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VA Mistakenly Tells Vets They Have Fatal Illness

samzenpus posted about 5 years ago | from the experiencing-technical-difficulty dept.

Medicine 108

An anonymous reader writes "Thanks to a computer glitch and bad diagnosis coding, the VA sent a letter to thousands of veterans telling them they have Lou Gehrig's Disease. Some were right, but many were mistakes. From the article, 'Recently, the VA determined ALS to be a service-connected disability and generated automatic letters to all veterans whose records included the code for the disease. However, since the coding contained both ALS and undiagnosed neurological disorders, some of those letters were erroneous.'"

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Resveratrol (-1, Offtopic)

KatePulford (1625935) | about 5 years ago | (#29213065)

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Re:Resveratrol (-1, Offtopic)

iamagloworm (816661) | about 5 years ago | (#29213085)

that's amazing. i wish i had mod points so i could say this was 'informative'

it happens, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213069)

they should be happy they aren't sick and see what they've taken for granted

Re:it happens, (1, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | about 5 years ago | (#29213103)

If I got a random letter saying I had a fatal neurological condition, I'd be slightly sceptical. Maybe that's just me though.

Re:it happens, (4, Insightful)

mc6809e (214243) | about 5 years ago | (#29213145)

If I got a random letter saying I had a fatal neurological condition, I'd be slightly sceptical. Maybe that's just me though.

Yeah, but these aren't random letters. These are letters from the government. The VA is basically the government health care system for veterans.

If they sent me a letter, I'd think I'd take it seriously.

Re:it happens, (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213363)

The VA is basically the government health care system for veterans.

Oh veterans, not veterinarians. That's a really unfortunate use of an abbreviation.

Re:it happens, (4, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | about 5 years ago | (#29213155)

If I got a random letter saying I had a fatal neurological condition, I'd be slightly sceptical. Maybe that's just me though.

Except these patients already had "undiagnosed neurological conditions". If you had neurological problems, were seeking a diagnosis, had been evaluated inconclusively before, and received a notice from your hospital that you have ALS, you might be less skeptical and more devastated.

Re:it happens, (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 5 years ago | (#29213187)

Point. In my experience, though, generally they like to give out "you're going to die" type news in person. Hell, even the results of a standard blood test require you to go in and pay the standard consultation tax.

Re:it happens, (1)

nulldaemon (926551) | about 5 years ago | (#29213259)

Well obviously in this case they send the news via letter (since the letter itself was intentional just not the recipients).

Re:it happens, (1)

TonTonKill (907928) | about 5 years ago | (#29218679)

I don't believe that. CNN's article quotes the letter as saying "According to the records of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you have a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) ... This letter tells you about VA disability compensation benefits that may be available to you."

That wording implies the letter is an explanation of benefits, not a notification of diagnosis. I'm sure the intended recipients were people who had already received the diganosis in person from their doctor.

The only people for whom this would have been the first mention of the diagnosis for would be the ones who received it in error.

Re:it happens, (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29214535)

Point. In my experience, though, generally they like to give out "you're going to die" type news in person. Hell, even the results of a standard blood test require you to go in and pay the standard consultation tax.

Oh, really? This is a government bureaucracy we're talking about.

THIS is what we'd ALL get if Obama and the Dems win their attempt to have a government takeover of health care.

Re:it happens, (2, Insightful)

Sebilrazen (870600) | about 5 years ago | (#29214829)

Shenanigans.

So you're all up in arms about it, good for you. But instead of offering a solution, or saying something good like "This isn't how we should treat our veterans," you instead decide to lambaste a proposed program that I'll admit is a bit socialist.

Given your attitude I expect you to return any social security payments you receive and decline any medicare coverage. While you're at it, stop driving on my roads and don't call emergency services when you need them.

Re:it happens, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29215443)

Shenanigans.

So you're all up in arms about it, good for you. But instead of offering a solution, or saying something good like "This isn't how we should treat our veterans," you instead decide to lambaste a proposed program that I'll admit is a bit socialist.

Given your attitude I expect you to return any social security payments you receive and decline any medicare coverage. While you're at it, stop driving on my roads and don't call emergency services when you need them.

Nice straw men.

Re:it happens, (1)

MrNiceguy_KS (800771) | about 5 years ago | (#29218903)

Given your attitude I expect you to return any social security payments you receive and decline any medicare coverage.

If that offer includes returning all social security and medicare taxes I've paid, then where do I sign? I'd even be willing to forgo getting interest on it in exchange for the chance to opt-out. I'd prefer to have my money in a retirement plan that doesn't look like Bernard Madoff's business structure.

Re:it happens, (2, Informative)

tibman (623933) | about 5 years ago | (#29215363)

As far as i know there is no US government take over of healthcare? A US government run health insurance company, yes. Don't want it? ok.. don't use it.. it's voluntary.

Re:it happens, (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 years ago | (#29216671)

actually, no it isn't voluntary. Under the currently purposed plans, if you opt out or for lesser coverage, you will be enrolled in a sponsored plan and receive a tax penalty for the costs. That's no where near voluntary.

