Can you imagine being half way across the country and receiving a call that says, “Hey, they are taking me to Emergency Surgery in the morning.” This happened June 2, 2016. I was in Dallas, TX and was supposed to get on a flight to come home in the morning. (Keep in mind that I had been there for 46 days, but that is another story)
Here begins my VA story, I am hoping that telling this story helps someone else or makes me feel better. Yes these things happened and for everyone that asks about my Dad, this is my version of the story. I believe that the VA System needs to be looked at and given a complete overhaul. I just can’t understand how people who fought for the county have such a hard time getting treated.
So where was I, oh yeah got this phone call, tears started falling from my eyes and I was in disbelief, I am half way across the US, my Dad is in need and I can’t get there until the next day. So I picked up my phone and started to make calls, I called my Dad’s godson told him what he said and asked if he would go to the VA and stand in for me. He said he would. Morning comes and I get another phone call from my Dad saying ” I am going to be discharged”. I am in disbelief as he was supposed to be going to emergency surgery this morning. The representative at the hospital said to him, “Even though we have some of your records, we don’t have your discharge papers from the military, so we cannot do this today.” Me: “They can’t do an “emergency surgery, because they are missing a paper??”. This is unbelievable. So they gave him a form and said you have to request your papers from the National Archives. His godson was there and had the forms filled out and was prepared to fax the form over.
Before boarding my plane, I am on google trying to figure out how to get this paperwork in a timely manner. I find something that says, fax the paper and put “medical emergency” if you need it quickly. So I call my Dad’s Godson and say, put this on the form and fax it to them. My Dad gets discharged and is told to go home. At this point he is limping and is having trouble walking. So I keep my cool get on my flight, land here at RDU and proceed to go check on my Dad, who is now sleeping at his godson’s house.
I am in sheer disbelief that you could discharge someone, for a piece of paper missing. Let me give you some backstory, My dad was drafted into the military in 1968 for Vietnam so it should be clear that he is no longer in the military. However, apparently this paper needs to say that you are honorably discharged or you are not eligible for benefits. Ok back to the story…
I started calling the archives to see if they received the faxed form and you won’t believe this the call center has a recording that says “oh we aren’t taking anymore calls for the day, blah,blah blah….call back another time”. Now I am furious because these are the people that are supposed to help me get his paperwork. I also called the hospital and spoke to a representative that said once we got his paperwork it could be faxed to a certain number. (this is important)
So I called the Archives everyday, until I got someone on the phone. A week passed, I continued to call and finally got a representative, the rep says the form is being processed and they could have it sent to the number I was given. I was so excited, I had made a breakthrough in what I thought was a tough situation. So I called the department back and went through all of the confirmations and told them that My Dad’s paperwork had been faxed, so they could get him in the system. This lady that answered was in a bad mood, I could tell, and she says well “the paperwork isn’t here, maybe it is in my supervisor’s office”. Me: “Can you ask your supervisor if they got the fax? ” Her: “She isn’t here.” Me: “When she returns can you ask her? I will call back later.” Her: Ok. Me: Thanks so much. A few hours passed and I called back and got the same lady. Her: “No forms arrived here and my supervisor didn’t get them either.” Me:” Can I speak to the supervisor so that I can get her fax number so that they go to the right place?” Her: “Oh, she just left again, but here is the number (rattles off another number).” Me:” Thanks, I will call back, but if your supervisor returns can you have her call me? “Her: Ok.
So, I called back to the National Archives and after being on hold for a long time, I got a rep and said, can you fax the information to these fax numbers. Rep:” I can make a note so that the person that does that can send one, but I can’t guarantee it”. Me:” Thanks.:
As you can see this is a frustrating process. It felt like I was making calls everyday and not getting anywhere. So finally I used my brain and the way that I do things. First of all, there has to be someone that can help me get the information to the right place, so I prayed about it. Woke up the next morning prepared to call again, mind you I still haven’t received a phone call from that supervisor yet. So I decided, I need to call again to confirm the fax numbers I have been given and then call the National Archives and make sure that this gets taken care of. I thought to myself, today will be my day.
So I called the hospital, and got someone else that was having a bad day. Me: “Hello I am trying to get some help for my father and get these forms over to you, but it seems as though no one is receiving them. Can you confirm these fax numbers for me?” Her: “I haven’t heard of those numbers, but maybe they go to the Directors office”. (ding, ding, ding) Me: “Oh, well then could you ask the director if she received a fax with my Dad’s information as I am trying to get him helped.” Her: (starts stammering) “Um, no we can’t ask them, if it went there they will bring it down” Me: “I am confused are you in the same building, can you call and ask?” Her: “Oh no we can’t call there” Me: “Give me the number and I will call them” Her: “Well maybe you should speak to my supervisor.” Me: “Sure, transfer me to them” Her: “Oh they just stepped out, but I can give you the number” Me: “Ok.” (What she didn’t know or realize is that I was waiting for this moment) So I called the supervisor. Got no answer.
So I looked on Google and called the main line and asked for the Director’s office. Someone answered the phone!!! I literally almost broke into tears because I knew that hopefully this person could help. Me: “I need some help”, I then explained all of the run around I had been given and that my Dad needed to be seen and how he was discharged because he didn’t have discharge papers and that the National archives was sending them but no one was getting them. The person that answered transferred me to someone, and I heard a smiling voice on the other end. I explained again my issue and how I needed help. It turns out no one knew the fax numbers that I was given and where they were even registered to. The “smiling voice” says: “I know that you have been through alot, but fax the papers to me” Me: “I have been given the runaround so much, I need to know for sure that you can help me” Her:”I can in fact help you, here is my information, have the archives send the information to me, and then call me to make sure I got it”.
So now it is like 3:45 and the Archives starts that weird message at 4pm. I was like, I am not going to make it. However, I had hope. So I called and got that message. I felt a little defeated, but I knew that this wasn’t the end. So the next morning I called and got a rep. I don’t know this Reps name or who she is, but she kept me from flying to that place and getting the paperwork in person. (I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that we didn’t continue to waste time. At this point it has been 8 days, from the time they wanted to do “emergency surgery”. ) I explained to her the issue and that the Director’s office was on standby waiting for my Dad’s paperwork to arrive. She says, ” I want to help you, I will get up from my desk and go to the person that has to fax your paperwork, it will take me some time to get there, but I hear you”. This time I did cry. Me:”Thank you so much for your help”. I waited a couple of hours, then called the Director’s office again, and the “smiling voice” was waiting. She says: “We got the papers, I am getting him in the system and you will get a phone call to schedule him to come in for that surgery”. Me: “Thanks so much”. I get a phone call maybe and hour later that says, “Hello Ma’am, I didn’t know about your father’s situation, but I am calling to schedule him to come in, since it was an emergency before, they may pull him in through the emergency room”. Me: “Thank you Sir”. So I called my Dad, and said “We got you in, they said they may take you in through emergency when we get there, so be prepared”.
Him: ” You kept at it until you got a response, I don’t know what you did or how you did it, but they called me too and told me to prepare”.
This was only the beginning…..(to be continued)