Having a good ol’ aching, upchucking time in Houston

Just a quick missive from the nation’s 3rd largest city. Sandwiched between light flooding and goofy health issues I have tried my best to learn in our annual steward’s meeting. But the last 1 1/2 days were a bit daunting.

On Sunday, I did a stupid thing that could have ended with serious consequences. I was showering in my tub when my soap disappeared. I couldn’t actively grab it because I didn’t see it. Too late, I slipped on the bar of soap and went down like a big sack of Sakrete. As is the case with these types of injuries it is difficult to feel its full wrath until, usually, the next morning.

I drove to Houston on Monday even  though it was a very uncomfortable drive, to say the least. The next day I went to class and our head honcho, who appointed me as a steward as well as regional vice president and who lives pretty close to me, saw how I was hurting. He also knew my ongoing health issues, so he told me I should see somebody medical.

Since my home is almost 90 miles away, I went to the ER at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. I won’t waste time with the ridiculous conversation I had with a VA Police officer, except he needs more attention to the fact that people who come by themselves to the emergency room might just be sick or injured.

I was glad to find out I had no broken rib or fractured neck after an X-ray and Cat scans. I was given a shot of Toradol for pain, as well as Robaxin, and left the hospital wearing a light cervical collar.

This morning I felt a good bit better. I ordered a seemingly healthy, and well over-priced, breakfast. I had a poached egg white and tasso hash. I ordered some sausage which turned out to be four breakfast-type sausages. I didn’t care for any of it although I ate the egg, garnished with some type of greenery, and the sausage. I was running late, so I quickly signed the hotel guest ticket and walked to my class.

When I went to class I chatted with someone while drinking some cold water and waiting to get a cup of coffee. With no notice — well, I did have some mild nausea early — I began puking before there was anything I could do. I opened a door which I thought might quickly exit. In reality, it was the floor’s catering kitchen. I began upchucking every bit of my food this morning until way after there was nothing to vomit. It didn’t escape me that the cooks and waitstaff probably would have wanted me to hurl somewhere else. But they treated me with kindness, gave me a large waste container and some napkins,  as did a classmate who only stuck her hand from behind the door.

After resting an hour or so, in between some unpleasant stomach pain, I felt better. I don’t know if all of what happened is gone because I had some other digestive issues this afternoon. The problem could have been from medicine — both medicines I had orally and  had been injected at the VA hospital — both list nausea and diarrhea — and are listed as possible side effects of both drugs.

I may have had some bad food although I doubt the food I ate in the hotel this morning prompted my stomach problems because I had just finished eating 30 minutes before. The only other food that could have set me off was some fast food I had before leaving the VA. That would be quite ironic if that was the cause.

On returning to my hotel room I spotted a couple of the wait staff preparing to serve a dinner for some function. I felt kind of peevish seeing the ladies but I smiled broadly. One of the two Hispanic women asked me how I was feeling. I said “Fine.

“I’m sorry for barging in this morning,” and proceeded onward.

Hopefully, I will survive the next day and head home on Friday.


Just another day in America. Right?

This has been one of those extraordinary days in America.

Two presidents — one white and former president and one black who is the president — spoke on the same page praising work of the five Dallas police officers killed in an ambush following a protest march on July 7.

A former Democratic party presidential candidate and the presumptive Democratic candidate embraced in a showing of party unity.

Hey there, take a look at my neck it's a lot like your's. That is if your neck looks anything like mine.  (It actually is my MRI neck picture) MRI image. Copyright 2016. Dick at EFD
Old man take a look at my neck it’s a lot like your’s. That is if your neck looks anything like mine. (It actually is my MRI neck picture) MRI image. Copyright 2016. Dick at EFD. Oh, and Fair Use paraphrasing Neil Young’s “Old Man” which is a hell of a good song.

The U.S. attorney general was grilled by Republicans who demanded to know why she didn’t refer charges against the presumptive Democratic candidate in a politically-charged scandal over e-mails.

One of eight Supreme Court justices said she could not imagine a presidency under the presumptive Republican candidate.

All of this took place today as I sat in the Parkinson’s Disease clinic at the Houston VA waiting to see my neurologist. Oh, I don’t have Parkinson’s, at least I don’t think so.

