VA Campaign: I Served in the Active Military. Yes, I’m One!

Last week, I went to the VA Hospital in West Palm Beach for a urology appointment and it was the single worst experience I’ve had in the VA healthcare system to date. It started with an old crotchety veteran wearing an antebellum-like summer suit with a cane and white fedora who ranted and raved in the waiting room about how come the tv’s were on CNN and not Fox, and that “Hillary’s whole staff was single women, and no one, NO ONE, is talking about that and should be because everyone knows what that means for the state of the country,” and ended with one of the most humiliating experiences I’d ever experienced.

While calling the names of several people to move to the next waiting area, the nurse called me Mr and then ignored me when I tried to clarify if it was Mr or Ms; and then got a bit snotty when I raised my voice and asked her to clarify…let’s be honest, its not like my first name wasn’t on the form she was looking. Then, once we got to the next waiting area, she spoke loudly with the Dr about my female-ness, moved away from the Dr.’s door and announced that if he has to examine me, they will need to get a nurse to be in the room, so he may run a bit late because he’ll have to wait for the nurse to get there. Making me feel like I just got singled out as the sole reason for everyone else’s appointments to be backed up. Then, she explained that I could go to the rest room on the other side of the building if I needed to use it…loudly. While not really a big deal, the older men veterans were watching me like I had two heads during this whole thing and huffing and puffing because I might make them late for their next appointments.

Then five minutes later, the doctor came out and called me Mr. after just having a conversation with the nurse about how I was a female. While in his office, (for a consult I didn’t ask for, but was given by my Nurse Practitioner at the local VA branch office) he questioned me in a way that made it clear he didn’t believe me about my recurring kidney stones and I must have infections, because that’s more likely in women. When I told him I knew the difference, he pointed out that the nurse wrote years ago that I said I was sure it was a UTI and not a Kidney stone. Admittedly, I got pissed and told him I have never had a UTI since leaving the Military and I know what they feel like and I’ve never EVER said the pain I had from my kidney stones felt like a UTI and I could point out approximately 30 places where that same nurse wrote incorrect information in my notes right down to vital statistics that she took and then didn’t record correctly. Then, he ordered an xray, and pressed me aggressively on how I knew I wasn’t pregnant. Seriously. It was incredibly uncomfortable and humiliating and there was no reason for it since he could have just ordered a blood test if he didn’t believe me. I did everything I could to hurry the rest of the appointment through because I couldn’t stand anymore.

I honestly haven’t felt so humiliated and disrespected since I left the military so many years ago. The saving grace is that when I went down to radiology, the experience was 180 degrees different (for the good).

My point in sharing this story is because of the article I’m linking to below. The VA is trying like hell to help women veterans feel like the culture and environment is safe enough for us to embrace being veterans without feeling like we have to to prove our veteran-ness, or feeling disrespected and humiliated.

The problem with that thinking is they aren’t doing enough to address the internal culture. At the West Palm Beach VA Hospital, the higher you go up the elevator, the less welcoming they are to women veterans – from the doctors to the nurses to the veterans. It must be said, radiology and the women’s center is on the first floor (both are stellar in areas of sensitivity). I don’t want a separate place to go sit when I have to see a specialist, but I do want to be treated with respect, and not be made to feel like I’m the reason why other people’s doctors’ appointments might be late. That’s not unreasonable.

Sadly, the old adage actions speak louder than words. The marketing materials are great and almost believable (trust me, we want to believe); but the experiences we have and the actions of many throughout the VA show us that the words and the actions aren’t congruent.

Read the Full article:
I Served in the Active Military. Yes, I’m One!

If you are a woman who served in the active military service, it is important that you know that you are a Veteran. Women have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts in unprecedented numbers, making up eight percent of U.S. Veterans. Currently, women account for 20 percent of new recruits, 14.5 percent of the active duty force (1.4 million), and 18 percent of the 850,000 reserve force. About 280,000 women have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001. Yet, when you returned, you may have felt isolated, unacknowledged and invisible in a civilian society that either couldn’t fathom what you’ve been through, or discounts your military experience as somehow less challenging than that of male Veterans. In a recent study, only 37 percent of women Veterans indicated they felt “recognized, respected and valued as Veterans in civilian life.” VA’s Women’s Health Services (WHS) is sponsoring an “I’m One” campaign to raise awareness of VA benefits available for women Veterans through VBA and VHA. The campaign is designed to increase knowledge of what it means to be a Veteran and help women who served in the United States Uniformed Services identify as Veterans.

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to follow on Twitter