Re:it happens, (2, Informative)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219107)

If you have no income, they can't charge against your taxes.

If you have an income, you can pay out-of-pocket for private coverage, or you can pay (a lot less) for public coverage.

Sounds like people have choices to me.

Re:it happens, (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 years ago | (#29221907)

Where is the choice of not spending the money in the first place? Or just getting catastrophic insurance with a high deductible? Do I need to go broke and live like a pauper in order to have that choice? It's pretty sad when I have to ruin my life just to be free to make my own choices.

Anyways, the point wasn't about choices, it was about whether or not it is voluntary. It isn't by any reasonable definition of the word.

Re:it happens, (1)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29222967)

Where is the choice of not spending the money in the first place?

You'd like to include an option to forgo medical care completely?

Because, see, here's the problem: you might choose not to pay for any sort of insurance. But, when you're dying, you'll probably still go to the hospital. You may rack up more medical bills than your house is worth. You may or may not be employed at the time, or have assets sufficient to cover what you owe. Guess who pays, then?

It's like car insurance. If there was some way to prove that you had the means to cover up to, say, $1 million in expenses, then it'd make sense to let people completely forgo coverage. But very few people fall into that category, and most of *them* will have private insurance anyway. So, we require people to be insured to drive. You can choose not to drive, and you can choose not to go to the hospital when you're bleeding to death or can't breathe or whatever. But if you're going to go to the hospital, then yeah, I think it's fair to insist you have coverage.

I have no problem with it being catastrophic coverage, either. I haven't read the current proposals, so I don't know for sure that that's not an option. Care to apply a citation?

Re:it happens, (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 years ago | (#29224347)

Because, see, here's the problem: you might choose not to pay for any sort of insurance. But, when you're dying, you'll probably still go to the hospital. You may rack up more medical bills than your house is worth. You may or may not be employed at the time, or have assets sufficient to cover what you owe. Guess who pays, then?

Might does not equal will. You are acting as if the act already happened in which it didn't and isn't likely to.

It's like car insurance. If there was some way to prove that you had the means to cover up to, say, $1 million in expenses, then it'd make sense to let people completely forgo coverage. But very few people fall into that category, and most of *them* will have private insurance anyway. So, we require people to be insured to drive. You can choose not to drive, and you can choose not to go to the hospital when you're bleeding to death or can't breathe or whatever. But if you're going to go to the hospital, then yeah, I think it's fair to insist you have coverage.

Actually, in my state, you only need a $30,000 bond on file with the state to avoid the car insurance law. However, that moot because driving a car, while not very practice not to, is and privileged elective that people choose to do. However, living and being a citizen of the US is absolutely not an elective people choose to do. You cannot equat making a choice about a car with the right to live unmolested by idiots. I'm actually surprised your even dumb enough to make the comparison. I mean how is requiring people to have insurance to drive a 2000 plus pound vehicle even remotely similar to requiring people to buy insurance just to fucking live? Damn that's foolish of you to even suggest. But here is the kicker, the people who do not purchase the insurance end up in jail on guess what, your damn dime anyways.

I have no problem with it being catastrophic coverage, either. I haven't read the current proposals, so I don't know for sure that that's not an option. Care to apply a citation?

How in the hell can you be supporting the current health plans when you don't even know what is in the bills? Shouldn't you remotely be educated on this before even commenting? Both the current bills prescribe a minimum set of coverage that will preclude catastrophic insurance. In other words, you have to get more then catastrophic coverage in order not to be fined by the government or imprisoned.

Re:it happens, (1)

tibman (623933) | about 5 years ago | (#29226091)

Sen. Mitch McConnell wrote me back and said some things you might like.. very close to your concerns.

"... So while both parties recognize that serious reform of our health care system is needed, we must also recognize the importance of getting it right. Americans want reform. The question is what kind of reform. Reform is necessary, but not all so-called reforms are necessarily good. Taking the wrong course would leave millions of Americans worse off by taking away coverage they already have and like." and so on. It was a good letter!

But he isn't going to vote for a giant bill that he doesn't even have time to read through. Even though the reform needs to happen, he wants it to be done right.. and done right the first time.

He realizes that most of the state wants/needs better healthcare. By that i don't mean the level of care available.. i mean fixing the costs and so much more. If your pre-existing conditions can't carry over to a new provider.. you are effectively stuck with your current one. Locked in.. no options. Anyways, i'll stop before this becomes a rant :)

Re:it happens, (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29218745)

I much prefer corporate bureaucracy. It's so transparent. This would never happen with private insurance.

This stupendously bad government health care system only has to serve 23,000,000 patients and it managed to screw up 1200 whole notifications. What self respecting corporate entity would tolerate a 0.00521% failure rate. You're much better off with a private system where mistakes never happen and would certainly be widely publicized if they did.

Re:it happens, (2, Informative)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219083)

Oh, really? This is a government bureaucracy we're talking about.

THIS is what we'd ALL get if Obama and the Dems win their attempt to have a government takeover of health care.

Well, everyone who chose the public option. Which, at least to begin with, would mostly be people who have no healthcare at all right now. Healthcare with occasional administrative errors is probably going to save more lives than no care AT ALL.

