AS THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION struggles to repair damage caused by shoddy handling of health care for U.S. service members… many veterans who had their records wiped out in a massive fire at the National Personnel Records Center more than 40 years ago are still fighting to collect their benefits.
One veteran speaks is the title of this thing, but that one veteran also happens to be da harv, a.k.a Harvey Kalmenson. And, I am speaking, not in an attempt to tell you the truth about government, but to share and bear witness to the incongruity of seemingly almost everything the federal government lays claim to. Well, maybe not everything… only the stuff those who lack practical experience are in somewhat control over.
It may help to know and understand the rules of the road when it comes to the medical welfare of United States service personnel. All of us, without exception, are informed when we become G.I.s (government issue) that our well being is now the direct responsibility of the branch of service we joined. In my case, it was the Army. And, from the very beginning they, the army, took care of everything, regardless the cause. If a soldier was hurt or needed dental work while in the service, our medical corps saw to it or it was handled by a civilian doctor or hospital in the event we weren’t within reach of a service run installation.
Many years ago, as I was being mustered out of the United States Army, I found myself in the throes of one more, final medical exam. If you can conjure up the sights and sounds of a meaningless cattle drive, you’d be well on the road of picturing my hopeful and last experience with our government’s civilian handling of our military.
It was during basic infantry training at Fort Lewis, Washington that I had reason to have an Army dentist remove two teeth that had become loose during an accident while I was still a civilian.
Don’t fret–it went off without a problem; all went well.
The Army Captain doing my dental work was as good a dentist as any I might have experienced as a civilian. It was explained to me that the Army would take care of replacing the teeth as soon as the toughest element of basic training was behind me. The way it worked out, the original plan had to be placed on hold due to the immediacy of me being shipped out to a combat zone. I was told not to worry then, too, as the teeth would be replaced by an Army dentist at my overseas location.
The needed dental work never occurred.
Aside from a variety of small ailments not necessary to discuss, I was checked from stem to stern and found to be in exemplary good health at my final medical examination.
“When do I get my final dental work taken care of?” I asked the officer in charge.
It was explained to me in very short and rather curt terms that I was now the responsibility of the Veteran’s Association (VA). It took six months from my mustering out of the Army for my appointment at the West Los Angeles VA to be set. On that day, I showed up on time with all of my papers in perfect order, or so I thought.
That was the laughable beginning and the end of my involvement with the Veterans Administration. (I did try one more time to get my work done–all to no avail.) It turned out that neither the Army, nor the VA had record of my teeth ever being extracted.
“So, you’re saying I pulled my own teeth?”