Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's the IKEA of homes!

Now THIS is a "green" invention I actually like!

No Spoonful of Sugar with THIS Medicine!

Everyday I hear about the health care plan and the public option and it makes me want to shout and grind my teeth. The reason I hold these sentiments is because I have had a taste of what socialized medicine has to offer, and let me say, it was a very bitter pill to swallow.

If one wants to get a glimpse of what socialized medicine has to offer, they need look no further than the VA Health System. As a veteran, I have personal and first hand experience with this institution. As much as the system is touted, it leaves MUCH to be desired.

The only time I ever utilized the system was in a pinch, when I was unemployed and had no other option. Believe me, if I had any other option, like private insurance through my employer, I would never set foot in a VA Hospital.

The environment of a VA Hospital is similar to that of a corral, where all the veterans are herded about like cattle. An appointment is almost like a full day field trip. Instead of being able to choose your doctors, you are broken into “teams” according to the last four numbers of your Social Security number. However, if you are a female veteran, like myself, you are lumped into one team, regardless of your number. Getting an appointment seems easy enough, until you realize you will have to wait three weeks to months in order to be seen.

If you want to go in for a physical or a checkup, you may as well clear your schedule, because you’re going to be there ALL DAY. You are actually given a check list of departments to go to and you basically follow lines on the floor through a confusing maze.

The dispensary (pharmacy) is basically like the counter at a crowded deli. You pick a number, and you wait. And you wait. And you wait. Finally your number flashes on the display, and you’re given a bunch of medications for whatever your ailment. It’s not uncommon to see some people come out with grocery bags full of drugs and medical devices.

Another wonderful cost cutting measure is that nice rationing of care. You will damn near have to be on your knees or flat on your back before you get surgery or any kind of corrective procedure. I have a friend who is only 40 years old with herniated disks which are so painful that he can barely function. Instead of giving him the surgery that could correct it all, he’s been furnished with a cane, some pain medication, and a handicap car tag. He was told that his condition wasn’t bad enough to warrant surgery just yet. Forty years old.

Don’t forget that you can be dropped at their discretion, and at times, without your knowledge. Despite having served your country and allowed your body to be battered and bruised in the process, and being promised this wonderful benefit upon separation, you can in fact be dropped from the system based on income. I found that out the hard way. And not only that, but if you do work and you have private insurance but opt to go to the VA for care they will STILL file an insurance claim and send you a bill for the remainder. Learned that the hard way too. But back to being dropped.

Apparently I’d made too much the previous year and didn’t realize that it had any effect on my VA benefits. I was unemployed and had been for about 9 months. I was sick and needed to be seen. Well, I missed my appointment trying to brave DC traffic and it was too late to be squeezed in. Well, I figured while I was there I’d take advantage of the free flu shots. I went to have my information put in the system so I could be put in queue, but lo and behold, I was not there. They asked to see my Vet ID card. I asked, oh, you mean the one I’d requested about 4 years ago and never got? Well, I go into the eligibility office to find out why I had never received it and found out that I’d been dropped from the system. I pleaded my case, saying that what I made last year was irrelevant and that I was unemployed and needed care NOW, but they’d hear none of it.

Let me not forget to tell you about how they can, and most probably will, deny you treatment for anything THEY deem unnecessary. So for someone like me with bad acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, really can hope to get no better a course of treatment than a tube of hydroquinone, which actually makes it worse for me. Not even a consideration for an acid peel or anything else new. So just imagine how much they’d try to stiff you on receiving any kind of revolutionary or state of the art surgery which may surely prolong your life or increase your functionality. Not saying it doesn’t happen (sometimes), but not enough to make a difference.

I DREAD the thought of so many war veterans returning home, only for the system to be overwhelmed and ill equipped, or maybe just downright disinclined, to properly treat them. They won’t even acknowledge the validity and prevalence of PTSD, imagine what else they may ignore?