Besides which, I've had bad lab results and mistaken reports from private healthcare, too. Even large-scale errors. And it's certainly not simply healthcare that has this happen...I've gotten notices from utilities that my service was going to be cut off when I'd paid my bill, or that my credit card was stolen when it wasn't, or that I was denied for something when I was approved. It does happen, and it happens at least as often in private business as in government.

Re:it happens, (3, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#29215071)

Point. In my experience, though, generally they like to give out "you're going to die" type news in person. Hell, even the results of a standard blood test require you to go in and pay the standard consultation tax.

They don't make money when they see you at some broken-down VA medical center. My dad is a veteran with an arterial blockage. They won't give him the medication for some reason, and they won't operate because "it's not bad enough". They will do anything they can do NOT provide you any care at the VA; sending you a letter informing you that you probably have less than a year to live is just a cost-cutting measure.

The VA is just a more societally acceptable alternative to shooting veterans dead on the white house lawn, it has nothing to do with helping people unless that's the cheapest way to get them out of your hair. The members of the military that they actually care about (commissioned officers) can afford real medical care. If they just built one less bomber and a few less cruise missiles they could afford to ramp up the care to be some of the world's best, as our veterans deserve (at least as much as anyone else!)

If we're really the greatest nation on the planet, we should have the best medical care. To provide especially sub-standard health care to veterans (as we very much do) is a MASSIVE FAILURE to be great. It is, in fact, incredibly small and petty.

Re:it happens, (2, Interesting)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 5 years ago | (#29218751)

I don't understand. How is offering vets free healthcare IN ADDITION to the healthcare options available to every other American citizen anything at all like "shooting veterans dead on the white house lawn?"

Having another option, even if its not ideal, seems like a good thing to me.

Re:it happens, (2, Insightful)

Stupendoussteve (891822) | about 5 years ago | (#29217371)

Welcome to universal healthcare. Don't worry, you too will soon be able to get the news of your imminent death via phone, email, or text message.

Also, I hope you like vitamin M (that is, Motrin).

Re:it happens, (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 5 years ago | (#29218921)

Personally I was expecting "@fractoid ur dyin lol brain cancer ftl"

"Close Enough for Government Work" (2, Funny)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 5 years ago | (#29213445)

An especially scary phrase when it applies to healthcare, no?

Re:"Close Enough for Government Work" (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217399)

yeah those high precision jets, accurate missiles, highly trained people, and real time global information are just horrible.

Close enough for government work is almost always closer then private industry when it comes to complex work.

Re:"Close Enough for Government Work" (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 5 years ago | (#29218419)

I didn't know the technicians working for Lockheed and Boeing were civil servants. I stand corrected.

Re:"Close Enough for Government Work" (1)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219147)

I didn't know the technicians working for Lockheed and Boeing were civil servants. I stand corrected.

I didn't know that any of our health care proposals involved hiring doctors, lab technicians, and pharmacists all as civil servants, either.

Re:"Close Enough for Government Work" (0)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 5 years ago | (#29219897)

Let's cut to the chase: I have first hand experience working with Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers. The first two cannot find their collective asses with both hands; the latter, while expensive, have been efficient. In healthcare, as in life, there are just two things: time and money. You'll get what you need with government-run healthcare if you're prepared to stay on top of the agencies like white on snow, writing the letters, making the phonecalls, hammering away, every day, every month: the government may not have a Death Panel execute your great aunt Tillie, but by the time she gets the care she needs she may wish she was dead.

So long as the patient is not putting the money directly into the pocket of a doctor or hospital, s/he is relying upon a bureaucracy to do so. The private insurance company bureaucracy is hands-down faster and more efficient than the government bureaucracy. Please don't tell me you are surprised by that fact.

Re:"Close Enough for Government Work" (1)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29222893)

Let's cut to the chase: I have first hand experience working with Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers. The first two cannot find their collective asses with both hands; the latter, while expensive, have been efficient.

You are a privileged individual, then. I have had the following experiences with private insurers:

* Being billed YEARS later for fees that were mistakenly not charged at the point of service, each for a sum of less than $50, but adding up to a couple hundred. They hounded me for MONTHS, with no proof that I owed them the money other than they said so. I finally threatened to sue them for harassment and they gave it up.

* One day I went to fill a prescription. My health insurance policy (not provider) had changed, so I knew my prescription cost might change, but was I SHOCKED when they said I owed $558! Turned out that there was a miscommunication between my new employer and my insurer, so they dropped me by mistake. Fortunately, the pharmacy comped me a week's supply of my medication, and it was my employer's job to sort out the problem.

* Another company mistakenly had the service provider (an anesthesiologist who worked as part of a surgical team) bill me, and then reimbursed me for the fee. Not how it's supposed to be, but not *that* big a deal. Unfortunately, I accidentally destroyed the check (put it in my pocket then put it through the laundry). I called, all apologies, to ask for a replacement, and they said no problem... but then THAT time, they sent the check to the provider, who cashed it. They told me *I* would have to collect my money from the provider. Yeah, right. I didn't hire him (the hospital did), I had no business relationship with him, and he had been double-paid due to two insurer screwups and one (relatively minor) me screwup. It took me about six months to get them to cut me a new check.

