to get “Back-links” for their sunglasses and Viagra advertisements don’t get in the way of the message we are trying to deliver.

      Thanks for your feedback about Jeff Milligan. Do you mind if I share it with him? He LOVES to hear when he and his team are doing something good!

      Chris

      Reply
      • Carol Warren

        Thank you, Chris. I appreciate your explanation. I’d never seen that happen in posting responses and, with a little self-doubt creeping in, thought perhaps I shouldn’t have included the part about Martinsburg.

        I have nothing but respect for Mr. Milligan and his staff. You may share all comments about him and the wonderful Dallas VA staff. I even wrote a letter to the Channel 11 reporter who published an article about a vet who allegedly was ignored and left on a stretcher in the ER. I’ve been to the ER. The staff is no less professional and attentive than any other hospital I’ve been to or worked at (I worked in surgery at Baylor a couple of decades back).

        In my opinion, Dallas is a stellar example of what VA, universally, should strive for and accomplish. I have on occasion written letters to the supervisors of employees whom I consider to have gone “above and beyond”. I believe that if I have the right to criticize, I have the responsibility to praise…..and letters are often the best way to do both.

        Thanks again for your courteous response.

        Reply
        • Carol Warren

          Just another thought. I believe many vets experience frustration because they are unaware of how to “complain” or to whom. Thanks by a large degree to Mr. Milligan’s Talk to the Director program, I’ve learned that there are many dedicated VA employees who would be glad to help if informed of a problem. One of the best things offered by VA is the patient advocate department. They are my “go to” people when I need something and don’t know how to get it. Some vets are not informed of the help that is available to them. The VA is not the military where often you simply do not speak up. The only place it didn’t worked for me was at Martinsburg. Everywhere else I manage to find those employees whose dedication and caring is beyond reproach. Might be a good topic for one of your blogs.

          Reply
  2. Carol Warren

    I’d like to chime in on the Director at Dallas VA. In a period of almost 5 years, I’ve written 2 letters to Jeffery Milligan because of his “Talk to the Director” program. I’ve personally observed members of the patient advocate department retrieving vet’s comments from the kiosks daily. The program WORKS. Appointments I’d tried to get for months happened within a week’s time with the department supervisors calling me direct within a few days. Appointments were scheduled immediately. Everyone I encountered was professional, sincerely concerned, and equally prompt in their responses. The second time, parts of my file that I’d requested over a month prior arrived within a week of my letter’s arrival at Mr. Milligan’s office, including a personal call from the records division in St. Louis. The facility is kept clean and well maintained, employees adhere to standards for cleanliness and the handling of medical materials, plus their degree of sincere caring is obvious and that cannot be faked. I have nothing but good things to say about this man and his staff. You can pass this on or share my comments any way you can to help forward the good work VA Dallas is doing.

    By contrast, at Martinsburg, WV, I was refused consults to Orthopaedics twice despite being 50% disabled due to degeneration of both knee joints. The reasons for refusal were a plagiarized Clinical note in my record and change of diagnosis or record by Martinsburg from previous clinical records by Dallas Ortho and the MEB/PEB since 1979. My prescriptions were all allowed to expire and no one would renew. I filed an 1151 claim when, because having no other recourse, I had to wait until my 65th birthday to get treatment for my knees. My left knee was replaced and the right one will require replacement in the next few months. Since pain prevented me from safely driving a considerable distance to the clinic, Martinsburg’s refusal to treat was like having no benefits at all. Martinsburg violated all procedures and statutes written to care for the veteran.

    Reply
  3. Richard Sivage

    I’ve been in the VA system since 2001 when I was fitted with my first pair of hearing aids, and they have upgraded my aids about every two to three years. Thanks to them I can carry on a conversation now. Too bad I didn’t ask or the Doctor didn’t ask about my mental health. I was seeing a private psychiatrist at the time for depression.
    Anyway in 2010 I started seeing VA psychiatrist, they did everything to get me help. I was diagnosed with PTSD. If it wasn’t for all the counseling I received I could very well been one of the 22 suicides per day. With that being said, the claims dept. is a whole different story. Waco office took two years before they denied my claim for depression, now looking at another 2/3 years for the appeal. Thanks, Richard

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Richard – you make a great point. The VHA – which treats TENS OF MILLIONS of veterans – is making great strides and is getting better every day. I am thoroughly impressed by the new Dallas VA Medical Center Director, who is doing some GREAT things.

      The VBA – which handles claims and appeals – has some awesome people working to help Vets, but they are weighted down by the Bureaucracy created by those who seek to make money off the backlog.

      Reply

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