Sherry believes there are two reasons she is being denied proper medical attention: she is black and female. "We live in northern New York— a predominantly white area," she says. "I am not the only one who is being treated this way by the VA but most people won't speak up because they are afraid of getting even worse care. From what I have seen, there isn't much offered for a female veteran."
Sherry is getting increasingly concerned about her health and says she is slowly becoming paralyzed because she hasn't been treated for a ruptured disc and a nerve impinging on her neck and sciatic area.
"I was in the military for six years until an obese person fell on me—I was showing him how to get out of a vehicle when it rolls into a land mine (I was previously in Kuwait)," says Sherry. "He was in the National Guard and weighed about 300 lbs. I was honorably discharged due to my medical condition in March, 2004. A little over a year ago, I started to get numbness in the right side of my leg, then it was my entire right side and now it is affecting my left side.
"I've been to the Syracuse VA hospital to get treatment but I just get sent back to the VA clinic or my primary care doctor. Finally, my primary care physician called a doctor at the hospital to say I needed to be admitted and have surgery—that was a few weeks ago. But the VA hospital told him that they had no beds available.
I was then told to go to Samaritan Hospital in Watertown for an MRI and to see a neurosurgeon. But they just doped me up with shots for back pain and a herniated disc. The Syracuse VA would not release the MRI or other tests I had there to another hospital, even though I signed a medical release form.
I have now been to neurosurgery, pain management, even a psychiatrist. I have all of my medical records, everything that shows what should be done. My primary care doctor suggests surgery and all tests indicate that. But pain management sends me to primary care and then it goes back again—the never-ending circle.
Meanwhile, I have been away from my regular job since March 18th. I am not on disability because nobody seems to know what is going on with my medical condition and therefore I cannot apply.
It has now got to the point where I am having difficulty walking. If I put my entire foot on the ground and then my body weight follows, I get severe pain. As I explained to the VA doctor, I wake up at night and have to beat on my legs, massage them to get feeling back.
I finally raised so much hell that I got a good primary care provider. He also gave me the number of a congressman I can contact regarding the Syracuse VA hospital. He knows there is 'something going on' because he can't understand why I am being treated this way—meaning I am not getting treated. He has no problem speaking against the VA. 'I will likely get my ass chewed over this,' he said-- those were his exact words. He put a note in my medical report about being denied a bed at Syracuse. I know this because I get an updated copy of my medical records at the VA hospital.
Tomorrow I am going to the Tri-Care (medical military insurance) referral office and try to get permission to be seen and treated by a civilian doctor. My primary care doctor referred me to a civilian because we do have Tri-Care insurance but it is still a problem because I have to get permission from the military insurer. Then I will have to fight an uphill battle to try and get permission to get treatment. There is no guarantee that Tri-Care will say OK.
My biggest concern is that I have a real fear of waking up one day completely paralyzed. I sleep on the couch downstairs because we have many flights of stairs at home. There are four stories to my house: the bathroom is up one flight; the next floor is my office.
READ MORE LEGAL NEWS
I really believe that the only reason they aren't helping me is because I am a black female. I have a friend in Arkansas—a white male—with a similar problem but he didn't even see active duty. His back problems aren't even as bad as mine but he gets top-notch care.
I want whatever it takes to fix the problem. I don't want money; I just want to go back to work and have the life I was used to. I want to play sports with my son; I want to be able to drive my sports car without pain."