* I received an invoice for services that didn't seem quite right (birth of my first son). I asked for an itemized bill. They sent it, and the line items DID NOT ADD UP to the total. It took me, again, months, to get a correct statement.

* My oldest son was born at the beginning of July. I had just finished classes for grad school, and had coverage through September, but my son needed to go on my husband's plan. He was automatically covered under my old insurance for a month (California law), but we had chosen a pediatrician that was in network for the new plan. I was also on the new plan already, but completed the birth on the old plan. But... the pediatrician we chose was from a different medical group from my doctor on the new plan, and was outside the network for my University coverage. We COULD NOT bill insurance for services in that 30 days under my son's name, only under mine. Therefore, we couldn't bill services for a provider outside the practice my PCP was in. We paid out-of-pocket for his 2-week checkup, because there was no way either insurer could pay THAT provider for it at THAT time, even though he was in-network for the new insurer. There was no resolution possible for that issue; we just gave up.

And I can't tell you how many times I've called my insurer to try to find out what my coverage is and they just plain don't know. Their response is "Submit a claim, and maybe we'll pay it." Gee, thanks. I'm one of those funny consumers that likes to know what my costs are likely to be BEFORE I incur them.

OTOH, I've had experiences in many other areas where public has been far more streamlined than private. For example, I can't *tell* you what a breath of fresh air it was going from Southern California Edison for power to LADWP. Signing up for service, I kid you not, took all of two minutes... and the last 30 seconds was me thanking the rep for a great experience with a great company. Oh, and we've had far fewer momentary power cuts since moving, too. Don't *even* get me started on the difference between USPS and UPS... sufficeth to say, the postman has never randomly left other people's packages addressed to other buildings on my doorstep because at some time in the last five years, someone with that name had something delivered to my address.

So I can't say as I agree with the notion that private is always going to be more efficient or provide better service than public. My private healthcare experience has been mediocre to godawful, and in other areas, public has been superior to private in efficiency and service. YMMV.

Re:"Close Enough for Government Work" (1)

DesScorp (410532) | about 5 years ago | (#29220333)

yeah those high precision jets, accurate missiles, highly trained people, and real time global information are just horrible.

Close enough for government work is almost always closer then private industry when it comes to complex work.

Does your praise also included $500 toilet seat lids and $100 hammers? That's a result of government defense purchasing, too. Our newest fighter, the F-35, that was supposed to be "cheap", was designed by committee, and now will cost around $200 million apiece next year. Can't wait to apply that expertise to health care.

Very low accuracy mailing... (3, Insightful)

geomobile (1312099) | about 5 years ago | (#29214711)

I loved that phrase:

Some were right but many were mistakes.

Government should just mail an official looking letter to everybody:
Dear XY,
You are not suffering from any fatal neurological conditions.
Regards.

This would vastly increase the accuracy of the mailing and would also be better for the general mood.

Re:Very low accuracy mailing... (3, Funny)

Sebilrazen (870600) | about 5 years ago | (#29214857)

If they're sending it to everybody it should probably read:

You are most likely not suffering from any fatal neurological conditions.

Re:Very low accuracy mailing... (3, Insightful)

geomobile (1312099) | about 5 years ago | (#29214943)

You are most likely not suffering from any fatal neurological conditions.

Telling everybody that they're most probably healthy is not as good... it improves the accuracy of the mail even further without having the same valuable positive effect on the mood.
Why sacrifice the positive effect on mood for that little extra accuracy? You'll probably only send out a fraction of a percent false negatives, when you tell everybody that they don't have a fatal neurological condition!

hate when that happens... (2, Insightful)

iamagloworm (816661) | about 5 years ago | (#29213077)

next time, face to face is a good idea...

Re:hate when that happens... (3, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29213301)

The way the VA medical system works they'd probably die waiting to find out they were dying. The automated letter system is probably to save costs and time - that they completely hosed it up is no surprise.

Re:hate when that happens... (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217355)

Since the VA system regularly outscores private medical organizations, maybe you should stop spreading your ignorance?

Re:hate when that happens... (2)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | about 5 years ago | (#29217545)

[Citation Needed]

Re:hate when that happens... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29223897)

There's a long discussion of this above. That said, I've got pretty extensive experience dealing with the government and the VA and I'll stick with what I said.

The VA would like to apologize for any.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213093)

Any jobs declined, life and health insurance policies refused and suicides.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 5 years ago | (#29213443)

health insurance policies refused

If you're getting a letter from the VA you already have free liftetime health insurance, and in the US it's illegal to decline someone a job on account of their medical condition, insofar as it doesn't interfere with performance, which for someone who doesn't have a disease, it won't.

I'm sure there's some sort of latent point in this about "socialized medicine" or something, but for every one of these letters with the wrong diagnosis, I assure you a private insurer has cancelled the policy on dozens of people for no goddamn reason [time.com] . And those people sometimes commit suicide too.

