No Excuse, Follow-up

Published: May 4, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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On Monday, I contacted Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s office and explained about Dennis Haines’s battle with the V.A. system.

A Vietnam veteran and recipient of both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Haines had been approved to receive drug treatment for the Hepatitis C he had contracted through tainted blood while in a military hospital. While the treatment and payment by the V.A. had been approved, the treatment protocol has been consistently delayed. I also reached out to a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer who writes about V.A. issues.


On Tuesday, I made a follow-up call to Toomey’s D.C. office, left a voice message, and then called his Philadelphia office. A constituent representative in the Philly office confirmed that they had received my e-mail request and that a representative in the Allentown office was working on the case. The Allentown rep. told me that it was important to get Dennis’s phone number in order for her to contact him, directly.

In the meantime, I received an updated message from Haines through his former military surgeon, John Baldwin:

“John, Made some progress today!

“I first called the patient choice office and that always goes right to voicemail. Called three times, no luck!

“Called the patient advocate, no one answered there! Then I called Hershey Medical Center and talked to Dr. Riley’s nurse. She told me the prescription was faxed to the V.A. on April 18, that’s two weeks ago, today!

 “I asked if there was anything they could do to put pressure on the V.A. She was able to give me the name and extension for the pharmacist handling the prescription – more information than I ever got from the V.A. I got a hold of the pharmacist, and she had been off for family emergency and now trying to catch up. She said she’ll get back to me this week. If I don’t hear from her by Friday, I’m to call back.”

Baldwin wrote back, reminding Haines about the people I have contacted on his behalf. “If the press or the Senator’s office call,” Baldwin told him, “be honest. You tell them exactly what has happened: the years of delay and procrastination, not just [over the] past couple months. This has been a LONG time in denial.

“The press and the Senator are on your side. You are backed up in the foxhole with firepower. Let them get you and others like you, the treatment they have earned, deserve and paid for. You will be helping not just yourself but all the others who have NO VOICE.”

I passed the Haines message onto the reporter at the Inquirer who said she would take a look at the story provided on my website and get back to me.

In the meantime, I received a call back from Senator Toomey’s representative in his Washington office. I explained that I had located the representative in the Allentown office who was handling the case. The Washington contact was pleased, but reminded me to call back if I had any further questions.

Late yesterday, I received Dennis’s cell phone number, and although it was past working hours, I left a voice message for the Allentown rep. with the best number to reach Dennis. I left a message for Dennis giving him the Allentown representative’s number and urged him to call and talk to her as soon as possible.

Based on Haines’s latest message, it now looks like he will receive the approved treatment soon…. but we’ve heard this before.

However, none of the difficulty he has faced was necessary. It is just one more story from hundreds if not thousands of vets who end up battling a system that was designed to give them the care they earned and deserved after years of service to their country.

On the field of combat, there are no “family emergencies.” Troops don’t wait around for faxes, or for the “right” person to “get back to them.” They follow the orders given and provide the results necessary, period.

The story is not over.


  1. No, the story is not over, and many thanks to Jim for going “to bat” for Dennis on this issue.

    When I operated on Dennis, it was pure chance. I was chief of surgery at the 24th Evac in 1968, a drafted heart/thoracic/vascular and general surgeon from UCSF, age 34. It was in the midst of a mass casualty situation and all 8 ORs were running fast and full. A 19 year old Sergeant named Dennis Haines arrived in a chopper-load of wounded. The right side of his head was blown away from two AK-47 hits and he was bleeding to death. All neurosurgeons were “busy,” as in gowned and operating. Their colonel looked at me and said, “Can you do this one?” And I did, but it took 35-40 bottles of blood which were drawn on arrival from Newbies arriving from the USA.

    We really did not know about Hepatitis C. We knew A and B. We were retarded back then. That there NOW is a medication which miraculously KILLS the virus and CURES the patient is incredible; however, far more incredible is the reluctance of our “system” to honor those like Dennis who gave it all. To this day, his entire left side does not “work” and he cannot drive a car and yet he never EVER asked for food stamps or welfare. Just went to college in a wheelchair and designed with his only working hand, his right, the new University Pennsylvania Hershey Medical Center. And they cannot find the time or people to give him the new medication.

    PEOPLE: get mad. It can and will happen to you if it can happen to Dennis. Thank you Jim for stepping WAY UP.

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