Since President Trump took office, he has been speculated on his intention to privatize important parts of the vast health care system of Veterans Affairs Canada. Last week, the administration took its biggest final step in this direction by making public the rules allowing veterans living more than 30 minutes away from a V.A. health facility to choose to receive private care instead.
Many Democrats and most veterans' organizations have opposed such policies, arguing that diverting funds from V.A. hospitals and clinics will damage care for needy veterans. I am anything but a supporter of Mr. Trump, of his horrible treatment of women and his anti-government agenda. But as a former Marine Corps officer who needed quality health care, I am delighted with this decision.
I am a victim of a sexual assault that took place years before joining the army. But this experience has less marked me than the years of fierce misogyny and sexual harassment that I have experienced among the Marines. This has shaped much of my point of view as a patient VA, and unfortunately I am not alone.
In the last 15 years, I have been receiving care from at least seven V.A. medical centers in the Northeast. I've also spent several years as a national advocate for women veterans and women and men victims of sexual assault or harassment in uniform. I learned that far too many veterans who are victims of gender discrimination or sexual violence in the military also suffer a great deal because they are forced to use V.A. facilities.
On several occasions, I have had inappropriate behavior of personal V.A. because I am a woman. I am always confused with the wife or guardian of a veteran. I still have to remind the medical staff to close the curtains so that I am not subject to the eyes of male patients – and they are not subject to mine. And just a few months ago, I reported the sexual harassment of a male doctor who, in my opinion, had been personally inappropriate during an initial clinical evaluation. He then not only entered an acupuncture appointment while I was in underwear, but he stayed and watched for a moment until, bewildered, I told him I said that he had to leave.
For many veterans who have experienced sexual or gender-based trauma, a simple appointment at VA L & # 39; hospital leads to intensive re-traumatization – for me, hypervigilance, panic attacks and emotional crises are normal. Many of us have "fighting companions" during our hospital visits so that these symptoms do not overwhelm us. I now bring my certified assistance dog.
As a veteran woman, I try to ignore shameless looks. I lower my eyes, or off, so as to avoid unwanted conversations. I make myself as small and invisible as possible. I have acquired these skills to a science. But it's always exhausting. And more specifically, veterans should not have to deal with inappropriate behavior before seeing a nurse or doctor.
We should not be surprised by these problems. VIRGINIA. the staff – whether civilian or former military – is largely inspired by the hypermasculine military culture. Detractors of the administration often invoke the comfort of veterans for military culture as the main reason why we should support the status quo. Even the current Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, said that veterans "want to go to places where people speak the language and understand the culture." But for those of us for whom the military culture itself is the source of trauma, the V.A. is the last place where we can expect positive results.
Veterans' service organizations that largely oppose the privatization of VA can also be disconnected from the needs of a younger and more diverse veteran population. Most patients are older men whose cultural norms about gender are becoming more and more obsolete. #MeToo may have hit many institutions across the country, but it seems to have barely made a dent in the VA and among many veterans groups.
For all these reasons, I support the radical changes made to the V.A., even if they come from a doubtful architect with less than honest motives. It's not only humiliating, but also traumatic, to walk in front of a framed photo of the president – a self-cat dyer – pausing for the cat – on her way to V.A. rendez-vous. But the fact is inevitable: the V.A. Mr. Trump's policies have already helped me and other veterans.
The Veterans Choice program, V.A's most recent experience in extending private health care for veterans with long waiting lists or long travel times, has changed my life. Due to waiting time of more than six weeks at the VA In hospitals and clinics closest to me, I benefited from two years of physiotherapy appointments with excellent health care providers. civilian health. I was not worried about my own physical or emotional safety. I could just concentrate on my treatment.
And as I saw providers in my neighborhood, I saved on travel costs and dozens of hours of commute time. My roundtrip to the nearest V.A. The hospital takes two hours, on a metro line with no elevator for people with disabilities, followed by a bus ride on one of the slowest lines in New York.
It is not necessary to completely privatize the V.A. To do it better. But we should not wait for years to access the best suppliers in safe, welcoming, state-of-the-art facilities. We can work to improve the system while ensuring that veterans who are not satisfied with their care have a choice. Veterans deserve better.