There are many scary anecdotes about the VA, but they're just that, anecdotes. Customer satisfaction within the VA health system regularly outscores [va.gov] customer satisfaction in the private health insurance/care system.

PS. If you get a letter saying you have an incurable disease, damn the letter. You must hear it from your doctor's own lips, and then only after you have had the outcome of the tests throughly explained to you.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (4, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29213519)

This is good info. but just to point out one thing- not everyone who is in the VA system necessarily has free lifetime care for everything. Many people receive care for lower levels of service connected disability. Many veterans use the VA and other health care systems - including public hospitals, private insurance, etc.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 5 years ago | (#29213597)

This is true, and I'm happy to admit that one of the probable reasons people are so satisfied with the VA system is on account of the fact that it's FREEEEEEEE!!! Or rather, the risk of all is borne by all, and you can't be welched out of it in any good-faith circumstance.

Of course, we could all have this arrangement, wether by national insurance or proper private health insurance regulation, if we voted for it.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29213719)

Satisfaction surveys are not necessarily the best metric to use in determining quality of care. I think this has been shown in a few studies and many health care providers have tried to move to metrics that more accurately tell if care is actually good or not. I don't bring this up to enter into your argument about socialized medicine but just to try and look at the whole picture.
 
More importantly, your point about it being free couldn't be more mistaken. For the vets it either cost becoming disabled or a minimum of 20 years of full time service. The monetary costs are covered by tax payers. as RAH would say tanstaafl - there aint no such thing as a free lunch.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (4, Informative)

nateb (59324) | about 5 years ago | (#29213965)

More importantly, your point about it being free couldn't be more mistaken. For the vets it either cost becoming disabled or a minimum of 20 years of full time service.

This is incorrect. My father spent 4 years in, and due to his income, receives (nearly) free health care. He must requalify every year, fwiw.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29214111)

I did not know that. I just hopped over to the VA eligibility page and it's wider than I had believed. Nice to know I may have benefits I didn't know about. I've got insurance through my employer, but who knows what tomorrow holds.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29214363)

He must requalify every year, fwiw.

What the hell? Are they checking if he grew back his legs or something? Perhaps the timeline changed and now he hadn't gone to war?

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | about 5 years ago | (#29214881)

No, he just needs to prove that he can't afford an alternative, that his continued VA treatment is need based.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (1)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219289)

No, he just needs to prove that he can't afford an alternative, that his continued VA treatment is need based.

And with Medicaid, he'd need to requalify every six months, so that's pretty generous.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (5, Informative)

EbeneezerSquid (1446685) | about 5 years ago | (#29214871)

hahahahahaha!

There are presently 3 "single payer" health care systems in the US: The VA, IHS (Indian Health Services), and Medicare.

The VA has a long history of misdiagnosis and hospitals that don't meet the cleanliness standards most McDonalds must keep, the IHS itself admits that it doesn't have the money to do anything put extremely urgent care, barely (as opposed to the full and complete care it is obligated to provide by treaty), and Medicare pays regular health care providers about 65% of the costs of treatment, does so 9-24 months late, and is on schedule to devour the entire federal budget by 2019 (assuming it is not expanded by ObamaCare).

As a Military Servicemember, and the son of a vet who just became eligible for medicare, I want LESS government in Healthcare, and am not surprised in the least by these letters. I'm actually more surprised that they were reported in the media, this time.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (0, Flamebait)

iamhigh (1252742) | about 5 years ago | (#29216347)

I was unaware that the VA diagnosed you? I thought doctors still had to do that?

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

narfman0 (979017) | about 5 years ago | (#29217251)

It's the doctor's they employ, obviously. The VA picks the doctor leftovers. You can't honestly believe all doctor's are created equal? Bad doctor's exist - and more are on the payroll of the US government rather than private practice. Seems like the comment was just nitpicky without any real point.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217299)

Oh know, the VA does. You sit in a room, 50 bureaucrats come into a room. Once they decide your not over 65 and they can't just put a bullet in your head, they steal your wallet and then then goose step out of the room to go kill Jews.

Well, that's what some people seem to believe.

I wish people would actually read the proposals and discussed specific issues within the proposal.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | about 5 years ago | (#29218049)

That's a nice straw man you have there. Did you make it yourself?

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217271)

This type of thing happens in private companies more often. They aren't under any pressure to lat anyone know and have PR to minimize the damage. Point in fact it's exactly why I will never work in the private medical industry again.

The actually people that study medicare for a living. The actually experts aren't concerned about medicare and dont believe it will eat the federal budget. That's republican Neo Con propaganda. The same propaganda that said it would ahve devoured the budget 20 years ago. Every ten year, they say it will devour the budget in ten years.

Universal health care is not about running health care. It's about guidleines, fairness, and taking care of it's people like every other industrialized nation does.
Before you retort, almost all of those government ahve excelent health care, and waiting period far less then most Americans have.

How about instead of running scared, you read the proposals and address specific concerns with the proposal?

