Last February, I reported that Vietnam Vet SP4 Dennis Haines (Ret.) was having difficulty receiving treatment for Hepatitis C, an infectious disease that affects the liver’s function. The condition was brought about when he and others were inadvertently given tainted blood while in service.
At that time (Feb. 5), Haines wrote to me about his status.
“Jim, Here’s the deal, as I’ve been told. The V.A. is given X- amount to buy Hep. C meds and was recently only treating the worst cases. That money has run out, but under the veterans’ choice they’ve given monies to send patients outside the VA to get treatment and the V.A. covers all the costs.
“I’m currently waiting to be referred to Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center. So far I’ve been approved to do that. I’m supposed to be assigned a nurse that will make all of these arrangements and then get back to me when that is done.
“It’s almost 3 months now and I still have not heard anything. Not sure what’s going on. I called last week and was told that no nurse was assigned and nothing happens further until then.
“It’s very frustrating!”
One month later, Haines writes saying, “I now have stage-4 liver damage and referred to Hershey Medical Center to see a doctor Riley, a Hep. C doctor and transplant surgeon in gastroenterology. I see him on March 31.
“When I see Dr. Riley, he will be putting me on the Harvoni (Sofosbuvir) treatment. It’s a 12 week regimen and after that, hopefully, the Hep. C will be gone! This appointment is March 31, and I’ll let you know right afterwards what will happen from there.”
Good news, to say the least.
However, now comes word, through his Vietnam surgeon, Maj. John Baldwin (Ret.), that Haines’s treatment is facing another delay.
In an April 30th e-mail to Baldwin, Haines writes the following:
“John, I’m stuck in the V.A. system again! Last week the V.A. hospital where I go received the prescription from Hershey two weeks ago! I was told the pharmacist would get in touch with me last weekend. They never did!
“I called again Monday and was told I’d be contacted, but never was. I called again yesterday, was told the lady I needed to talk to was off and to try back Monday. Told they might be in over the weekend and contact me.
“So far, no one has contacted me and don’t expect to hear from them. I’m going to call every day starting Monday and also call Dr. Riley at Hershey to see what he can do. I stopped meds that would interfere with the treatment the beginning of April and here it is the beginning of May.
“I guess I’m stuck until something happens at the V.A.! I just can’t win!”
Despite changes in leadership at the V.A., problems for vets like Dennis seem to be getting worse, not better.
If treated promptly, Hepatitis C is curable, and the drug is now available to vets with funding provided by the V.A., but, apparently, due to administrative issues, Haines, a stage-4 liver patient, is consistently put off.
I am contacting Pennsylvania state Senator Pat Toomey to see if he can take some immediate action. I will update this story when I know more.