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Seal Team TV Show ambushes the VA

Let’s start out with two theorems:

A country where getting cancer also means going bankrupt, and being a diabetic may cause you to have to set up a go-fund-me, isn’t a health care system. In fact, it’s not health care we buy- we buy health insurance and hope we get care.

About 7% of Americans get health care from the government directly- we’re veterans, and despite having more complex health issues than most, the VA does provide health care- without intervention by insurance companies. Remember, all health care is delivered by individual physicians, and there are good ones and bad ones everywhere, but as the largest health care system in the country, it doesn’t take but a few to ruin the reputation of the entire system. Full disclosure, as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business, I did a series of videos for the Cincinnati VA [1] last year on a 1x contract for their Public Affairs office).

When I first got out of the Army, the VA in Dayton was kind of a scary place that I had to go to a few times for reviews, but, I got my health care through the private health care system, and my most important doctor, was a retired AF Doc who used to take care of me when I was getting my care on base. Around 2000, I made the switch to the VA for all of my care, and I’d never go back to what the private insurance controlled industry provides. The VA is Start Trek compared to the Flintstones in the actual management of your complete health care solution. The VA was one of the firsts to completely switch to electronic health records- something the private sector is still struggling with. I’ve been able to communicate with my doc and nurse online for almost a decade. My typical 2x annual GP general checkup is 30-45 minutes, and my Dad’s might have been longer. Never have I waited more than 30 minutes for a scheduled appointment, and only a few times have I had to wait longer at the lab. My prescriptions are mailed to me from refill orders online. When I have to wait at the pharmacy- it’s usually still faster than the prescriptions I used to pick up for my mother.

As to scheduling non-emergency surgical procedures, the wait varies, but, at all times was shorter than the wait list my mother was placed on for her final surgery. You can talk about waiting in Canada, or the UK, or any other industrialized country, but the reality is, if the doctor is the best at what they do, you wait. Everywhere.

When I walk into the VA it’s not some marble gilded palace like Miami Valley Hospital, with designer leather couches and waterfalls, but it’s as nice or nicer than the hospital I visited in the UK to see my uncle, who was getting outstanding care – even though he shared a room with 3 other patients. Dad had a private room in the VA. I’ve been in a 2 bed room. The reality is, I’ve also been in an open air hospital in Bonnaire and it probably had less problems with infection control than any hospital in the US. Medicine isn’t dependent on the construction finish of the building, it’s still about the competency of doctors.

CBS Seal Team ambushes the VANo, you don't see veterans lined up in the hall at a VA. [2]

No, you don’t see veterans lined up in the hall at a VA.

So, why is the head line of this post about the CBS TV Show SEAL TEAM? Because the episode on Wednesday night, April 24, 2019 called “Medicate and Isolate” built a story around a medically retired SEAL with possible traumatic brain injury where the VA was portrayed and described as dysfunctional and dystopian. The quote that’s making the rounds “This is a soldier’s reward for serving. A health care system that runs like the post office.” Statements like these are clearly rhetoric based on anti-big-government politicos who believe that only the private sector can deliver top-quality services because they have to “compete.”

Last I checked USPS still delivers places that UPS and FedEx don’t- and is still a bargain. Had it not had to pay ridiculous health care costs, USPS would be financially whistling Dixie as would all of our private sector businesses.

Now, I’ve only been treated at a few VA’s- Dayton, Cincinnati, and my Dad was also treated at Cleveland before my parents moved down here. No where did we encounter anything like the portrayals on SEAL TEAM [3]. I’ve got veteran friends who’ve moved to Florida- and while they aren’t as happy with the VA in “God’s waiting room” as they were in Dayton, they still believe their care is better delivered by the VA than by the private sector.

One of the main reasons for that care is that about a third of VA employees are also Veterans. There is nothing quite as comforting as having that shared experience to fall back on. Veterans have each others back- which was part of the story in SEAL TEAM’s episode, until it took the all too predictable turn of ending with a veteran suicide in the parking lot. Yes, those things happen. We hear the number 20, 21 or 22 veterans commit suicide every day.  And, it’s too many. But, this country also has civilians committing suicide at record rates compared to other industrialized countries- mostly because of our easy access to guns and also because we attach a stigma to most mental health care and our craptastic capitalist competition driven health insurance industry is failing us at every possible point.

CBS tried to tie a neat little bow around their writers fantasy of killing off the VA and having veterans enter the private health care system- by putting a disclaimer at the end, “the characters and incidents in this episode are fictional and do not represent the majority of Veterans or their experience with the VA,” but the damage is done if just one vet decides that the VA isn’t for them- and that they are better on their own, self-medicating or trying to avoid the VA for that other “system” we have.

