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Veterans, Soldiers, the VA – What They Represent to Private Patient Advocates

A Memorial Day Tribute

My husband is retired from the Air Force* after serving for 20 years during the Vietnam era. My father served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. These two veterans, the men I have loved the most, and who represent millions of other American soldiers, men and women, deserve all the respect Americans can possibly muster not only Memorial Day, but every other day of the year as well.

I raise this point because like you, I’ve been hearing and reading about the problems veterans have had getting the care they need from the VA (Veteran’s Administration) Health System. The allegation is that dozens of veterans died, and thousands more have been further debilitated, as they sat on waiting lists to see doctors or receive treatments they needed. Even if the stories are only partially true, they are heartbreaking for the loss of each of them and their families left behind, and they leave us angry that these people, who put their lives on the line for our freedom, would be treated so poorly.

So what does that have to do with professional patient advocates?

It represents opportunity for us to help those who need our help, whether or not they are soldiers or veterans.

The VA system hasn’t failed because it’s a system. It has failed because people – decision makers – DON’T CARE. The decision-makers (like much of the rest of healthcare) only focus and care about MONEY, not lives, or quality of life. Decisions made are about lowering costs and rationing – anything that will help them balance their budgets. The mess was clearly created because money got in the way of the mission – caring for soldiers and veterans.

One of the most important things private advocates do is fill the gaps left by the existing healthcare system. The gap we fill is that WE DO CARE. And then provide services accordingly.

What we aren’t hearing in the press, and the direction I haven’t yet seen the conversation going, is that the VA represents just the most visible of failed healthcare systems. As our country comes to grips with the fact that the entire national system – public and private – is less focused on our good outcomes than it is on making (or saving for itself) money, soldiers and veterans have become the most visibly ignored of all patients.

But veterans and soldiers aren’t the only ones being ignored and dying as a result.

The VA isn’t the only failed system. Many other healthcare systems are delivering similarly substandard care. The problem is that patients and families who are experiencing that sub-standard care aren’t figuring out what’s missing, and what they aren’t getting, until it’s almost too late. The problems in the VA have gone on for years. Problems in other systems have been going on for years, too. They affect patients across the US.

What most of our citizens, whether or not they have served their country, have not yet recognized is that they need to be proactive – going after the help they need instead of waiting for it to be provided. Proactivity means one of two things: learning and understanding how the system works, and therefore how to get what is needed from it – and/or – finding someone who does know the ropes, then engaging them to help.

Private, professional patient advocates know the ropes, and are ready, willing and able to help patients, whether or not they are soldiers or veterans, get what they need.

That readiness, ability and willingness aren’t new to readers of this blog. But here’s something you may not have thought about. The lesson here for advocates is that the VA’s problems are so visible that they are understood by everyone in the United States. You can explain your work, its importance, and why someone should hire you by using the VA example. “You’ve heard about the problems in the VA, and the horrible results for soldiers and veterans. You should know that it’s not just the VA providing substandard care. So that’s what my work is about – making sure that you get what you need, and caring enough to be sure you get the best outcome you can.”

On this Memorial Day, we remember those who have lost their lives for our country, and honor those who have served, and who continue to serve.

Beginning tomorrow, please use that honor as an impetus to explain the value you bring to any citizen’s medical needs, and the difference you can make in their lives.

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Share your experience or join the conversation.


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*Hubby and I never met until many years after he retired, so can’t claim any credit for being his support system during that time.

Photo: (May 25, 2014) my father’s Veteran Plaque

2 thoughts on “Veterans, Soldiers, the VA – What They Represent to Private Patient Advocates”

  1. It does make me furious at the way our veterans have been treated. I would love the opportunity to work with these fine men and women. I see that there are Health Advocate Book Programs at this website with Trish Torrey. I was wondering if these book have a purchase price or if they are free? Thank You, Doreen Swaim

  2. Hi Doreen – the books were written to help you start and grow a private advocacy practice, and to market that practice. They are available for purchase.

    Members of APHA can purchase them at a discount. (Log into your Membership Dashboard, scroll to the bottom of the page and find a piggy bank to find those discounts.)

    Non-members can purchase the books through Amazon or through the Resources website:

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