Living in pain with military medicine

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Living in pain with military medicine

The offend­ing hos­pi­tal for this article

When some­one thanks me for my ser­vice, I nor­mally reply with “Just doing my job.” Because, hon­estly, most of my non-​deployed days are just like every­one else’s days. I wake up, work­out, and head to work, where most of my work is done on a com­puter. Then I head home, fight­ing the same traf­fic every­one else does.

One thing that is dif­fer­ent is med­ical care. I use a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal, as does my fam­ily. Most of the time, the care is sim­i­lar to what is out in town. I’ve had PRK surgery on my eyes and had zero issues after­wards. My wife has deliv­ered 2 babies at mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals with­out issue. In fact, the last kid was by far the best deliv­ery expe­ri­ence we had.

But it’s not always roses. Mil­i­tary doc­tors can be neg­li­gent, in some cases killing patients. We’re not talk­ing about bat­tle­field med­i­cine, but rather rou­tine oper­a­tions far from the war zone. Unlike civil­ian doc­tors, who can be sued for neg­li­gence, mil­i­tary mem­bers are barred from suing, no mat­ter how bad the cir­cum­stance. Miss a can­cer diag­no­sis? Rec­om­mend unnec­es­sary surgery? Too bad for you.

My wife per­son­ally expe­ri­enced this. She has ter­ri­ble vari­cose veins. Like, they are truly awful and just hurt in an inca­pac­i­tat­ing sort of way. The nor­mal surgery to fix this is called a VNUS clo­sure. It’s the surgery you prob­a­bly see adver­tised on TV. After baby #3, we sched­uled a VNUS clo­sure surgery with a mil­i­tary doc­tor at the Army base we lived on. Since it’s rou­tine, I went to work and my wife dropped off the kids with a babysit­ter. She had the surgery on one leg, but it was painful, so she went back the next day to fol­low up. My phone rang 30 min­utes later, and I answered it to hear my wife sob­bing on the other end. The doc­tor had dam­aged the nerve end­ings in the leg he had oper­ated on with the device used to close the vein. Instead of fig­ur­ing out how to fix it, he instead berated my wife and accused her of mak­ing up the pain.

I quickly called our small Navy med­ical team, who rushed over to make sure she was OK and get help her get home. Then I filed an Inter­ac­tive Cus­tomer Eval­u­a­tion (ICE) com­plaint to doc­u­ment the prob­lem. I fol­lowed up with our med­ical care rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a war­rant offi­cer that had no prob­lem push­ing the issue in front of Navy and hos­pi­tal lead­er­ship. I did every­thing to doc­u­ment and pur­sue the prob­lem that lead­er­ship told me to.

And…noth­ing hap­pened. No inves­ti­ga­tion into what went wrong. No coun­sel­ing the doc­tor. Heck, we couldn’t even get the surgery done by another doc­tor, so to this day my wife is liv­ing with painful legs. All because one crappy Army doc­tor made mis­takes and blamed them on my wife.

Sto­ries like this hap­pen all the time, and while it’s not as dra­matic or bad as sol­diers with improp­erly diag­nosed can­cer treat­ment, it is the nor­mal day-​to-​day mil­i­tary fam­i­lies deal with. We get no recourse. We get no jus­tice when some­one screws up. If any­thing, we get blamed.

Con­gress might finally get around to giv­ing mil­i­tary fam­i­lies the same rights they get when it comes to med­ical care. Please call your Con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tive and let that per­son know that mil­i­tary fam­i­lies shouldn’t have to live in pain.

This post rep­re­sents the views of the author and not those of the Depart­ment of Defense, Depart­ment of the Navy, Depart­ment of the Army, or any other gov­ern­ment agency.

The offending hospital for this article

When someone thanks me for my service, I normally reply with “Just doing my job.” Because, honestly, most of my non-deployed days are just like everyone else’s days. I wake up, workout, and head to work, where most of my work is done on a computer. Then I head home, fighting the same traffic everyone else does.

One thing that is different is medical care. I use a military hospital, as does my family. Most of the time, the care is similar to what is out in town. I’ve had PRK surgery on my eyes and had zero issues afterwards. My wife has delivered 2 babies at military hospitals without issue. In fact, the last kid was by far the best delivery experience we had.

But it’s not always roses. Military doctors can be negligent, in some cases killing patients. We’re not talking about battlefield medicine, but rather routine operations far from the war zone. Unlike civilian doctors, who can be sued for negligence, military members are barred from suing, no matter how bad the circumstance. Miss a cancer diagnosis? Recommend unnecessary surgery? Too bad for you.

My wife personally experienced this. She has terrible varicose veins. Like, they are truly awful and just hurt in an incapacitating sort of way. The normal surgery to fix this is called a VNUS closure. It’s the surgery you probably see advertised on TV. After baby #3, we scheduled a VNUS closure surgery with a military doctor at the Army base we lived on. Since it’s routine, I went to work and my wife dropped off the kids with a babysitter. She had the surgery on one leg, but it was painful, so she went back the next day to follow up. My phone rang 30 minutes later, and I answered it to hear my wife sobbing on the other end. The doctor had damaged the nerve endings in the leg he had operated on with the device used to close the vein. Instead of figuring out how to fix it, he instead berated my wife and accused her of making up the pain.

I quickly called our small Navy medical team, who rushed over to make sure she was OK and get help her get home. Then I filed an Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) complaint to document the problem. I followed up with our medical care representative, a warrant officer that had no problem pushing the issue in front of Navy and hospital leadership. I did everything to document and pursue the problem that leadership told me to.

And…nothing happened. No investigation into what went wrong. No counseling the doctor. Heck, we couldn’t even get the surgery done by another doctor, so to this day my wife is living with painful legs. All because one crappy Army doctor made mistakes and blamed them on my wife.

Stories like this happen all the time, and while it’s not as dramatic or bad as soldiers with improperly diagnosed cancer treatment, it is the normal day-to-day military families deal with. We get no recourse. We get no justice when someone screws up. If anything, we get blamed.

Congress might finally get around to giving military families the same rights they get when it comes to medical care. Please call your Congressional representative and let that person know that military families shouldn’t have to live in pain.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Department of the Army, or any other government agency.