We worked our "moving list," today. The item that took the most time, and was our biggest accomplishment, was getting "VA Care established in AK." We had been told Michael would have "seamless continuation of medical care." 🐽We'd been told the same when he retired from Tricare and quickly discovered it wasn't "seamless" as we define seamless. 😆
We went to the local Vet Center. They had us fill out paperwork. It became obvious they were not understanding we wanted to ENROLL up here so that we could get care and benefits in AK. We had told them this. They kept treating Micahel as if he were enrolling for the first time and seeking to make a claim. No - did that two years ago. The paperwork was stuff we'd filled out before, and, finally, Michael just said, he wasn't going to fill out the rest. 🐽 He is much more patient than I. We didn't get out of there without talking to the local trauma assist counselor and he turned out to know a chaplain friend of Mike's - that was fun. He also shared Mike could get educational benefits (kids and I too), through Voc Rehab....in other words they'd slow the pace and he wouldn't have to go full time. Some days are great and some are difficult, so Michael has not used his GI Bill. They presented an option where he may. We shall see.
Next we went to the VA Community based clinic here. They had one PA - her patient load was full. They offered another option which we didn't feel right about. They also offered tele-health. This CAN work well, but Michael's care is complicated, he's in the middle of a couple of referrals and we KNOW it works best if a doc can see and palpitate. 😀We'd been told by one on our care team to avoid tele-health for most things in his situation. Parkinsons effects so many aspects of his care.
We opted to drive into Anchorage to the "big VA center and clinic." We needed to do this as none of the offices in the valley had been able to ENROLL Michael. That had to be done before we decided about how to get a doctor. Here, it was confirmed for us the one option presented to us is not the best option for vets. THIS clinic finally ENROLLED Michael in the AK VA health care system. This means they can SEE what he's previously filled out, his ratings, his medical records etc. As the man filled out the necessary info, we saw a noticeable change come over him, then he said, "You're priority 1," and looked at us. I guess those are magic words, we hadn't realized the significance it made in things like wait times etc...every clerk, doc, and scheduler sees his disability and care rating when they look at HIM in the system. We haven't pushed for great care - we have gotten it. We wanted to stay in the VA system as the docs UNDERSTAND how the system works and how to make it work best for their patients. We were told when the federal government implemented the "choice program," to allow vets to see civilian docs, they neglected to consider most vets want to STAY in the VA system. LOL This gentlemen "escorted" us to the Primary Care schedulers. We'd been told by an employee today, at another center, that SHE was trying to see a neurologist and there were "none" in AK. We were puzzled as we'd called and TALKED to the Anchorage Vet Center, our doctors had called up here, before we made the decision to move. They reassured us Michael will get referrals to civilian neurologists or fly to Seattle or Portland.
Alas, they are NOT taking new patients at the Anchorage VA Clinic. They suggested the office in the Valley. I explained we'd been there, been told our options and didn't like one and the other was tele-health. They could now see Michael's records and when we said, "His care is complicated, we think he needs an in-person PA, LPN or MD," they understood. 😏 One gentleman asked if we would let him make some calls, and he would call us back. He said it may be Monday before he called us back. We were tired of knocking on doors, it was 4 p.m. and we knew we weren't going to get anywhere before Monday. We agreed.
We checked out the fam camp at JBER - E, drove to the BX and got a call from the clinic in the Valley. They have a doctor who will be coming on the team - waiting for one signature - which is why we were told there are no docs at the clinic. They would like to assign Michael to his patient load. Would TUESDAY be soon enough for an appointment? 🐽🐽 WIN. Michael will see the doc on Tuesday, he'll be able to submit the referrals for his continued swallow/cognitive/speech therapy, dental, eyes AND his neurology follow-up - which is due in August. His Primary care will continue in the VA AND it will be out here where we are living.
Much of getting VA care is getting to the right office, finding the right person to speak to, and knowing the language to open doors. For us, Michael's service-connected rating AND/or that he is priority 1, are terms we will remember if we ever happen to need care outside of Alaska or move again.
We used the little bit of extra time left in the day to get Michael a fishing license, visit JBER-R travel camp, visit and dine with all the kids, get Nolan a fishing license (the other 2 don't need them) and pick up equipment for the first fishing trip in AK - tomorrow. We accomplished a lot.
Psst The 🐽used by me signifies ::snort:: - a peculiar way I laugh.