You may think you want less government in Healthcare, trust me you don't.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

Goetterdaemmerung (140496) | about 5 years ago | (#29225421)

The actually experts aren't concerned about medicare and dont believe it will eat the federal budget. That's republican Neo Con propaganda. The same propaganda that said it would ahve devoured the budget 20 years ago. Every ten year, they say it will devour the budget in ten years.

The numbers actually come from the GAO (Government Accountability Office), which I wouldn't consider a republican propaganda machine. It's likely they are being conservative (ala similar calculations concerning Social Security), but that doesn't negate the fact that the costs of the medical industry are spiraling out of control.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

Stupendoussteve (891822) | about 5 years ago | (#29217505)

You forgot Tricare, which is either single payer or socialized depending on the location.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

EbeneezerSquid (1446685) | about 5 years ago | (#29218415)

No, Tricare is a horrible HMO that constantly forgets to pay bills. Who runs it depends on which region you are in, I think it is Sectera in the southeastern US. I love the fact that they often decide not to pay for tests the doctor orders because they are "unnecessary" and we find out about it when the Collection agency contacts us 9 months later.

But I shouldn't blame them. They are simply following the "guidlines" the politicians produced, to ensure "fairness".

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219331)

So, the VA can't afford cleaning staff, IHS can't afford doctors, and Medicare can't afford accounts payable staff?

And somehow, this is going to be solved by spending LESS gov't money on healthcare?

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 5 years ago | (#29219529)

There are presently 3 "single payer" health care systems in the US: The VA, IHS (Indian Health Services), and Medicare.

Actually, there are precisely zero "single payer" health care systems in the US, since the existence of more than one payer in the same jurisdiction means you don't have a singly payer system, and there are, in the US, the three systems you mention, the joint federal/state Medicaid program, and thousands of ther payers, meaning that none of those payers is a "single payer" system.

Re:The VA would like to apologize for EVERY (1)

Atario (673917) | about 5 years ago | (#29225631)

How Veterans' Hospitals Became the Best in Health Care [time.com]

I'll not go through the rest of your FUD point-by-point, but I'll just pick on this one:

Medicare pays regular health care providers about 65% of the costs of treatment

What do you think your private insurance does? Just pay whatever is asked? Does the phrase "negotiated rate" ring a bell?

Re:The VA would like to apologize for any.. (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217333)

No, don't damn the letter. Immediately call your doctor. Regardless of public or private.

Not amusing (4, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | about 5 years ago | (#29213095)

ALS is basically a slow and unpleasant death sentence unless you are lucky and can afford proper care. You really don't want to be told you have something that will lock your working brain into your body until you suffocate without a breathing apparatus.

I'm perfectly aware many people can live for ages with ALS, but a significant portion aren't as lucky...

Re:Not amusing (4, Insightful)

mc6809e (214243) | about 5 years ago | (#29213229)

ALS is basically a slow and unpleasant death sentence unless you are lucky and can afford proper care.

It's still horrible, even if you're lucky. There are so many "better" fatal diseases I'd rather have.

And unfortunately there really isn't a lot of public research being done to find a cure. A great deal of medical research is driven by politics and popularity, and ALS just doesn't get the attention it deserves. The cynic in me believes that the lack of research dollars is due to the short average expected lifespan after diagnosis -- those with ALS just aren't around long enough to make enough noise to get the attention needed to boost funding and research interest.

Re:Not amusing (2, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29213323)

I had a friend who was diagnosed and dead in less than a year. He went from excellent care to being unable to pick up his kids in a few months. It was one of the most horrible things I've seen a person go through. I think his wife and kids are doing pretty well now, it's been 8 years since he died, but I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Re:Not amusing (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about 5 years ago | (#29219881)

My dad died w/ ALS - not sure if that was the cause of death or not, he had a long history of high blood pressure and had a heart attack at age 71, which some could view as "normal".

Apparently, there are 2 "flavors" of ALS - dead in a year, or you may have 2-40 years (like Hawking).

Vets? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213169)

How will I find a vet to take my dog to now if they all have a fatal illness?

military intelligence at work (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213343)

accept no substitutes

Even better (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213369)

It'll be awesome when all of our health care is, by law, just as efficient and personal.

Re:Even better (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | about 5 years ago | (#29223623)

I doubt it, I mean there's really no comparison between our current health care system, and the government run health care in France, Germany, Canada, Briton, Australia, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama, or Israel.

I smell a rat (1)

badass fish (1254730) | about 5 years ago | (#29213383)

1 How is it service related? exposure to........ 2 If someones file has the code they should already be diagnosed right.

Re:I smell a rat (3, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about 5 years ago | (#29213429)

People who serve in the military are twice as likely to get ALS as people with no military service. I don't think anyone knows why but apparently the government is agreeing that they should help out vets who contract it. ALSA [alsa.org] has a pdf with information about it - ALSA military paper [alsa.org] .

hmmm (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217197)

I didn't see a reference to either actual study, and the two studies discussed had seperate methods* and different focues. Drawning two studies to get to a conclusion that only 1 was looking for is weak.

It also doesn't look at the possiblility that ALS is more common then thought, it's just the military personal get regular medical check-ups and treatment.

