From: Jim Alvarez [elsasilks@earthlink.net]
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 5:06 PM

Hello everyone,

 

I was interviewed by The Press-Enterprise Report from my views of the VA Hospital and the Walter Reed Army Hospital.

 

As I told the Reporter, that Bush forgot that he just signed in the wave of closing the many military facilities around the county, Walter Reed was already slated for closer and then be torn down to make room for new buildings for the US Army Medical and be shared with US Navy Bethesda Naval Hospital.

 

So now they will be spending over 2.3 millions dollars to see what the problems are at Walter Reed.  The money stopped coming to the base once they put on the list and then no more money can come to fix a facility and that we be torn down within 18 months.  See your Government at work once again.

 

Also, as the VFW State Field Service Officer at the VA Hospital Loma Linda we get the best treatment than any other facility in the country, but when a Veteran files a claim and is sent either to Los Angeles or San Diego for review, then the VA is screen by VA Employee's who DO NOT have any medical certificates and these VA Employee's decide just how the Veteran will either denied or approved and also is the Veteran is approved will the Veteran get any compensation for How Long!

 

Please read the article,

 

Thank you,

 

GMG1 Jim Alvarez, USN, Retired
VFW State Field Service Officer Loma Linda Hospital 2006-2007
VFW 23rd District Service Officer 2004-2007
VFW Post 12023 Hemet Service Officer 2005-2007

VA hospital in Loma Linda awaits Boxer's staff

 

 

 

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07:50 AM PDT on Wednesday, March 14, 2007

By JOE VARGO and LORA HINES
The Press-Enterprise

Fallout from the scandal over the treatment of Iraq war veterans will hit the Inland area today when a senator's staff assesses conditions at Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda.

Sen. Barbara Boxer's staff is inspecting military and Veterans Affairs hospitals in California.

Last week, President Bush appointed Bob Dole, the former senator from Kansas, and Donna Shalala, secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, to head a panel to make sure military members and veterans are receiving proper treatment.

"We expect there will be people who will come out" to investigate, said administrator Dean Stordahl, who has been at the hospital for 14 years. The hospital and its five regional clinics treat an estimated 57,000 patients a year, including 2,700 combat veterans.

The hospital last received an unannounced inspection three years ago by the Joint Commission, which evaluates and accredits nearly 15,000 health care organizations and programs nationally. The commission found the hospital provides average care compared to national and state standards for care.

In 1996, a national patient survey found the Pettis VA Medical Center scored the worst compared with its sister hospitals in such areas as coordination of care, courtesy to patients, emotional support, educating patients and responding to patient preferences. Patients were surveyed on seven different aspects of patient satisfaction.

Since then, the hospital has improved scores, even as its patient population has doubled from about 27,000 to 57,000, Stordahl said. About 21,500 patients require advanced care that is only available at the hospital, Stordahl said. Others can go to one of the hospital's five regional clinics in Corona, Upland, Sun City, Victorville and Palm Desert, where they receive primary and mental health care services.

In 2003, the hospital was awarded the VA's highest award for organizational excellence, Stordahl said. The VA award recognizes organizations that have implemented exemplary management programs.

Pettis hospital plans to construct a $130 million, 110,000-square-foot building that would include counseling and outpatient services as more older veterans require treatment. The hospital is projected to serve as many as 70,000 people, including hundreds and possibly thousands from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Most battle-wounded veterans receive care in one of the major hospitals such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., but VA centers, such as Pettis, are responsible for follow-up care. That often encompasses a lifetime of doctors appointments, surgeries and other procedures and drug regimens.

Pettis spokeswoman Annie Tuttle said Veterans Affairs has approved the hospital's expansion in concept, but has not yet authorized money for design or construction, a process that usually takes several years.

Construction could begin in 2010.

Navy veteran Leon Flint said the care he has received has been exceptional. The 40-year-old Moreno Valley man said he severely hurt his back while serving on the USS Midway in 1986.

"I haven't had any problems getting treatment or my disability" benefits, said Flint, who has been declared 100 percent disabled. "In 2000, I got 70 percent disability. In 2002, I got 80 percent. In 2004, I got 100 percent."

