veterans administration


In Defense Of The VA: Doctor’s Reality Check On Congressman’s Bad Experience

This from our friends at Radio Boston:

Dr. Henry Feldman (courtesy)

Dr. Henry Feldman (courtesy)

It’s a sad truth that we’ve come to expect some hassles when it comes to health care — long waits to see the doctor, confusing paper trails and maybe poor communication about prescriptions. But when U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton dealt with all of the above at the Department of Veterans Affairs, he decided to take some action.

The Salem Democrat and Iraq War veteran, who earned two medals for valor, needed treatment for a hernia, and his experience with the VA was so frustrating (he discussed it on Radio Boston) that he’s now looking to pass legislation that he hopes will improve things.

But Dr. Henry J. Feldman argued in a letter to The Boston Globe that Congressman Moulton had unrealistic expectations, and was presenting “an almost impossible service expectation:”

Let’s put what he did in non-VA terms. He is outside of his home state, and shows up at a random, but somehow in-network, clinic. He presents, not with an emergency, but as a walk-in for a routine surgical evaluation (hernia), without his insurance cards or records. His records are at a far-away hospital, and while he is insistent that he has insurance, the local clinic is unable to easily verify this.

Dr. Feldman has a rare perspective on the issues involved: He works part-time at the VA in West Roxbury; he is also a hospitalist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and its chief information architect of the division of clinical informatics, meaning he builds and analyzes electronic medical records. He expanded on his defense of the VA in a persuasive Radio Boston segment on Friday.

On the VA’s initial inability to find Rep. Moulton’s records, Dr. Feldman says that was likely a computer glitch, because the VA is a leader in its ability to access patient records from anywhere in the network. (The VA has declined to comment, citing patient privacy; Dr. Feldman is sharing his personal opinions.)

Listen to the full segment above. Highlights, lightly edited:

Host Meghna Chakrabarti: So it might have been that Congressman Moulton just ran into a series of unusual glitches — that is a possibility because ultimately, the VA in Washington did find out that Seth Moulton is a congressman and he got his surgery, but he says that they still sent him home with the wrong medication after the surgery. Here’s what he said: “If I was sent home without all the medications that I needed, just imagine the care that the average veteran often gets at the VA.”

Do you think that’s a fair concern for him to have?

“[Y]ou go to war with the army you have, but for God’s sake, you should be able to come back to a different VA than you went to war with.”

– Dr. Henry Feldman

Dr. Henry Feldman: I would like to take that statement apart into two parts:

One, we do not provide superior care just because you’re a congressman. In fact, he should not receive any better care than a homeless veteran. In fact, the homeless veteran should probably get better care because he’s more at risk

I don’t have any access to what happened — it’s hard to know. There could be three errors that resulted in him getting the wrong medication: Continue reading