I began reading an interesting article on one major problem I do have, that is maintaining balance. The article was in “Neurology Now,” a title I previously didn’t know. But this magazine had an attractive cover layout that pictured the former California first lady, who also was once an NBC television news correspondent, and a member of the famous Camelot clan from which came a murdered, young U.S. president. That lady shouldn’t be former anything and proves she isn’t by speaking out on Alzheimer’s Disease.

The article, which I have yet to finish, suggests Tai Chi and other methods can help older folks to maintain balance. You, the reader reading this blog, may read this article  before I do. I have had concerns over the last couple of years, since my balance had gone awry, that I might get stopped by police and asked me to perform a field sobriety test. I don’t drink and drive, anymore at least. Buy my balance is way out of whack and that would be the first thing I would tell police. Well, I would tell them right after saying: “No,” I would not perform any tests.

Before I finished the article my neurologist, a very nice lady who came from India to help veterans, gave me about 10 shots of Botox. The Botox shots — I have received about four or five sets — have been in my head, neck and face to attempt helping the great pain I suffer from my cervical spine and the osteoarthritis that has savaged my neck over the years.

The shots today were in the back of my neck in a peripheral area of my spine.

My neck felt better, for the first time since I have received the shots, although after the drive back from Houston the neck is back to its painful ways. My lower back has, in the interim, become much more painful among standing and walking. That has been attributed to the diagnosis I was given of a rare disease called “Arachnoiditis.” And as I must always point out, the disorder has nothing to do with spiders.

I will be checking in my self-examination mirror to determine if the Botox has made the back of my neck appear any younger. In the meantime, my doctor said she will say what, if anything, she will do about my lower back.

This was what happened in my day, another day in America.

The VA: Administrative medical malpractice?

It is a day off. Like so many days off I have had over the past year or two, I have to spend it somehow with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last year it seemed as if I was going to a specialist at the Houston VA every off day I could take. This time, I am trying to fight what I call a grand instance of administrative medical malpractice.

I know medical malpractice is a serious charge. I also know the VA really gets its panties in a bunch when malpractice is alleged. Rightfully so for the VA go in to conniption fits over any kind misdeed. It seems so many problems have beset the nationally socialized medicine outfit that is supposed to help military veterans.

As I have written for many years, a great number of problems experienced by the VA are institutional. The funding from Congress is sporadic and with each presidential administration the Department often floats to hither and yon, often times in directions that just seem impossible to fathom. Likewise, when some big media expose on wrongdoing at the VA surfaces, the Department often trips over its own feet in what is essentially over-correcting screw-ups of its own doing.

All of this may have led to my case which involves what I call administrative medical malpractice. As is the case more times than not, in any situation, money is the root of the evil.

Since leaving my full-time job almost 11 years ago, the VA has been my only medical provider. Although, my pay has gone up over the years, I am still a part-time worker. My earnings per year aren’t particularly stellar despite my gross pay — not the amount you get after this deduct or the other — being about $2,000 over the threshold for a single person to avoid prescription co-pays. Over the years, with various medical problems my medical co-pays now run about $100 a month or more. But because my gross salary exceeded some magical amount, the VA told me out of the blue that I must now pay past co-payments on prescription drugs. Such news was a shock. This is because the VA basically said for the past four years or so that I need not take the so-called “means test” to determine one’s eligibility for VA health care. I asked several people at the VA if I should take a means test and they said, in essence, “Don’t worry about it.”

I was quite surprised when I got a bill a few months ago for nearly $3,000 in back co-payments. The bills I had seen during the recent years showed charges being written off. You would think written off would mean “you don’t have to pay it.”

More than $1,000 was eventually written off after I sent a waiver request. But I was told I still must pay about $1,200 plus the $100 a month for new charges. Although I have had a few thousand dollars in savings that I planned to use to purchase a cheap piece of land and a used, cheap, camping trailer, I make barely enough to do more than sit around the place where I reside, getting older. I have followed the VA’s prescribed methods to settle the charges, though waivers, request for charges to be written off, and finally I offered what I thought was a decent settlement.

I never heard from the VA until receiving another letter and bill saying that because I make too much in gross salary, I will now have to pay back co-payments for medical visits as well as those for future ones. In most cases over the last several years I have been seen  by physicians assistants instead of doctors or even specialists. Sometimes I would be seen by a nurse rather than a doctor and still be charged as if I was seeing a doctor. Finally, I decided last month to dispute my bill.