If you are a veteran, and aren’t sure if you are eligible for VA benefits, you owe it to yourself and your family and your fellow veterans to go to the VA and check your eligibility. If you are indeed eligible, consider it your golden ticket out of a system that lets diabetics die because they can’t afford their insulin, or misses early warning signs of impending illness because they don’t have the same kind of holistic, comprehensive treatment plan that the VA delivers.

And, if you are a Veteran, and you’re not happy with your VA, you are welcome to move to Dayton Ohio and enjoy mine. You’ll find that we have an incredibly affordable cost of living, we’re safe from hurricanes, earthquakes, drought, and only have an occasional twister. Your allergies may go into high gear, but, other than that, where else can you buy an amazing home for $100K [4]?

CBS, you owe us veterans and all the amazing people who work at the VA a major apology. You wish you had my health care. Really.


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed [5]! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating [6]. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!
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Michael Turner

I shared the other day on a post about this. So putting on my Veteran/DoD Suicide Advocate hat, the first issue was that 14 of 20 Veterans a day haven’t been seen by the the VA Mental Health Service the prior two years of their suicide. The DoD stats from 2018 shows that a total of little over 1 a day die by suicide a day for Active and Guard/Reserves minus the Coast Guard currently serving. The VA rarely sees an Active Duty, Reserve/Guard Members or Retirees. This issue with all Active Special Ops is that they are over exposed to trauma that will drive up their rates as it has for the past 3 years. So you can’t blame the VA for a death of any current DoD Service Member.

Next out of the estimated 20 million Veterans only 9 million use the VA, so the real
issue is how can we get more to use the VA when the media only reports the bad issues which are harsh if you look at Suicide rates and the fact that not all are counted properly because there is no real accountability in reporting them by all levels to the CDC; which the VA uses mostly.

I can say I agree that most Veterans who use the VA like it. Personally for me the last 2 years I have had issues with my own care and found more Veterans who have had some serious problems. You can figure out what I consider to be some of those factors, but we also have to honest that many VA’s and VISN’s aren’t run properly and yes 1 employee even was very rude about my opinion when they answered my question and I stated the VA stated policy. We have a flawed system that allows those who nevder use the system to control the narrative that a politically connected group has been pushing privatization so their major backers can benefit from the process of pritazation of VA care or selling off of assets.


Those “In defense of Brian Higgins…” posts from a few years back aren’t aging so well today.


I will make this short and sweet. I have been going to the Dayton VA for a 10 years. Every clinic I go to has been great. They do a good job there. I think the Seal Team episode was way out of bounds. Veteran subside is a big problem. It should be addressed.


I work at a VA. Every employee enjoys taking care of vets. We score very high on patient satisfaction, even though it isn’t tied to our evals or bonuses as it is in some private systems. I’ve never seen a vet denied an MRI. In fact, some probably get TOO many CT scans d/t chronic or recurring problems. The VA is finally moving towards whole health and integrative health. Doing some treatments not offered in the public and where i’m at, drastically reduced opioid prescriptions and actively trying to wean patients off chronic narcotics and adopting multiple other ways of trying to help with pain. All VA employees appreciate you for this post. The media has done a great job throwing all the great VA hospitals under the bus because of a few bad ones. I could make more going somewhere else, but I feel I have the most resources and time there to actually help vets get or stay healthy.

What people should be asking is why Veterans Affairs committee in congress is a C committee (I believe that’s lowest priority)

mike rhodes

I am a disabled veteran and after discharge & school i ended up working for the VA( 20+ years). So i have seen both sides of the curtain. ( these was not a lot of exaggeration on the wait times, this has been pretty standard for the time I spent working there.( palo alto VA hospital)
some places used to be a little loose with their meds but now it is the opposite,they now under medicate the amount of meds given is not what is shown on TV
now they have a bunch of interns doing all the work and one or two doctors supervising. the interns I have seen couldn’t wait to get out of there.this is both good & bad depending who you get to work on you. Every time i come in i see a different intern with a different opinion.this is the bad part no one seems to want to stay put, they keep transferring to other hospitals or with the interns, when they graduate – off they go!
some places have long appointment wait times ( the new san Jose clinic) for example just opened twice as big as the old one but the wait for an appointment is 3x longer,so i drive up to palo alto VA hospital and i was seen right away(??)

the problem is that the VA is run like the post office