A Vietnam vet’s letter from rural Vermont

I spent some time yesterday in an Urgent Care office about three miles from our house reading a local newspaper (LINK) while my old Marine was getting his broken toe tended to.  A letter authored by Al Walsky of Berkshire (VT) grabbed my attention. Mr Walsky is an involved citizen who attends legislative meetings to share his opinions.  He lives alone. It is not online so here are some excerpts:

“Although this veteran survived the devastating Tet Offensive in Vietnam my life nearly ended on my kitchen floor on July 6th as a “death of benign neglect” due to cuts in the veteran healthcare and social services. The cause of my near death experience was undiagnosed septic pneumonia.  I was so weak I couldn’t even sit up.”

The Rescue Squad got him to Northwestern Medical Center (not part of UVM’s monopoly) where he spent three inpatient days getting the care he needed.  Worried about finances, he left a day early.

The private regional hospital that saved this veteran’s life. General car and bus routes shown.

He blasted his state Rep. Murphy (Transportation Com. member) as “very cold and unresponsive” to his needs as a legally blind veteran and hopes she isn’t re-elected.

“Getting to necessary  medical appointments is problematic for veterans who have to depend on charity…

From what I can determine, the nearest VA clinic ( VISN 1) is about  37 miles (as those pesky crows fly?) away in Newport, and Burlington is about 53 miles away–so it’s possible he hasn’t been able to get non-VA “choice” appointments closer to his home.  Traveling these roads in winter is very risky.

He has a warning for everyone:  “During convalescence I’ve found the services of the Visiting Nurses, the home aid program, and Meals on Wheels program to be problematic.”  Why? Because he wasn’t deemed a falling risk, the nurses “refused” him.  The Home Aid told him his house was too messy and Meals on Wheels restricted him to their timetable. No haircuts were available through home aid either.

He makes a number of other salient points and ends with “I am documenting my health concerns so that should I die there will be an audit trail to prevent other deaths.”

There is one bus going through Berkshire to St. Albans–a large town for Vermont.  The bus makes several stops but does not go to the hospital and its doctor offices! Someone has to walk, according to G–maps, 19 minutes for health care–on a nice day with no disabilities to contend with.

My thoughts. Non-Va care is supposed to be much more available next year, but that’s next year.  Meals on Wheels is a good program but local grocery stores could fill in if they had home delivery services.  Computer access is not a given in the boonies but one could order food from Amazon.  Local stores, if you don’t want us to order online, show us that you want our business and deliver.  The Home Aid’s comment:  Well, when old folks are sick, and legally blind, the dusting doesn’t get done well.  That’s why you have a job.  If the pay was better, would the employee be more sensitive?  In these uncivil days…..hard to say.  Haircuts–yes, this is an issue and many nice retirement communities have onsite salons.  But the cost is prohibitive for many.  Occasionally a local church will hold a “free haircuts” day.

Then there are some folk who like their privacy and their walls. Although Robert Frost’s narrator questioned wall building in his poem, Mending Walls (LINK) his neighbor said, “Good fences make good neighbours.”  Rural isolation and beauty calms until it doesn’t because it gets too hard to cope with what used to be sheer pleasure.

VA transportation sometimes contracts with van services that are located miles away from where the actual need is instead of working with local transporters.

Rural transportation takes good neighbors and representatives that give a damn when times are tough.


Image from the book “A Journey Through Literary America” Robert Frost’s cabin in Ripton, VT

About Laura

NW Vermont.
This entry was posted in All about Veterans, Food for the soul, Food for thought, Future Veterans, General Messages, Guest authors, Inspirational Veterans, non-va care, VA Health Care and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Vietnam vet’s letter from rural Vermont

  1. Michael Oliver says:

    Wasn’t what Abraham Lincoln had in mind toward his veterans. This/his transport problem is the problem many vets with their sight have as well, I cannot imagine it without sight, nonetheless the attendant function sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, esp. when the attendant cannot be trusted but holds the function nobody else wants. My late best friend in Houston was refused antibiotics which may have had a positive impact on the pneumonia that took his life. V.A.’s excuse was they had been over prescribing. Travel weather in this/ his eastern area can be prohibitive: even for so-called normal folks. How about envisioning a homeless, sightless vet attempting to get to his V.A. clinic thirty five miles away with a rising temperature from his pneumonia: not a pretty picture.

    • Kiedove says:

      Over-prescribing because of the Superbug threat? An ER nurse I know said they’ve been told to withhold anti-biotics and pain meds. Completely irrational. Don’t save my life now because someday I might get a Superbug. And withholding pain meds after major surgery causes great stress and makes recovery longer. This policy happened because of the drug addicts; fears that everyone would end up addicted. But that’s nonsense. It was driven by social conditions and science but first by politics because they don’t want to fund evidence-based recovery programs.

      Your friend was a victim of malpractice it sounds like. So sorry. I wonder if there was a pattern that is recognizable. Too many septic deaths within a certain time frame? Lawsuit?

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