All was well the day of my daughter’s surgery. Despite waiting an additional two hours because of a higher priority case, the surgeon came out around 4 pm to tell me everything was finished and looked great. He said someone would arrive in about 15 minutes to take me to my daughter’s recovery room.
Unfortunately, that person never came. I sat in Yale’s Pediatric Surgery waiting room for another hour, and when the lights went dark, I realized I had been forgotten. An hour after that, after speaking with various Yale officials and frantically scouring the hospital, I finally found my daughter on the 7th floor in recovery. Right about that time, I received a Yale text message asking me for my opinion of today’s service.
After dashing off my response, I figured that was it. Yale is a massive hospital, just the sort of place where little people like myself get ignored. To my surprise, two days later a young man called me and wanted details. We spent almost an hour going over what was great and finding where the breakdowns were. By the time we were done, he told me the two very specifics things that Yale would work on to make sure that breakdown never happened again. A few months later, when my daughter returned for surgery, I observed first-hand a smoother post-surgery process.
Thinking about it as I’m typing still makes me smile. Yale took my feedback and acted on it, making their process better. They took a negative interaction and ultimately made it a positive. They didn’t pay me compensation, apologize profusely, or give me candy to make the problem go away. Instead, they acted on the problem, solved it, and continued to provide great medical care.
I’m also part of the military’s medical system, and the difference is stark. When a doctor at Eisenhower Army Medical Center messed up my wife’s surgery, instead of working to fix the problem, he told her to essentially shut up. I was at work and got a sobbing phone call, which I acted on. Our command’s medical team met her at the hospital to address the issue. She filed an ICE complaint, and our patient advocate met with the hospital to try and resolve the issue.
And in the end, none of it mattered. The doctor was never disciplined. The hospital never corrected anything, nor allowed her to go out in town to see a civilian doctor. Despite all the documentation, nothing was ever done.
This isn’t a one-off. I’ve had movers break and steal items. I’ve had an investigator negligently list false information on my security background check. I’ve had big issues with the Navy’s handling of special needs children. I’ve discovered yeomen throwing away submitted awards for my Sailors (if you ever wondered how a Medal of Honor could get “lost,” now you know). And in almost all cases, despite filing complaints, documenting the issues and saving emails, nothing happens. Nobody gets fired. Nobody gets disciplined, especially DoD civilians. I’ve had some great advocates get me compensation in some cases, but the process rarely gets fixed, meaning the Sailors after me probably got screwed too. Worse, I’m often told that my claims are baseless and I should watch what I say.
Too many people think the military is some sort of wonderful organization that can get stuff done. Maybe that’s why people are calling (foolishly) for a military coup. News flash: there is a lot of inefficiency that you don’t see and don’t want. All too often, uncaring people are allowed to make life miserable for the young men and women in uniform, with no repercussion.
Plenty of people freaked out when Congress approved rules that could zero-out a civil servants pay. Are you surprised though? There is plenty of frustration when organizations like the VA still aren’t cleaned up. And I have to give Congress credit, because when nobody would fix a situation where almost 200 Air Medals for my Sailors “disappeared” (thrown in the trash), a letter to my Congresswoman actually got results.
For those of us who have been constantly screwed by the system, we’re a lot more hopeful that this might bring about real change. Maybe as we’re improving the military we can truly make our bureaucracy great again.
This post does not represent the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. It only represents the views of the author. But that should have been obvious from the start.
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