Thursday, February 28, 2013

William Booker Welcomed Into the VA System - A Success Story

William Booker Arrives
At Seattle VA Hospital
Yesterday  (February 27, 2013) the staff at the Seattle VA Hospital welcomed Mr. William Booker, one of the last of our Tuskegee Airmen, as he went with his family through the process of getting the VA Photo ID needed to access its resources.
Until earlier this month, Mr. Booker was having difficulty gaining access to the VA system. As blogged earlier, when making inquiries as to his eligibility, his wife Dolores had been told that their income exceeded the statutory cut-off. This didn't seem right but what could they do? Rules are rules.
As it turned out, when the Booker family tried again with the help of volunteers from Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound (yes, we are boasting ;-)   we discovered that Mr. Booker's medical expenses should have been subtracted from his pension income in determining whether he met the qualifications. With this small correction, he easily qualified. A couple of weeks ago, the Booker family, our volunteers and the VA Hospital eligibility staff worked together to get the appropriate forms filled out correctly and into the system, all right and tight.
Today (February 27, 2013) Mr. Booker arrived at the Seattle VA Hospital to get his photo ID. The parking lot was very busy, but the valet service made it possible for him to disembark in his wheelchair and enter the facility, while the valets took care of the family van. He, his family and a couple of volunteers went to the eligibility determination station on the first floor, where it didn't take long to get his picture taken.
Next, our little party took the elevator by the entrance to go to the 2nd floor to make an appointment for his initial medical checkup. As you exit the elevator, you pick a number from the machine to establish your place in line; there are four categories of visit so make sure you pick the correct category and push the correct button, so you get the right number.
I 'm not mentioning any staff members' names in this blog post, because I didn't ask them. Yes, the 1st amendment and all that means that I could list what I saw on their nametags, but isn't it best to ask first? especially since they were all being so darn helpful. They know who they are and their efforts were greatly appreciated!
We waited about 10 minutes in the 2nd floor lobby, which didn't seem bad considering that we were category "B" - unscheduled visit. The interview was in an office with a door that closed for patient privacy, and the staff member gave us all the time we needed to answer questions - and you can believe that we had multiple questions! Due to the high volume of demand, there was about a five week delay for the initial checkup, but the staffer explained that if something came up in the meantime, he could go directly to the VA Hospital's ER for help.
Afterwards, our party went to the 1st floor to meet a Patient Advocate, because it can be helpful for family members who may be advocating for the veteran to know who they're talking to, and vice versa. While the family was discussing Mr. Booker's situation with one of the advocates, an Assistant Director stopped on the way by and welcomed them.
On the way out, the guards at the front desk suggested Mr. Booker wait inside the building, where it was warmer, while the valet went to get the van. They, along with everyone else we met today, were quite welcoming and seemed pleased to have met Mr. Booker.
One lesson to take from this story: when in doubt, apply for benefits. If you or your family member might qualify, get the form and fill it out.  It's o.k. to use a screening checklist to give you ideas as to what to apply for, but do not try to figure out yourself if you qualify; do not let someone else try to figure out if you qualify; let the system figure whether you qualify. Remember that the Bookers could have gotten successfully enrolled into the system, and gotten the help that they had earned, much earlier if only they had known. It looks like they will be taken care of from this point, but there must be other veterans in similar situation who don't know they qualify for VA help that they earned through their service.

No comments: