For a long time, I was so sick that I was unable to advocate for myself. I didn’t have the ability to think coherently, and I didn’t have the energy to fight for care (not “good” healthcare, not “better” healthcare, just healthcare Period).
[Fortunately, I seem to be responding to recent medications, which is giving me more of an ability to advocate for myself.]
When I became absolutely desperate, I scraped myself up and went to my Tricare PCM to fight for care. I didn’t get half of what I needed, but I got a little. Very little. (He also tried to kill me by prescribing the wrong meds, against my protests.)
Do you have any idea how dispiriting it is to spend all of your energy on one desperate fight for survival, and fail?
I went back to lying on the couch in front of the television in a dark room.
What really made a life-altering difference was when I finally started receiving care from the VA. (Yes, my experience has been mixed, and yes, many veterans are still receiving inadequate care from the VA.) However, my VA PCM, though horrendously overworked, listened to me, believed me, and started getting me the care I needed.
If not for my VA PCM, I would have lost the use of my left wrist permanently. I know this to be true because my orthopedic surgeon informed me that this was the case. After 27 months of neglect by Tricare, my wrist was almost beyond repair by the time I finally saw a surgeon.
In addition to a badly damaged left arm, I also have a chronic, debilitating disorder. After 15+ years, I still have only a partial diagnosis. However, I have been unable to get the help I need from Tricare.
I went a little over a week ago to try to see a Tricare Patient Advocate. I got as far as the receptionist. He asked me what I wanted. I told him that I had complex health problems and needed someone to help me manage my case.
I told him I wanted to know that *someone* in Tricare actually cared whether I lived or died.
The receptionist told me that if I filled out a bunch of forms AND WENT AND FOUND MY OWN PROVIDER THAT UNDERSTOOD MY DISORDER AND WAS WILLING TO OVERSEE MY HEALTHCARE, I could apply for a waiver for an off-base provider.
Why this response was completely unhelpful:
- There are literally only a handful of doctors in the US who understand the disorder my symptoms seem to suggest. None of them are in the city where I live.
- There are very, very few doctors who are willing to take on a patient with a chronic, complex health condition. They don’t get paid to deal with complicated patients. The system is not designed to reward those behaviors. (In fact, I was told that I would not be accepted as a patient at my nearest MTF because I was too complicated of a patient, and they only take the healthy ones.)
- I didn’t come to you to get permission to keep doing all the work of overseeing my healthcare by myself. I CAME TO YOU FOR HELP WITH MANAGING MY HEALTH.
BOTTOM LINE: I went to Tricare Patient Advocacy for help, and was told to help myself. I said, “My case is complicated. I need help managing it.” And I was told, “Go find a civilian to help you manage it.” I asked Tricare for help when I was at the end of my rope, and their representative sent me away to fill out a bunch of forms that would only be useful once I had found my own provider.
Action Items: I sent an email requesting a case manager. If this is unsuccessful, I will file a complaint/grievance with Tricare. (On a good day, when my brain is working and I have enough energy.)
Reflection: How many people are in the Tricare or VA systems that are too ill or disabled to fight for the care they desperately need? Who fights for the warriors (and their families) that can no longer fight for themselves? Do anyone actively care whether they live or die?
Update: Case Manager assigned within 24 hours of email being sent.