Don’t judge VA health care too quickly




I want to put in a good word for the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care systems because I am getting some of their services.

Amid all the alarm and political backlash about the VA medical facilities and service in other states, my experience has been positive both in promptness and the services provided. While the audit of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center shows an average wait time of 28 days between the veteran seeking an appointment and actually seeing a doctor, I never waited that long for any of my appointments.

I am a veteran who fulfilled a combination of six years of active and reserve military service. When I was discharged, I did not qualify for VA medical services, but later learned I was qualified because of changes in eligibility.

I reported to the VA hospital in St. Cloud, where I received excellent physical, eye and ear care. Later I transferred to the VA clinic in Ramsey, where I found prompt attention, eye and ear care.

Now that I’ve moved to Bloomington, I am being seen at the Minneapolis VA Health Center where, despite its size and number of patients, I continue to receive excellent care from my primary doctor and specialists.

Now I have a knee problem, which was X-rayed by a student who expertly handled all of the details. The Minneapolis VA is affiliated with the University of Minnesota.

My primary care doctor immediately read the X-ray, explained my arthritic condition in the knee and prescribed medicine for it.

Of course, I have some co-pays and costs for the medicine.

During my visits, I see so many in wheelchairs pushed by their spouses. I see many with walkers and canes – men and women who served their country, some wearing the caps of their units.

I believe that men and women, who served in the armed forces, and particularly in combat, are entitled to all the benefits they can receive.

The veterans I see quietly go about their business as they receive care.

The Minneapolis VA Health Care System, including its out-state centers, took care of 97,000 unique outpatients last year. A staff of 3,500 full- and part-time people, including 900 nurses, provides care. During the year, 1,200 volunteers perform services and give information to veterans.

In March a parking ramp with 520 stalls for veterans was opened, at no charge for veterans. It includes 100 handicapped parking places.

The Flag Atrium is being completely remodeled and will have new furniture and kiosks where veterans can get all kinds of information in one stop.

These days, veterans don’t speak up about the excellent care they receive. That’s their nature; they usually don’t speak up when they are satisfied.

As for the national VA health system’s problems, one staff member said that will be fixed when the VA medical care system has the number of staff needed for the growing number of patients.

So, this is one voice commending the St. Cloud, Ramsey and Minneapolis VA health care systems. Don’t judge it by the bad publicity some VA hospitals are getting in other states.


Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.