Oh, and the emergency room? Forget it! I went to the emergency room one night in excruciating pain and signed in. There were perhaps 4 people in the waiting room with me. Some came and went. I sat there for THREE HOURS before I got up to tell the receptionist that it doesn’t take 3 hours to triage someone and that I’ve been waiting to give samples that I know they would need. Gotta tell you, it did warm my heart to hear a nurse in the back talking about how she was about to retire and really didn’t give a damn. Needless to say, that after being triaged and providing samples (which weren’t even tested), I was ushered into the back to wait another hour and eventually given medicine. Well, the next day things had worsened dramatically, prompting another visit to the ER, but this time at a private hospital. I was given the proper testing and asked the right questions. Eventually the doctor came in and told me that the pills I was given the night before I may as well throw out because they were useless. I firmly believed that if things had gotten any worse, I would have lost my child, whom I’d just begun to carry. To add insult to injury, I received a bill from the VA!

Be careful what you ask for. The VA so often boasts having some of the best care and state of the art equipment in some of its facilities, but I really have yet to see any of that. Honestly, do you really want any of this?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ivanka Trump bashes Obama

Ivanka Trump is such a class act. I really like her. Only wish more wealthy socialites her age took on a more mature and levelheaded approach. She said what I've been thinking and saying for a long time. You CANNOT attack Wall St. and businesses that hire people and create jobs. It's positively counterproductive.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My BRIEF experience with the public assistance system.

I am of the belief that experience is the best teacher, and one of the goals of this blog is to share of my experiences with anyone who is willing to read the words. I feel that things are much easier to articulate to others when you've gone through them yourself and made it out the other side.

It is oftentimes very easy for someone to dismiss your beliefs based on the notion that you have never lived through something and therefore have no right to comment. This is compounded by the fact that on such media as Twitter and Facebook, your thoughts and feelings are reduced to mere characters.

Well, a little bit of background for me here...

A couple years ago, just a few months after I had my son, I decided to move to Texas in order to be closer to my mother and other family members. I was having a hard time adjusting to new motherhood and figured that being close to my family would give me a good support base. A few months prior to moving my husband and I began applying for jobs in Texas, but got no call backs. I was apprehensive about this but decided to move anyway, confident that we would find a job soon after arrival. Well, that did not happen.

About three weeks into living in Texas, I still got no callbacks. By me not working we were losing thousands of dollars and things got hard to manage. My husband managed to land a job but it paid virtually nothing compared to what we had been making before the move. With a 4 month old baby you can imagine the stress. My mother helped as much as possible, but I really didn't want to place that burden on her.

My mother suggested that I apply for assistance. That suggestion left a very bad taste in my mouth, but convinced me to apply by reminding me that I'd been paying into this system since I was about 16 and that it was there for this reason.

One day my husband, my son and myself went to the public assistance office to apply for assistance. There were a few men filling out forms but it was mostly women. In the hour we sat waiting to be seen, I filled out forms. We were sitting next to a Latina who looked like she couldn't be more than 33 years old with about four children around her, the oldest couldn't have been more than about 8. I noticed that just about all of them had silver capped teeth, yet about two of them were running to the vending machine to buy junk. I was willing to bet that she'd get a whole hell of a lot more in assistance than we would despite never having worked nearly as much and contributed to society nearly as much as I had. I looked at my husband, burning with anger and embarrassment, and said, "NEVER AGAIN".

When we were finally seen by the case worker, she reviewed our paperwork and asked us some questions. I explained our prior financial situation and our current issues. I explained to her that I was the primary breadwinner in the family, and that by me not working, we were losing about $60,000 a year. To my surprise, I found that that actually worked against our favor, because we were denied TANF, citing that too much money had been earned. I kept saying, I made that amount BEFORE, but I don't have that NOW. I need help NOW. To add even further insult to injury, I was essentially penalized for being married and having a man in the family. We were only given food stamps and medical coverage for myself and the baby. My husband was left out of EVERYTHING. We were given $435 a month in food stamps, which was barely enough to feed all of us. I'm thanking my lucky stars that I was still breast feeding, which helped stretched the formula and baby food for longer.

Every day I burned with shame, wondering how I'd gotten to this point, and wondering why someone with my military and work history could not find a job. I am convinced that the hiring managers were too lazy to see how my skills could be used to their advantage. I refused to believe that I couldn't even qualify for a secretary position. Perhaps they rejected my resume because they felt I was overqualified and they couldn't afford me. Even if such was the case, it wasn't helping me much at all.

