Veterans Administration woes

First, an apology on my lack of posts for 2+ months… I’m thinking I need to focus my blogging rather than just randomly post stuff (though that wouldn’t exclude random posts 😉 ).

Secondly, a belated thank you to all the veterans out there for your service and a belated happy 242nd birthday to my fellow Marines.

Speaking of veterans, that brings me to the post’s title — the VA. I am a retired software engineer but also receive compensation for a service-connected disability and receive my healthcare through the Veterans Administration. After experiencing some symptoms, I made an appointment with my primary care doc at the VA; given my history, she referred me to the laboratory for a stress test and an echocardiograph (as well as some blood tests and subsequently referring me to a hematologist and a gastroenterologist). In mid-September, I underwent both a nuclear stress test and an ECG. A week or so later, my primary care doctor called with the results — I passed my stress test with flying colors but there appeared to be an issue with the echo… she wanted me to follow up with a cardiologist.

The soonest I could get an appointment? Six weeks… When I made the appointment and commented on the seemingly long wait (“I hope I’m not dying”), I was told that I was free to call back occasionally to see if there was a cancellation, otherwise that was as soon as they could see me. I gave them the benefit of the doubt — if they thought my condition warranted, they would have prioritized my appointment and gotten me in earlier.

Fast-forward to today, my followup with the cardiologist. It turns out that my echo was normal given my history; that “normality” was stated in the stress test results (which noted the same specific finding mentioned in the ECG) but whomever read the echo only mentioned the issue and didn’t explain that it was expected. How do I know this? Because the cardiologist read the results to me while I was sitting in his office this morning, an office that is more than an hour from my house. Bottom line, my heart and circulatory system are working as expected and not causing the symptoms I am experiencing.

So what’s the problem? Administratively, my primary care doc should have read the complete results of both the stress test and the ECG, not just the summary findings — she probably would not have referred me to the cardiologist. Further, the cardiologist should have read the results before making an appointment, an appointment that could have been avoided, saving me the stress of waiting six weeks and driving more than an hour each way, and freeing up the doctor to see someone that really needed his time (and perhaps shortening the wait time for an appointment).

Anyhow, I go back Friday — yes, another couple of hours on the road, this time with a driver since I will be sedated, and a few more hours in the hospital — for further testing to determine the cause of my symptoms. I only had to wait a month for this appointment…

More to follow?

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