I am NOT saying the studies are wrong, only that it's not very conclusive.
I do want to say that I would like to see some more good studies done on that. Particularly looking at the fact that there is an increase no matter which branch, job, or duration in the military. that's very odd and does smell of a flawed study.

*they didn't go into to the details of the methods that deep.

Re:hmmm (1)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219463)

I do want to say that I would like to see some more good studies done on that. Particularly looking at the fact that there is an increase no matter which branch, job, or duration in the military. that's very odd and does smell of a flawed study.

Or a feature of military service that doesn't have to do with how you serve... like the vaccination schedule or elements of the training process. Or heck, the food. Maybe some chemical they use in the living quarters.

There's a lot of things that could explain such a difference. I agree we need more research to determine what they are.

Re:I smell a rat (2, Interesting)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219433)

2 If someones file has the code they should already be diagnosed right.

We're still stuck using ICD9 coding. We were supposed to switch to ICD10 years ago, but it keeps getting delayed, mostly because of the arcane field of medical billing software. ICD9 is a half-assed system, based on decades-old knowledge of disease and injury, that you can't even be sure whether you'll find the disease you want under the part of the body it affects or its taxonomy.

So it doesn't surprise me at all that the ICD9 code for ALS is ambiguous for other neurological diseases.

Awww (3, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | about 5 years ago | (#29213583)

There I was, looking for a story about veterinarians in Virginia...

Not "vets" but "veterans" (1)

cbraescu1 (180267) | about 5 years ago | (#29213637)

VA Mistakenly Tells Vets They Have Fatal Illness

"Vet" means a veterinary doctor, not a veteran. Stupid title.

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (1, Troll)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | about 5 years ago | (#29213995)

It depends on context, asshat. If it's an article about animals, you're absolutely right; if it's an article about people, you're dead fucking wrong. If you're an American, show some fucking respect; the wars these folks fought in may not have been 'right', but they did more than your lazy ass sitting in a chair in front of a computer.

Side note: If we were in a draft era, I would have been 4-F'd off the bat, before you bring up that counter.

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29214583)

Soldiers are not people, just ask any drill sergeant.

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29215261)

It depends on context, asshat. If it's an article about animals, you're absolutely right; if it's an article about people, you're dead fucking wrong. If you're an American, show some fucking respect; the wars these folks fought in may not have been 'right', but they did more than your lazy ass sitting in a chair in front of a computer.

Side note: If we were in a draft era, I would have been 4-F'd off the bat, before you bring up that counter.

Saying the title of a slashdot article is stupid or misleading isn't disrespecting war veterans. Don't be a spaz. And the person you were replying to didn't say anything about any particular wars. Do you have a chip on your shoulder or what?

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29214387)

+1, I was confused. "Vet" for "veteran" is certainly not used anywhere I have heard, maybe it is different in the US.

And I thought VA Linux went tits-up years ago.

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#29215029)

"Vet" means a veterinary doctor, not a veteran. Stupid title.

Slashdot is an American website, and as such, Vet most certainly does mean Veteran sometimes. When? When it does.

If you don't like the Americanisms, fine. But don't try to correct us. You can't even fucking spell Aluminum [wikipedia.org] . "for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound." That's right, you convinced the whole world to ignore the original name in favor of creative license! The English language is poisoned with the deliberate, poetickal misspellings of Chaucer and his contemporaries because when the dictionaries were Laid Down From On High by some pompous brits, the works were in fashion, and so every dictionary I open I have to see a bunch of made-up shit.

Complaining about American English on an American website is stupid, and you are a stupid person for doing it. Go suck a calamansis lime.

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29215243)

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29217277)

drinkpoo you left this out "The -ium suffix had the advantage of conforming to the precedent set in other newly discovered elements of the time: potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and strontium (all of which Davy had isolated himself)."

You are the one being pompous. You obviously know little of what you write.
 

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29218511)

drinkpoo you left this out "The -ium suffix had the advantage of conforming to the precedent set in other newly discovered elements of the time: potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and strontium (all of which Davy had isolated himself)."

You are the one being pompous. You obviously know little of what you write.

Disregard that, I am blind.

"The -um suffix on the other hand, has the advantage of being more consistent with the universal spelling alumina for the oxide, as lanthana is the oxide of lanthanum, and magnesia, ceria, and thoria are the oxides of magnesium, cerium, and thorium respectively."

So if an element is to end with "-ium", but has a "n" at the end of it before the suffix is attached, you just drop the "i" from the suffix.