I attended all the ridiculous instructional seminars for public assistance and how to apply for jobs. I was required to apply for so many jobs a week. I attended one job fair when I first got to Texas, but almost ALL of the recruiters asked if I was willing to move to Arizona or BACK to DC. I declined, stating that I had only just moved to Texas and was looking to give it a go here. The only call back I got for a job in Texas for for an insurance company with an office very close to where I lived. However, when they offered the interview, the location was switched from that office to clear across the city, which would have been nearly impossible since we only had one car at the time and my husband needed it to get to work.

Needless to say this arrangement only lasted for about four months, as the lifestyle became unbearable. We had to make the decision to move back to DC so we could have a chance at living again. Our credit had already completely tanked due to being unable to pay all our previous bills due to the huge decrease in income. And ironically enough, around the same time we'd left was the time my son had gotten full medical coverage.

Upon returning to DC, I refused to ever apply for any more benefits. I vowed I'd dance on tables for money before I allowed myself to be in that position again. I felt angry and betrayed. A system I'd paid into for at least a good 12 years couldn't give me more than $435 a month to care for 3 people, yet I see people making a lifestyle of it, and hard working people like myself who want nothing more than to earn their keep and keep what they are not even able to get a miniscule portion of the pot into which we paid.

So, when I speak out about some things, it's not because I'm on the outside looking in and can't even begin to understand what it's like. I may not have lived long on this earth compared to some, but I've had a heck of a lot of experiences in that short period of time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Regime Drops Mother, Sentences Her To Death

Trust me, there's more where this came from too! There is no depths to which this administration will stoop to save a quick buck and rub out as many citizens as possible. It happens all the time with the VA.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Forgiveness? Of course NOT!

"To err is human, to forgive is divine." Alexander Pope

It seems that talk of forgiveness is only limited to the pews on Sunday. In a major political and PR faux pas so soon after his sweeping victory, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, at the behest of the Sons of the Confederacy, declared the month of April Confederate History Month. And what's more is that he failed to acknowledge slavery. Well, you can only imagine the uproar that has created.

Despite his swift apology earlier today, there are many who are not so quick to forgive. One of the unforgiving is Democrat Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh III. During an interview on "John King, USA", Senator Marsh stated that he could not accept the apology because such actions represented a "pattern of this governor". Quite frankly, I'm a little confused. McDonnell has only been governor for a few months. What kind of pattern has he been establishing really? Also, I would love to know what Senator Marsh has to say about President Obama's string of broken promises and inconsistencies.

Like it or not, the Confederacy is a part of American History, and as egregious as some feel that era was, it should not be suppressed or forgotten. It should be something that should be learned from. We have days and months dedicated to commemorate everything under the sun, from breast cancer to left handed people to administrative assistants. We have Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month and Hispanic Heritage Month yet not so much as an eyebrow is raised.

While I will be the first one to admit that I winced when I heard the news this morning, I also thought about how this action was in no way indicative of Governor McDonnell's true sentiments. We really need to practice what we preach, give the stern admonishment, and forgive him (this time anyway). If we cannot move on from this, we will be blinded to all the good things he may do for Virginia during his term. And that, I think, would truly be unforgivable.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Napolitano Lied, Rob Krentz Died

I am beginning to think that the high elevation and aridity are depriving AZ officials of oxygen to the brain. McCain, Napolitano, Hayworth, what is going on in that state?!

I guess he didn't get medical marijuana he was promised!

Earlier this week it was reported that actor Kal Penn, who served in the White House Office of Public Engagement as Assistant Director of Public Engagement, has decided to leave his position and return to Hollywood. The Office of Public Engagement is run by slumlord extraordinaire, Valerie Jarrett. My only question is what took them so long to throw him under the bus? One would have thought he would have been a casualty of the fall out resulting from the National Endowment for the Arts being solicited to produce Obama propaganda.

Maybe Penn is now sober and lucid enough to realize that this ship is sinking and he's jumping overboard with the rest of the rats? Maybe taking such a huge pay cut was cutting into his habit? At the moment, the White House is not specifying the true reason for Penn's departure.

Like Signing a Contract with the Devil

Obamacare kind of reminds me of signing a contract with Bally's Total Fitness. You walk in and are impressed by what you see and you want to know more. You get taken on a tour by this handsome fit male or beautiful trim and athletic female while they tell you all the things the facility has to offer you. You're impressed but you're still not quite sure.