The “Notice of Dispute” was sent in to the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Houston. I told them what had gone on over the years and that I now disputed the bills in total because I was never given any idea that I would have to pay those past bills. Had I known that, I would have sent in waiver applications each month as I once proposed to a billing person at the Houston VA. But they said I wouldn’t have to do that.

I received a letter from the Houston VA the other day signed by the interim director of the facility, a Christopher R. Sandies, MBA, FACHE.

The letter acknowledged my letter of a month ago, which was actually the dispute notice. The letter told me the reason why I must pay a co-payment for prescriptions — but didn’t address the co-payments for medical visits. Nor was their any mention of my previous settlement offer. Then the missive listed a couple of the options I had: either pay or waive the balance, such measures which I had already tried ad nauseam. I was told I could talk to the facility billing manager who I’ve tried to contact for more than a month and still cannot reach.

In the meantime, I owe more than $2,600 which I suppose may be collected soon from my salary if I don’t do something quick. I am planning to file for disability soon and will likely have to reduce my working time to between 16 and 20 hours a week. I may need to stop working at all because of my disabilities. At least I will likely need not worry about paying for my VA care then.

I consider it ironic that some people are happy to get work just to acquire health benefits for their family. It seems I will have to leave work soon in order to obtain health care benefits.

(Oh, I also once filed a complaint about my problems with my local congressman Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Weber of Texas. My situation seemed to deteriorate as time marched on and I never heard anything from his office.  Thanks for nothing congressman!)

The Dick’s philosophy for graduating, future, leaders.

Bloggers note: As sometimes happen, I accidentally hit the “Publish” button long before the post is ready to publish. Thus, I have to start editing and “Update” and on and on and on. Thank you. I hope you all  have a nice day!

160527-N-SQ432-026 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2016) -- Newly commissioned Navy Ensigns and Marine 2nd Lieutenants from the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2016 throw their midshipmen covers in the air at the end of their graduation and commissioning ceremony May 27 at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. The U.S. Naval Academy commissioned 788 Ensigns into the U.S. Navy and 256 2nd Lieutenants into the U.S. Marine Corp. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Jonathan L. Correa/RELEASED)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Newly commissioned Navy Ensigns and Marine 2nd Lieutenants from the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2016 throw their midshipmen covers in the air at the end of their graduation and commissioning ceremony May 27 at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. The U.S. Naval Academy commissioned 788 Ensigns into the U.S. Navy and 256 2nd Lieutenants into the U.S. Marine Corp. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Jonathan L. Correa.)

Okay, I ran a similar — actually, the same photo subject, before, only it was taken 11 years ago — picture before. It’s Memorial Day. We are supposed to memorialize our warriors who died in battle. We can do that. But we can also wish the best for our future Navy and Marine Corps officers.

Having served as a Navy enlisted man during the Viet Nam Era, I can also remind our future officers, don’t be a dick. Well, my name is Dick. But I mean don’t be an asshole or a horse’s ass.

Many of these officers suddenly find themselves in command over a certain number of enlisted people, from the most senior enlisted to the lowliest boot camp sailor. Some of these officers will prove to be great leaders. Others, who graduate from either Annapolis or from the various other college and service programs, should get out of the military as soon as possible.

One does not automatically take the reins of leadership just because they are commissioned as ensigns or second lieutenants. That is, just as becoming a petty officer does not automatically thrust the mantle of a great leader of men or women on any one person.

Most of the time during my short stint as a third- and second-class petty officer didn’t involve leading men. The times I did have to step in as a leader was mostly successful because, I mean, come on, it wasn’t like I was leading in battle. Still, for even the simplest of tasks, one must order someone to accomplish what can often meet with stubborn objection.

One time while serving on a Navy destroyer, for some reason, I was told to take a few less-senior sailors, who were already picked although they weren’t tasked by me, to install new “non-skid ladder safety treads” on the inclined ladder which we walked up and down from our berthing area up to the mess decks. These were treads fastened by screws on the inclined ladder that took us from our berthing area up to the mess decks or the forward head. We would also have to ascend another ladder to the main deck, but we were only told to do our treads. It was surprisingly simple.

