I’ve been on both sides of receiving medical care on military installations. As a family member, I have had options that were much better than being seen in an Army medical facility.
Don’t get me wrong — I am incredibly fortunate and grateful for the health care that I am afforded. However, I can’t help but notice how much better I have it as a family member than I did as an active-duty soldier.
At the last location I lived, I had the option of choosing my own providers off-post. My active-duty husband had no such luck. It always bothered me that I had the freedom to schedule my own appointments with the provider of my choosing and be seen usually within a couple of days, while my husband — who has been serving his country for over 10 years — had to wait up to a month to be seen for specific issues that were potentially serious.
Not only that, he had to navigate through sick call and wait for referrals to be pushed through. One time he waited at a troop clinic for over an hour before being told, "Oh, your provider isn't here today." He's also had a dentist who cut her hand on instruments she was using and bled into his mouth.
It's not a specific location that I have noticed is worse than another. I recently spoke with a behavioral health care provider on-post here in Germany, and her attitude toward providing treatment to active-duty personnel turned my stomach. During the course of our conversation, she said, "You wouldn't believe the amount of soldiers I get in here wanting to be diagnosed with everything under the sun." As she said this, she rolled her eyes and took a sip of her protein shake.
I filed an Interactive Customer Evaluation comment to express my concern over the encounter I had. If that is what family members are exposed to, how can I be confident that my own husband would receive the proper treatment within the system?
A close friend of mine on active duty recently injured his foot and was seen at a military treatment facility, where he was told that it was simply sprained. He went about his business for three weeks. When it didn't heal, he was told by providers that he needed physical therapy. After he requested an MRI, he was told that physical therapy was recommended first.
It wasn't until he insisted upon an MRI before physical therapy that he was finally referred for one — which revealed that his foot was not only fractured, but he had torn ligaments, which would require surgery. Adding insult to injury, the earliest appointment he could get for the consultation was more than a month away!
While the VA faces its own battles to correct a broken system, active-duty service members are falling through the cracks. If given proper care and better options, it could prevent many from disabilities that would require them to become entangled in the bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs. There's a reason for the inside joke among the military that Motrin and water will fix anything.
Angelina Newsom is a U.S. Army veteran and an OpsLens contributor. She served 10 years in the military, including a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She studies criminal justice and is still active within the military community. This OpsLens article is used by permission.