Then you're taken into a small room where the buff male or athletic female sits in front of you and almost takes an aggressive stance as they "ask" how they can get you started and how you're going to pay. They then show you the different tiers of membership, each of them more unjustifiably expensive than the next. You have your reservations and would like to get some literature so you can take it home and think on it. It's then that your tour guide becomes exasperated and calls someone else in who has a smile on their face but is no less aggressive.

Both representatives then proceed to grill you on how this may be the best thing you ever do for yourself, that it needs to get started NOW, that you really don't need any other information because it's just that simple, and how you don't need to go home and sleep on it because if you do, you'll never come back and you'll only get worse and by then it'll be too late. Ok, under all that pressure, you sign the contract...

The money begins to be taken out of your account every month, but you come to find out that you are limited to only one club, or a few. You begin to notice that the facilities are not as impressive as you once thought, and that some of them were downright DISGUSTING, complete with locker room thefts and people who don't do their party by cleaning up after themselves.

Well, now life begins to happen. You have to work late, you have kids to take care of, you get sick, or you're just tired. You begin to go less and less until you're maybe going once a month if at all. But, the money is still coming out. Enough to buy you a tank or two of gas. You decide you want to cancel. You scour your contract to see how you can do it and damn near need a 100x magnifying glass to find the cancellation clause. Sure, you can cancel, but you'll have to provide PROOF that you've moved, been handicapped or incapacitated, or DIED. You try to call corporate but can NEVER contact a human being. They don't even give you the options you're looking for, only if you want to join or renew your contract. You could try to send them correspondence through the mail, but good luck trying to verify that it actually reached a human being and was acknowledged.

Next you decide to just stop paying and you remove your payment information. Now, this is when you hear from a human being! You come to find your account has been turned over to collections and the delinquent item is now on your credit report. You're harrassed relentlessly until you finally pay the account off. So, in the end, you have a delinquency on your credit report, which killed your credit score; you paid over $1,000 for a service you barely ever used and could not cancel when you no longer wanted to use it. You are out about $1,400 and have NOTHING to show for it. And what's more, its negative effects will affect you for at least 7 years.

Friday, April 2, 2010

$6.4 billion "Clerical Error"

Don't you wish you had a congressman like mine? Come on, VA-8, WAKE UP!! Vote this cad OUT in November!

Springtime in DC

Aaahhh, it's spring time in our nation's Capitol. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, heavy coats have been shed, and the sun is shining beautifully. Spring time also brings the throngs of church groups and school field trips.

Given my work location, you can see the MASSES of tweens and chaperones working their way from the hotels to the tour buses waiting in long lines in front of the mall. Distinct luck of working next to a central meeting location. They take their buses across the Potomac to DC to take in their living Civics lessons. Most of them just seem to stand around wholly disinterested in the wonder and living history around them though, with the exception of taking photos, experimenting with camera perspectives so as to produce the biggest "gag" factor. Wonder how many millions have taken pictures of their friends or themselves licking or squashing the Washington Monument?

At lunch time they make their way back to the mall, where they convene RIGHT in front of the entry ways. They stop in the middle of walk ways and have their insipid little conversations while they peruse the store windows for things their travel budgets don't allow. The working lunch crowd, who is trying to make the most of their half hour lunch break, must compete with the glaze-eyed teens in order to get their food. I just want to tell them, look, the McDonald's/Taco Bell/Sbarro/Popeyes/Panda Express/Hagen Daas menus are the EXACT SAME as where you came from! Make a decision or move OUT of the way!

I can't help but stop and shake my head at how much more enthusiastic the kids are at the prospect of buying "FBI" or "You Don't See Me" shirts than they are at the National Archives or the National Gallery of Art. I just keep hoping that some day soon down the road they reflect and appreciate this experience and become aware of all the things that happen here that have and will shape and affect their lives profoundly.

But in the meantime, GET OUT of my way! I've only got 5 more minutes to get back to work!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ever watched a wannabe magician pour milk into a funnel-shaped sheet of paper and expect it to hold, only to have it spill out the bottom? Well, that's kinda the way I feel about any of my dollars going into paying for "everyone" (still only about 97%) in the country to have health care insurance. Pile in your money only to have it fall out the bottom all over the place, never to be seen again. Even moreso after watching this flick: