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Army Veteran Struggles with Chronic Pain and Veterans Affairs

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Macon, GAAsk disabled US Army Veteran Alex Pappas (pictured) what he thinks about the current VA medical malpractice controversy surrounding the department and its services and he says, “I am absolute proof of the problems with the VA. I think soldiers are only important to the government as long as they are soldiers.”

“I don’t want to sue anybody,” says 30-year-old Pappas. “I just want to be fixed or compensated.”

The way Pappas was injured, frankly, isn’t very glamourous. He wasn’t injured on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq. Instead, he was injured in a bathroom at a Duty Station in South Korea. In 2004, he was a new army recruit on his first tour, minding his own business one night, when a drunken sergeant tackled him and slammed his knees into a ceramic sink.

From that moment forward his life was changed forever.

The doctor on duty called it a sprain. Pappas was in agony and finally an MRI revealed a torn ACL ligament (anterior cruciate ligament) that required surgery. The ACL is the most important of four ligaments that connect the bones of the knee joint.

“The surgeon said the tendons looked like hamburger meat. The normal recovery time is 30 days, but I would need 90 days of recovery time,” say Pappas. “He said if you don’t get 90 days this will never heal properly,” recalls Pappas.

The base commander had a different view. “He said he’d had a similar knee injury and was back on duty after a month and I could do the same,” says Pappas.

Nine months later, the ligaments “tore from the inside out” and the army gave Pappas a medical retirement.

In the eight years that have followed, the injuries have persisted and life has been a blur of painkillers. His marriage failed, he lost his home, and there were more surgeries and failed attempts to get back to work, misfiled paperwork, delayed appointments, insurance claim forms, disability claim forms and a massive frustration with Veterans Affairs.

His compensation has ranged from 45 percent to 75 percent to 100 percent and all the way back down to 45 percent again.

“I was on pain meds from 2004 to 2008,” says Pappas. “They might as well have been vitamins.

“I went to work at the prison as a guard. But it came to the point where I just couldn’t do it. I had to go up and downstairs, chasing inmates down and I had to quit,” says Pappas.

A few months later he was going up some stairs and as he says, “it just blew again.”

The VA medical center recommended another surgery. They used part of a hamstring to try to mend the ACL. That didn’t work either. Instead of relief, Pappas got more pain, this time in his hips.

“Everything that surgeon said right after I was injured has come true,” says Pappas. “He said this is never going to heal right unless you get 90 days of recovery and that’s all come true.”

In June of this year, he made an appointment to see a doctor at a VA Medical Center. He had a bulge the size of a marble around his knee.

“I said to the doctor, listen, there is something wrong with my hamstring. I am in a lot of pain. I need an MRI.” The doctor said, “You don’t need an MRI. It won’t show anything. I am the doctor, don’t tell me what to do,” recounts Pappas. “A nurse came in and told me to go to the lobby. My brother was waiting for me there and so was the VA Medical Center security.”

They told him the nurse said he said something that sounded “like a threat.”

“I said, do you see me? I can barely stand in front of you,” says Pappas.

“I went and got my own MRI. I owe $800 for that,” says Pappas.

Out of things to do and told to wait six months for the next appointment, he went to the VA’s Patient Advocate and asked for an 1151 form. “That’s a form for medical malpractice. She said they’d send it to me.

“I really don’t want a lawsuit. But I want my compensation for the last eight years. I don’t think I can be fixed,” he says quietly.

Is he a medical malpractice case? What can be done for Alex Pappas? Who is responsible, if anyone, for a soldier being injured by the actions of another soldier? These are questions that Pappas asks over and over. “I got some dumb idea about loyalty. I don’t want to sue anybody.”

It’s not a romantic wartime injury - the kind that comes with lots of glory and a medal. But he was on company time and he expected more from the US Army and the VA.


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Posted by

Since getting into VA healthcare in 2000, l have been complaining about chonic pain in my lower back. Exrays showed nothing, but no MRI was requested until many years later. Since 2001, l’ve been on opioids until recently when the war on opioids began.

For the past four years I’ve been confined to my wheelchair because I can no longer walk unassisted. It was a slow and very painful process going from cane, to walker, and now a wheelchair all the while pain levels soared to nearly passing out at times.

Finally, this week they finally gave me the infamous sparkplug test and inserting the needles to measure the functioning of the muscle motor unit. I felt very little, and the VA doctor told me I have neuropathy. I asked will it return post surgery? The doctor said no.

I’m still awaiting the VA to determine if my surgery is approved or not, but according to this doctor, the nerve damage is now permanent in both legs. Had the VA performed back surgery years ago, I wouldn’t have neuropathy in my legs. I may be confined to a wheelchair for life now, when nearly 20 years ago I was a world class triathlete.

What are my options if any?

Posted by

I am a disabled veteran,

I get so upset reading through so many comments, basically stating more of the same stories. A bunch of forgotten promises and inadequate help. My story is a very long one it starts all the way from my enlistment to present day.

Basically they let me slide through the initial physical with cardio myopathy had it in my records the entire time and when I started feeling like I was dying from over exertion, was told for the next 3 years of service it was all in my head. Well this lead to drinking, stress and eventually a surgery for GERD acid reflux that lead the doctors to take a closer look at my heart because it stopped during the operation. I was then given a quick discharge out of the military on medical and was told the VA would take care of me.

That is exactly what they did, during my time of consulting a therapist because of the countless times I've had a cardiologist in my face telling me that I'm at high risk of dying and to stop exercising so much and bla bla bla....bravo sierra load I was forced inside the mental facility literally ushered over by the good old boys in blue and forced risperadol and other pysch medications down my throat. Promptly after 23 days booted out of the facility all doped up with a progress note that clearly states I was never to be detained. Long story short it induced a manic state, I lost friends, money, family served jail time after being placed in multiple treatment facilities and all doped up on there drugs.

I currently started dating a nurse and she has been going over my medical records and side effects of all the drugs they forced into my system and she was shocked that I am still standing. The VA needs to answer for a lot of crimes a lot of needless lives lost at the hands of what? I didn't do 8 years to come back home to have a system that was supposed to help me get my life back on track and adjust tear the ground up from beneath me and swallow me up with the rest of the countless Veterans it has done this to.

I say we all start just posting our records for public view so this kind of madness can start getting out faster and less of us have to go through this turmoil.

Posted by

This question is for any attorney - can veterans sue the VA in a class action suit that all veterans suffering at the hands of the VA can join to permanently free us from the bonds of being forced to use the VA if we are too poor to afford outside healthcare?

Posted by

I know what you all go thru with the VA. I'm very sorry it is like this.

I have been suffering from chronic nerve pain for many years since 1999, the pain originates in my cervical spine. I was working at the time for the school district trying to get on permanent.

One day I woke up in so much pain I coludnt get out of bed. I had to roll onto the floor crawl to the bathroom crying the whole way. Never had I experienced so much pain, not even when my toenail was removed and the anesthetic didn't work, and just ripping off my toenail (not At the VA for this). Since I had no medical insurance at the time I obtained state funded insurance. After obtaining the insurance was receiving good treatment and had Doctors working with me. All the sudden the state canceled my insurance and I was screwed. I lost everything I owned, House,cars and property, I mean might as well have been an earthquake, except I couldn't rebuild my life because I was broken as well.

I suffered for four years before the VA would take me as a patient.

At first things where going OK we where going thru the steps to diagnose this condition. they started shoving pills at me that did very little good at all. after MRI's ex rays, physical therapy nerve tests,More And More Pills and a couple of years the care or trying to fix my problem stooped all together.... I started being kept from the care I needed, they where trying to shove me out the door, I blamed the Doc of course figured he was frustrated with me, and I started feeling bad about myself. At this time the PTSD that I didn't know I had became unmanageable and in my pain WOW What a combo.

I switched Doctors, Guess what the same treatment? I was puzzled What did I do wrong I need Help! and they are making me feel like worse and a burden, thought they where doctors. It took a few years of pain and ridicule to make me feel so bad about myself I felt like taking my own life ("but I wont do that for nothing, I love my family more than all the pain"). The Doters making me feel like a criminal stealing benefits from who? I don't know, I mean YOU EARNED IT, I EARNED IT, SOME PAID FOR IT WITH THERE VERY LIVES. Our brothers and sisters.

Since I started getting care at the VA, I have had A serious Heart attack, PTSD out of console at times worse on medications, and I have some type of bowel problem developed from medications so far un-diagnosed.... to much

This is in no way complete list of the things I or should I say WE suffer with trying to get better. The list is personal and to long to revel here and may not be a good Idea for me since I am already scared to go to the VA. I have't had time to be afraid of anything since I was 8, and now I cant go to the VA without having a panic attack.

Posted by

I'm an enlisted vet receiving all healthcare through Madison, WI. VA. Prior to enrolling in VA care in mid-2000's, I frequented chiropractic care for chronic and acute pain in my lumbar spine related to an equestrian accident. It left me with unmanageable acute pain, but manageable chronic pain. After 15 years, I asked the VA for intervention. An MRI was taken during a chronic, not acute, pain episode. I expressed concern then that whoever reads the results will not be considering what caused the pain. My fear manifested. The doctor dismissed my claim of pain, loss of mobility and quality of life, the differences between 'normal' chronic pain, breakthrough chronic pain (daily), and acute pain when the disc herniates. It's so bad that I cannot stand, walk, or sit. I avoid food because that means elimination. It usually takes two months to return to the pre-herniated disc chronic state. I was shut-down when I stated that from the moment I get up the compression of the spine worsens throughout the day. The inflammation is palpable, visible, along with a ball of scar tissue next to the spine where the muscle tore. I had just started effective pain management with a new provider whom I respected. I began functioning at a level I hadn't been at for 3 years. My activities of daily living were improving, as was my participation in life. Less than a year into treatment, the first doctor following the MRI talked to the current care provider and convinced her not to prescribe pain relievers. At that point I'd only been treated for the symptoms of the injury, not the cause and complications from not treating it. I provided detailed chiropractic records that state how severe of mechanical misalignment. But now two providers have refused to consider those documents because there's too many and they don't have time. There's not one aspect of activity that isn't dictated by pain management. It now appears that I can't return to the short-lived improvement. That outweighs any hope I have to regain that little tease of living life more fully. It's saddening to know that I my quality of life is notably improved with pain management. Instead, the VA would rather turn a blind eye and ignore positive improvements in the patient. If money wasn't a concern, I would've gotten treatment elsewhere. I'm trapped.

