Shameful: An Update

Published: February 5, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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VA-PBS

In Monday’s commentary (Shameful), I wrote that, according to a report in Newsweek magazine, approximately 174,000 vets who contracted Hepatitis C through tainted blood while serving in Viet Nam have been struggling to get treatments from the Veterans Administration. Due to the extreme cost of the drug, Sofosbuvir, only about 15 percent have been treated thus far.

In an update at the end of that story, former vascular surgeon Maj. John Baldwin (Ret.) sent me a recent memo from the FDA that stated that the administration had approved the drug Zepatier for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis C.

However, I was unable to determine if the new drug had, in fact, been approved and is planned for use by the VA to help the thousands of veterans currently suffering.

I reported on SP4 Dennis Haines (Ret.), in 2009. After receiving a bullet to the head, Haines was flown to the 24th Evac in critical condition with two wounds to the side of his head. Chief Surgeon John Baldwin operated on Haines and, through his skill and God’s miracle, the 18-year-old soldier survived.

I reached out to Haines, a Pennsylvania resident who has been suffering from Hep C for some time now, and asked if he had any new information.

“Jim, I don’t really know!

“I saw the infectious disease doctor not long ago, and she is trying to get me to an outside provider, but so far no one has let me know what’s going on!

“Here’s the deal, as I’ve been told! The VA 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 VA 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 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!”

Comments

  1. My only comment is that as president of Vietnam Veterans’ Chapter 391, the LARGEST in California, and #6 in the USA, I have heard all these stories a hundred times. If only 50% are true, the VA system has failed its mission and those who say, “They shuffle the stacks of paper that we fill out and wait for us to die” are correct. Dennis Haines, Purple Heart, Bronze Star Valor, architect with one-hand on computer designed Hershey Medical Center as Architectural CEO, and to think, his Hepatitis C from our 30+ bottle of blood to save his life back in 1968 has been treated for three years with BRUTAL chemotherapy which is CHEAP, rather than the NEW totally CURES YOU medication that Mr. Lichtman refers to. “Waiting for him to die”…and yet, COST is under $2,000, but “retail” is $50,000. Go figure….

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