The job took a little elbow grease, but other than that it was no problem. There might have been some other little j0bs around our berthing area. It wasn’t really difficult. I was never told to do a lot of jobs like “swabbing the deck.” Even when I was stationed at a Seabee training center, we had students who were on extra duty from punishment to clean the offices. I happened to be the senior petty officer around that day in our living area on the ship, so I was in charge. One of the guys in my division, who was I suppose an E-3, or Seaman, didn’t want to help out. He just flat out didn’t want to do it. I tried reasoning with him. That didn’t work. I could have just done the job by myself and the others. That just didn’t seem right. Finally, I had to threaten to “write him up,” which means filing a report which would likely send this young guy to  captain’s mast, or before the commanding officer, for what is called “Non-judicial punishment.” I happened to be the Legal Yeoman, or the person who handled the legal work and forms on the ship. So I knew very well how to write someone up. I would have charged him with Article 92 — failure to obey an order or regulation — of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. Now this wouldn’t go on the guy’s permanent record, unless he decided to make a career of the Navy or if for some reason the Old Man (the CO) decided to refer this to a court-martial. That could be serious — think felony charge by the U.S. government.

So the dude was pissed off at me for threatening him but he ended up doing his task. He got over it.

Thus, I congratulate those who are graduating, either from college or high school, and for whatever reason want to join the military. If and when you may be called to lead men or women, just remember, don’t be a dick!



Hey Trump, you can fix everything. Fix the parking at the Houston VA Hospital.

My nerves jangle these days when I hear Donald Trump speak on things he obviously knows little about. That makes for a lot of jangling. His “bull in a China shop” way of taking on various problems — like deporting 11 million illegal immigrants — defies that which is merely ludicrous. When I hear Trump talk about problems with the VA, I just want to throw things at him though I do need a functioning TV scream.

The Donald. Photo by Michael Vadon. Courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons
The Donald. Photo by Michael Vadon. Courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons

Trump cites stories in which a vet waited for six days in a VA emergency room to get care. Not one for the details, Trump did not say whether he stayed in the waiting for those six days or whether he went back home at the end of day. Having been to four VA hospitals over 30 years, I can’t imagine someone waiting in a VA emergency room who had to wait even a day for emergency care.

Fix this Trump!
Fix this Trump!

Quite a few of Trump’s prevarications have been analyzed over the past year or so when it comes to veterans isssue.

One such claim by The Donald is that Arizona Republican Sen. John S. McCain had abandoned the veterans and had  written legislation that would cover up the Arizona VA Hospital scandal. Read this story from factcheck.org.

As for the big “telethon” he held for veterans a few weeks ago — a product of Trump’s enormous ego while dodging Fox News’ Megyn Kelly at a debate — an article over the past weekend recorded only three of the 22 veterans groups has received any of the $6 million Trump raised. This information comes via the Republican blog Red State.

Trump has no idea what problems our nation’s veterans face. He can shoot off his mouth about some portion of  a problem the VA has and says he can fix it, nuthin’ to it. He can fix things with a snap of a finger. He doesn’t say how he would fix it.

Here is a problem at the VA hospital where I see doctors. It should be right up the builder and showman’s alley. The Dr. Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Medical Center in Houston has a horrific parking problem. There are really, in fact, two parking lots for patients and visitors to the 118-acre facility. There is a company from California that is contracted to operate a valet service. The rest of the space for parking goes to its more than 4,100 employees. And even some of the employees report having difficulty finding parking.

The line for valet parking is always a long one. Once you pull up and have someone take your car, there is no telling how long it will take for the patient to wait on his car coming back. I don’t do the valet parking. I don’t like someone else driving my truck. I don’t know the valet’s competency or whether the driver might hurt themselves and sue me.

So, when I plan a trip from Beaumont to Houston I put in at least an extra half-hour for parking. I have driven around in one of the lots for as long as 45 minutes, just driving around the parking lot in circles. When I spot someone head to a car, I’m on it. I pull  up near the departing driver and signal to see if he is pulling out. I have had luck. I’ve had no luck.

The VA says that a parking structure is being built. No word yet as to how long it will take and how many cars it will hold. I fear that building more spaces will bring more cars. VA officials in Houston have said one problem that was fought was that the free parking was used by employees of other hospitals within the Texas Medical Center. These employees would park and catch a city bus to work. Supposedly, that is solved now with cross-arms and tickets that must be validated inside. So WWTD? What Would Trump Do?

Parking? Trump might ask with bluster.” That’s below me. Tell the head guy there to go build a big tower. We will name it Donald Trump Parking Tower”. It will likely cost $20 million and be the victim of continuous cost overruns. By the time the structure is finished it will be obsolete.

Just a little thought about Donald Trump and his veterans plans.