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (1)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | about 5 years ago | (#29219385)

In addition to the dude who pointed out how conclusive your fail was regarding aluminium, which IUPAC actually prefer (although they do allow the yanks to use their own misspelling), I thought I'd ad that the only reason "american english" exists in the form of such conclusive misspellings is that Webster was a massive fan of "logical spelling" and the new Congress encouraged use of his dictionary with it's new "american" spellings because they sought to remove influence of British schoolbooks from US schools, as well as build up more of the vision that the English-born people like Washington were "american" and thus spelling differences made the language different..... And every dictionary is "made-up", since all languages are made up. The difference being is that the English dictionaries of the day used the common spelling most people used, and thus accurately reflected the language as was spoken. Websters accurately reflected his huge hard-on for getting rid of the letter "u" and changing every possible spelling he could because he was a little rabid on the whole "burn the british" thing..... His dictionary *caused* American English to exist, not the other way around, so if you want to start charging around screaming about "deliberate misspellings", then start looking a little closer to home than Chaucer, pal. Chaucer didn't insist anyone else use his style, people just did, it became the norm, the standard. Chaucer was the Linus of his day, saying "hey, look what I made!". Webster was the Microsoftian "Hey, use this or else". But, hey, let's not have facts getting in the way of your little rant.....

Re:Not "vets" but "veterans" (1)

Ksevio (865461) | about 5 years ago | (#29222697)

Well if you know what VA stands for then you can probably figure out that it's not talking about veterinarians. They usually don't get diagnosed as one group either.

Let us make sure everyone have this healthcare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29213687)

Hey, let us make sure everyone has this level of healthcare.

Tag: fivenines (1)

Fizzl (209397) | about 5 years ago | (#29214461)

Bunker said that for many years, the VA applied a medical code to refer to undiagnosed neurological disorders. Several years ago, he said, VA expanded the code category to include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease.

Sounds like they hit the magic id '99999' to undiagnosed Time to upgrade to '999999'!

Fucking VA is horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29216399)

I refuse all their damn post deployment questioneers. Im trying to forget about that shit, not wallow in it. They overpayed me one semester for the GI Bill and I didn't realize it, a couple months later they send me a letter demanding 1300 dollars within 60 days or a letter requesting payment plan or waiver. I send a letter requesting both, and what do I get? A snide response that reducing the amount I owe them would be infair to the VA, with no comment whatsoever even on my request for a payment plan! Then they almost immediately sent me to collections. I understand I owe the money, and my only recourse is to pay it back, but with almost no communication they have single handedly made my credit that much worse. I could go on and on about the VA in general, especially about things they did to me/us while I was active duty, but my general consensus is that they fuck all kinds of shit up, and I refuse to have any dealings whatsoever with them.

Do tyou know the difference between (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 years ago | (#29217023)

this and a private medical company?
You find out about the error when a government agency does it.

Re:Do tyou know the difference between (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29217201)

this and a private medical company?
You find out about the error when a government agency does it.

So true.
I have been wondering why the press has NOT been reporting the fact that the private for profit health insurance company is periodically sending out letters diagnosing me with conditions I do NOT have. They are not my doctor and have never seen me in person. So how come insurance companies get to practice medicine without a license and make bad diagnosis and the press are not all over them?

Re:Do tyou know the difference between (2, Interesting)

Ironica (124657) | about 5 years ago | (#29219587)

this and a private medical company?
You find out about the error when a government agency does it.

Not only that... the letter says "You've been diagnosed with X," whereas the letter from the private insurer says, "Your coverage has been terminated" without mention of the (erroneous) diagnosis.

First Hand Experience (4, Informative)

bigattichouse (527527) | about 5 years ago | (#29217775)

As a family caretaker of a U.S. Veteran (Vietnam and Iraq Round 1) who passed away from ALS, while under the care of the VA - I have to say that they really busted their butts to make sure he had all the assistance and medical care possible. They even called intermittently with questions about his service history to attempt to find out WHY so many people in his situation developed ALS.

I have to say, for all the problems people have had with the VA they took care of Jim. He had everything from his medications to a IPAP, oxygen, even a hospital bed delivered and set up here at the house.

Given the extremely bizarre nature of the disease, and that no-one clearly understands its causes, they did a damn fine job of trying to figure out what was wrong and making sure he had ample medical care.

Re:First Hand Experience (1)

Samrobb (12731) | about 5 years ago | (#29221401)

As someone involved with a private health care organization that has regular, extensive contact with the VA, and as someone who's dealt with INS on several different occasions for personal and work-related issues, I'll state the following for all the people arguing for/against public health care:

The standard of service you get from government agencies can vary from horrible to outstanding, depending on the type of people involved in any particular organization. Our local INS office, for example, gets a *lot* of praise from people who've had to deal with them. Likewise, our local VA organization gets an awful lot of praise from the people who deal with them day in and day out, both administrators and patients.

That's because in both cases, there are people in those offices who are willing to go to great lengths to deal with the truly, amazingly, horrible services (or lack of services) offered by *other* government offices. I'm talking about payments from the VA for services rendered being nearly 6 months in arrears, not because of any problems with billing, but because (a) someone went on vacation for a month, then (b) we never received the paperwork, then (c) oh, yeah, we really did get the paperwork, but we need you to send us new invoices because these are three months out of date now! Then lather, rinse, repeat.

All in all, you can get great service from the government, and horrible service from the private sector. You are far more likely to get horrible service from the government, and great service from the private sector... because when you're dealing with the private sector, you have an 800 lb gorilla (the government, via laws and regulations) in your corner. Going the other way... it's just you, vs. the 800 lb gorilla, and good luck if he decides that what *you* want isn't what *he* wants.

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