Tampa VA Medical Center

I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I served for 2 years over 3 deployments to Iraq and after getting out found myself in Tampa where I now call home. Upon registering with the Tampa VA Medical center I was told that all combat vets from OIF or OEF would receive 5 years of medical care at no cost to the veteran, this was mandated by congress (you can read about this benefit here). Shortly after going to the Tampa VA Medical center I began to receive bills for my visits. I promptly called and they stated that the problem was corrected, this was in 2008 to 2009, over the course of many phone calls, and a few personal visits this problem compounded until I was receiving notices that my outstanding bill would be sent to a collection agency. I had enough at this point. I called the hospital and spoke to a Vincent P. Conti who was a Patient Advocate for OIF and OEF veterans. The collection harassment stopped after he told me I had to get off of work, come in and then spend most of the day walking from office to office by Vincent as I was given the run around. By the end of the day the problem was corrected. Shortly after this incident I re-deployed to Iraq and upon my return I was told by the Tampa VA Medical center that (and I had made it clear to them before I deployed that I was going to be in Iraq but would be returning) I was no longer in their system as being an active patient. They had unassigned me from my doctor and from my medical team (you are assigned to a team when you register, I was in Bravo Team). So what did this mean? I had no primary care physician, they couldn’t (and haven’t been able as of yet and this is now March 2011) reassign me to a team so now my option as a combat veteran for when I get sick is to go to the ER and wait for triage. There is no being able to call in or to be seen by the same doctor every visit. I now avoid going there at all costs, unfortunately a few months ago I became very ill on a Friday afternoon, so like I mentioned before, I had to go to the ER rather than being able to make an appointment. This visit lasted most of the night due to the fact that I waited for triage (from about 6 pm to about 3 am or so). Once again I called today to try and make an appointment, I was told my only option is to go to the ER rather than being assigned to a medical team or seeing a non ER doctor. This is how we treat our vets? I am ashamed by this level of service and lack of respect or care.

Zachary Scott-Singley

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