Posted by

I'm not sure if my text made it through to you,I know all to well what Pappas is going through,the VA healthcare. Has blacklisted me and reall y really jacking with me ,This is what I have had to go through since the beginning ,I secured all my medical records. I had always complained that my left shoulder has always hurt all the way down to my left calf ,I was going through my records I have had a fractured clavicle they still to this day never told me about,the headaches are unreal ,during comp & pension Mrs Axley took my arms and pushed them up I almost past out. I am at a loss ,they want me to walk away .& they are cutting all veterans of pain Meds don't know what else to do I don't want to self medicate .i need someone to step in & help me these people are walking all over me

Posted by

I have served for 8 years as a Navy Reservist here in California. I started on June 2002 and Honorably Discharged on June 2010.
Before I get in, I don't have any problem or disability. However; after 2 years, I had a lumbar fusion L4 - L5. After 6 months of disability, I get back to work as a Reservist. Due to my disability, they were not allowed me to go to another country; therefore, they did not deployed me to another county. I just reported here in USA.
After my 8 years of service, I did not re-enlist.
I went to Veterans Affairs and and asked for an assistance to get the benefits for the 911 Post GI Bill. I was assisted by a retired Navy in filling up the forms for my 911 post GI Bill. He told me that my application will be sent to Muskogee Oklahoma for approval.
He guaranteed that it will be approved and can go to any school that I want to study.
After one and half month, I did not get a response. I went back to Veterans Affair in Riverside and asked for their assistance. They tried to contact the Muskogee Office but they were not able to contact them. They gave me the number and told me to try to contact the Muskogee Office in Oklahoma.
The next day, I called the Muskogee office and I spoke with one of the officer and told me that I am not eligible to get the 911 Post GI Bill, but this was approved by President Obama as indicated below:

Post-9/11 GI Bill
If you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, you may be eligible for this VA-administered program. The program has a few specific components, outlined below. You can also review the program pamphlet.
Yellow Ribbon Program
Transfer of Entitlement Option
Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship for the children of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001.
Types of Training

The following assistance is approved under the Post-9/11 GI Bill:
Correspondence training
Entrepreneurship training
Flight training
Independent and distance learning
Institutions of higher learning undergraduate and graduate degrees
Licensing and certification reimbursement
Vocational/technical training, non-college degree programs
National testing reimbursement
On-the-job training
Tuition Assistance top-up
Tutorial assistance
Vocational/technical training

Posted by

100% vet and the VA cannot come up with anything to help me with the pain in my feet/ankles/legs/lower back. I can't use the oral pain medications they want me to use because of the fluid retention. I am in those areas Legs/Ankles 60%, legs, 20% and back 20%. there are more rated but they are not connected to this. The earlier comment was correct there is no rating with a 5 on it. The rating are 10,20,30,40,50,60,70,80,90 100%. If you get anything over the 5 in a rating, meaning 56,57,58,59 it goes to the next highest number with a zero in it.

Posted by

I am a veterans disability claims advocate. There are no 45 % or 75% comp awards. They round off percents.

I FTCAed and 1151ed the VA and I won. They caused my husband's death.

For a successful FTCA and/or 1151 claim
1. you must prove that the VA was negligent, and committed negligent acts or omitted medical acts comparable with the care from the 'usual and standard medical community '( non VA health care providers)
2.that their negligence (malpractice) caused you an additional ratable disability. ( or death).

Under 1151 this is only successful, most of the time, with an independent medical opinion that describes the negligence and how it caused the resulting disability (or death) with a full medical rationale.

FTCA has a 2 year statute of limits. I FTCAed without a lawyer and believe me the VA will stoop as low as they can go, on this type of charge.

FTCAers should get a malpractice lawyer. I didnt have an independent med opinion or a lawyer but I proved VA malpractice at one NY VAMC and even a VA cover up of this malpractice. at another NY VAMC.

There is no honor in a wrongful death.
A few years ago I also proved my husband had 2 additional Agent Orange disabilities the VA malpracticed on and I was awarded direct service connected death.
That gave him Honor and gave me Peace.

This time ,for that claim ,I had obtained 2 IMOs from a real doctor.

You have every right to expect to be not only properly treated medically by VA, but also properly compensated.

Thank you for your service.

Posted by

What you have just read is accurate, and perhaps very understated. I have had similar problems with the VA.

I'm a Viet Nam Vet 1965-69, inlisted, and have endured this type of treatment for more than 40 years. The situation is sad and is not getting BETER as the Gov. would like Mr. & Mrs. Average American to believe.



Jim Maynard
100% disabled Combat Vet,P/T,Unemployable
Past VFW Post Commander, Post 487


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