Local Veteran Says VA Did Not Get Him Needed Insulin
MERCEDES – A Rio Grande Valley veteran said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs couldn't supply him the insulin he depends on due to a computer glitch.
Vietnam veteran Feliciano Cuadra Jr. currently battles a number of health problems.
"In 1973, I started having a lot of skin problems. Then I developed high blood pressure, Idevelopedcardio-vascular disease, I had kidney problems and renal failure. I've had six heart attacks," said Cuadra.
He said over the years, doctors have been telling him these problems are related to his military service.
In 1987, he was diagnosed with diabetes and has needed insulin ever since. Cuadra claims it's been getting harder for him to get the proper dosage of insulin from the VA.
"I knew it wasn't enough because I use 100 units every day. So, I went to the nurse and told her 'Look, in a few days, I'm going to run out of insulin,'" he notes.
Cuadra told CHANNEL 5 NEWS he noticed he was running out so he called the VA in Harlingen. He was told by a VA representative he would be given extra insulin. But when Cuadra tried to pick his medication up last Friday, he had trouble.
"They told me that the computers were down, we can't give you nothing," he said.
On Monday morning, after a weekend without insulin, Cuadra called a nurse to describe symptoms of pain in his stomach he was experiencing.
"He says, 'You better go to the emergency room right now because that's an indication that pain can cause kidney failure, and you're going to die,'" he said.
Cuadra said he went to a hospital in Harlingen on Monday. He said he had to use Medicare to pay for his treatment and for insulin. The VA did not have a contract with the hospital he visited.
Felix Rodriguez, Hidalgo County veteran's service officer, said the problem was clearly within the VA office.
"There must have been some lack of communication there somewhere between the VA clinic, and it's certainly not the veteran's fault. Somewhere along the line, somebody dropped the ball," Rodriguez said.
We reached out to the VA in Harlingen. They told us when the computer system crashed last week, their health care system immediately implemented continuity plans. This is done to ensure the continuity of care for veterans, according to the agency.
Rodriguez added someone like Cuadra simply must act to defend their own health if they need medicine. He said they must act quickly if they feel the VA is giving them the run-around.
"If you need it absolutely. Say you have a very serious case, say diabetes or whatever the case may be and you need the medication immediately. Then I would purchase it out-of-pocket, then perhaps engage the VA and see about getting reimbursed," he noted.
Rodriguez added if you are trying to get reimbursed by the VA, let them know it wasn't your fault, and that you needed the medicine quickly.
If you are having a problem getting your medicine from the VA, there are places you should call.
Rodriguez said you should first contact the Harlingen VA Outpatient Clinic. If the leadership of that organization cannot give you answers, then call your county's veteran's service officer and also congressional lawmakers about your concerns.
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