Given pre-existing understaffing across the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Spinal Cord Injury & Disorder (SCI/D) system of care, Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) was initially concerned that a VA hiring freeze would further exacerbate issues with access to care and staff turnover. We are relieved to tell you that senior VA officials have stated the hiring freeze, as it turns out, will not affect clinical staff hiring.
To ensure our members continue to receive quality health care throughout the transition at VA, the Medical Services Team at the Paralyzed Veterans' National office remains available to assist our members with any access to care or other barriers to receiving the appropriate level of care. We also strive to ensure our members have accurate and current information to make informed choices about their health care, beginning with these two questions:
When was the last time you had a comprehensive annual evaluation at a VA SCI/D Center?
Have you faced any challenges to gaining timely admittance to an SCI/D Center for acute care, an annual exam, inpatient rehabilitation, respite care, or surgery?
We realize that some of our members are inconvenienced by having to travel great distances for an annual exam or acute care, but here is what you need to know:
- SCI/D Primary Care Teams located at outpatient clinics (also referred to as "spokes") are established to provide routine health care services that do not require the complex level of care offered at a SCI/D Center.
- For more serious, non-routine, or highly SCI/D-specific care or treatment, an SCI/D center is the best option. It is the only facility equipped to handle the complete gamut of care you will need.
As health care experts, we highly encourage you to seek medical treatment at a SCI/D Center for the following:
- Comprehensive Annual Examination
- Surgical and post-surgical care
- Pressure/Seat mapping
- Pressure Ulcer
- Renal (kidney stones/reoccurring UTI)
- Urodynamic studies
- Wheelchair assessments
- Chronic pain (unresolved)
As mentioned earlier, we do realize that not every member lives within close proximity of an SCI/D center, and the temptation will be to do what is most convenient rather than what is clinically recommended. That convenience can have severe consequences.
For instance, long-term irritation of the bladder wall increases the risk of bladder cancer. SCI/D veterans who experience frequent urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and irritation of the bladder brought on by catheterization are at an increased risk of bladder cancer. Screening (cystoscopy, CT scan of bladder and abdomen) must take place by experts within SCI/D Centers who are trained in the specialty care needs of SCI/D veterans.
The lack of specialized care can result in deterioration of an individual's health, and lead to death. This is just one example among many where the choice you make largely determines the risk you are willing to take.
Contact a member of Paralyzed Veterans of America's national health care team at MedicalServices@pva.org or 1-800-232-1782 for guidance. You can also contact your local Veterans Health and Benefits Specialists (NSO) to inform them of any barriers you are experiencing to health care at a SCI/D Center.
Lana McKenzie, RN, BSN, MBA, CCM, MHA
Associate Executive Director
Paralyzed Veterans of America