Some Inland veterans said they had trouble getting disability benefits. Government reports have highlighted the agency's backlog of claims and called for improvements to meet increasing demands.

The influx of veterans from the current war has nearly overwhelmed an agency already struggling to meet the health care, disability payment and pension needs of more than 3 million veterans

Vietnam veterans Leonard Raines and Jim Alvarez say the system is overloaded by too many veterans being served by too few case managers.

"The system is designed in some ways to get you frustrated, walk away from your benefits or blow your brains out," said Raines, 60, a Navy veteran from Highland. "Lots of veterans just walk away and say they don't want to have anything to do with the VA."

Raines, who suffers from back problems, was declared 100 percent disabled in 2000. He said some veterans shy away from asking for help, believing it amounts to charity. That's a mistake, he said.

"It's not welfare, it's not a handout," Raines said. "It's payment for their service to this country."

Alvarez agrees

The Hemet resident served 3 tours in Vietnam. He now works for the California Veterans of Foreign Wars as an advocate for veterans seeking medical and disability benefits. He estimates he's worked with nearly 5,000 veterans in the past year. He said the system is mired in red tape and an entrenched bureaucracy.

"The VA will do everything in its power to turn you down," said Alvarez, 58.

His advice: "Do not give up. That is not an option."

Bill Densmore, director of The Riverside County Department of Veterans Services, said the Veterans Affairs already was taking 12 to 18 months to process 300,000 to 400,000 disability claims before soldiers began returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. His office helps veterans apply for disability benefits.

"Even if you change the focus to Iraq war veterans, that puts aside the claims of other veterans," he said. "The system is never really getting well. You're just putting claims aside."

Disability-claim appeals also bog down the system, he said. "All these types of things make the system slow," Densmore said.

He said it could take the VA at least four to six months to review the most basic and complete disability application. But the process usually isn't that simple, Densmore said.

A change of the process could be as large as health care or tax reform, he said. "It's not going to be popular or an easy project to be done," Densmore said.

Veterans Affairs is trying to ease the backlog of disability claims by rehiring more claims workers, authorizing more overtime and adding claims development centers.

The problems stem partly from the department's inability to prepare for predictable surges in demand from certain states or certain categories of service members, according to advocates and former department officials.

Veterans' advocates told The New York Times last week that the types of bureaucratic obstacles recently disclosed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are eclipsed by those at the Veterans Affairs division that is supposed to pay soldiers for their service-related ills.

Several high-ranking military officials, including the secretary of the Army and Walter Reed's administrator, resigned or were dismissed over the allegations of substandard care and living conditions, including rodent infestation, mold, leaking pipes and mildewed carpeting. On Monday, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, was fired from his position after weeks of intense criticism stemming from revelations about poor conditions at Walter Reed.

The hospital, which opened in 1909, was among the military installations targeted for closing in the 2005 round of the base realignment and closure process. New hospitals in Washington, D.C., and Virginia were slated to replace it.

Nuevo resident John Wolfe, commander of the California Veterans of Foreign Wars, visited Walter Reed this month after the scandal broke and said most of the substandard conditions exist only in one building. Injured soldiers on other wards told him they believe they are receiving good treatment.

"I expected to see pretty bad conditions," said Wolfe, a Navy veteran from Vietnam who is partially disabled. "I was surprised by what I didn't see. The veterans I talked to just want to get out and get back to their units."

Last week, Vietnam veteran Steve Oddie left the VA clinic in Corona, where he receives treatment for diabetes. The 56-year-old former Marine said his VA care, which he started getting four years ago, has been good. But it took several years for the VA to grant his disability, the Corona man said.

"We need to feel sorry for the guys who are coming back from the war," Oddie said. "They need more help than I do."

Veterans hospital

The Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda exceeded the national average in satisfaction in a recent patient care survey. Categories included specialist care, pharmacy service, emotional support, courtesy and education.

BEDS: 394

PATIENTS SERVED: 57,000

COMBAT VETERANS

RECEIVING CARE: 2,700

PATIENTS PER DAY: 1,000

HOSPITAL STAFF: 2,000

OUTPATIENT CLINICS: Corona, Upland, Victorville, Sun City and Palm Desert

SOURCE: VETERANS AFFAIRS