Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Uncategorized

Making Appointments At The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Dearest Readers:

If you are a veteran, or if you’ve ever heard a veteran complain about VA Benefits…the process…the scheduling…the nightmares of GETTING BENEFITS, read on. You will understand and maybe be able to relate to the issues at any VA hospital. The process, to be totally honest, is like a process to get Congress to make a decision…and we all know how slow Congress is, don’t we! They move at a snail’s pace!

To those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you might remember an informative blog I wrote years ago, resulting in quite a few ‘changes’ at ER at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Let’s just say, on that occasion, I was about ready to ‘kill with kindness in ER.’ One of the nurses and I had a few words, resulting in her saying, and I quote: “He can always go somewhere else…” Thank goodness I had enough diplomacy to write in my blog, instead of having a ‘cat fight.’

Today, I’ve spent over 45 minutes attempting to get answers to “simple” questions at Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. To the lady assisting me on the telephone, having to place me on hold numerous times, I thank you for your excellent customer service skills. You appeared to listen to me and to understand. Also, when I stated just how does a Veteran not give up when the ‘process to get an appointment is so complicated,’ you listened without becoming defensive. Each time you placed me on hold, you apologized and you followed up with me. Thank you. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to get your name; nevertheless, your customer service skills on the telephone was much appreciated. How I pray someone can locate you and tell you your customer service was 1,000% on target!

Allow me a few minutes to explain:

Tuesday of this week, December 27, 2016, to be exact, was a day spent at MUSC Orthopedics in Mt. Pleasant. My husband broke his left ankle in June. For almost three months, he wore a boot, issued from the VA Hospital. He’s had numerous appointments with the orthopedic surgeon (sorry, I’m at a loss for his name) and the decision was made that he needs surgery on his left ankle. Realizing he needed a specialist, his orthopedic surgeon at the VA Hospital suggested an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon at MUSC, Mt. Pleasant. That was in September. His appointment took three months to schedule? Tuesday, a thorough examination was performed. X-rays done, and now he needs a CT scan at the VA Hospital.

“Oh no…” I thought, and then I verbalized to the staff, “You do realize it takes an act of Congress almost to get an appointment at the VA Hospital.” When the decision was made for Phil to see an orthopedic doctor in Mt. Pleasant, somehow the wires got crossed and it took THREE MONTHS to get to see the doctor in Mt. Pleasant.

Readers, are you still with me? This gets more interesting!

Understanding how complicated it is to get information and scheduling at the VA Hospital, Charleston, SC [Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center], I suggested to my husband that maybe I should phone them to get the scheduling process active. My husband has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. He doesn’t take the ‘run-around process’ well at all, and when he doesn’t get his way — well, let’s just say — he isn’t diplomatic. No. Not at all!

Anticipating another run-around process, or the expectation of – “You need to have your husband schedule this,” — today, I actually got an understanding person on the phone. I’m describing her as a customer service rep, although, I’m certain her title is not correct. Her customer service skills = A+!

After holding on the line while she checked, and after she confirmed the information of the correct ####; address, phone, etc. she was most kind and helpful to me. Thank you! When she spoke to me again, I was told:

“Your husband has to get an order from his primary care doctor for this CT scan. Then, the order needs to go to his orthopedic doctor so he can place the order. Are you still with me, readers? It gets complicated. The VA Hospital has to write an order for the CT scan to be scheduled, even though I have an order from MUSC, signed by the orthopedic surgeon???”

“But….But…as I’ve stated, we have an order from MUSC Orthopedics to schedule the CT scan…”

“Yes, Ma’am…that is the process for the VA.”

“It is no wonder Veterans get so perplexed with the VA,” I said. “It’s always either a hurry up and wait….or…. Whatever!”

By now, this customer service professional was beginning to understand how frustrated I was becoming. I was placed on HOLD once again.

In a matter of minutes, a male voice picked up, confirming who I was. I do believe it was the orthopedic surgeon at the VA Hospital. His voice was familiar. Believe me, many of those professionals have met me. I suppose they know I have been described as “Intense…BoldRefusing to take no for an answer.”

Yes. That is who I am. There are two B’s in my name!

Placed on Hold once again, I decided I needed to meditate. Inhale for four seconds. Hold breath for seven seconds, then — breathe out ever so slowly. I did not want to get frustrated, or to come across as rude. I simply wanted to get the CT scan scheduled for my husband. His left ankle hurts!

About ten minutes later, my phone beeped. I was horrified I would lose connection with Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, so I chose not to answer via call waiting.

Minutes later, my husband phoned. I answered, while praying the other line did not disconnect. Getting back in contact with the same party at the VA Hospital is another nightmare!

Speaking with my husband, he thanked me for phoning them.

“Make this quick,” I said. “I’m on hold with them.”

“And that’s why I called you,” he replied. “The CT scan is scheduled for later this afternoon. She was afraid you might’ve been disconnected, so she phoned me.”

“No run around?” I asked.

“Nope. Whatever you said got them to work through the channels to get the appointment scheduled.”

Sometimes it pays to have two B’s in my name!

Diplomacy pays when dealing with government officials. To the lady who worked through the process to get the order…and the scheduling done, I cannot thank you enough. Normally, the process is not this simple. I was expecting a three month waiting ordeal! I suppose I was ready for the ‘intense’ demeanor I have to kick in! I am known for not taking ‘NO’ for an answer!

Sometimes conducting yourself in a calm, but persuasive voice works. Today is a new day!

Thank you, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.