As a retired U.S. Navy veteran with service-connected disability, I used to go to Hampton VA Medical Center. But for the past three years, I stopped going there.
Since retirement in 2005, I've been going to Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth because it's closer to my house, and I'm more familiar with NMCP, where I've worked for 11 of my 20 years in the naval service.
Unperturbed about previous issues at VA hospitals, I've visited Hampton VA numerous times. First, as a curious outpatient veteran, I wanted to experience receiving care there. Like other outpatient veterans, I had to do the required protocol: obtaining a VA ID card, scheduling medical appointments and keeping my appointments.
Despite the VA funding problems, I found a clean and pleasant atmosphere inside the hospital; I didn't see any major problems regarding care and treatment for veterans there.
Recently, after three years of hiatus and learning about VA hospital issues that, I believe, have been addressed by proper authorities, I was keen to go back again for care and treatment at Hampton VA Medical Center.
With a valid identification card, I decided to go to eye clinic in Hampton to have a follow-up eye exam and, possibly, receive new prescription glasses. The ones I'm currently wearing are kind of weak, and I believed I needed upgraded bifocals. I have difficulty reading those fine print in newspapers now.
With my doting wife and consummate driver Freny, I went to Hampton VA Medical Center in August. Freny and I breezed through the hospital and went straight up to the second floor where eye clinic is. Like others, I had to fall in line and wait for the receptionist to call, "Next veteran!"
When it was my turn, I walked to the window and showed my ID card to a receptionist, who asked me if I had an appointment, while glancing at his computer monitor, i said, "No, sir" and asked if I could be seen that day, since I'd already been there before.
Since it had been three years since I'd been there, he said, I would have to start all over as if I were a new patient. I was told go downstairs to Prime 1 and make an appointment to see a primary care doctor. Once seen by a provider there, I could ask for referral to be seen in eye clinic. That's what I did.
After a couple of weeks, I was seen in Primary Care, had some lab tests done, and then visited the eye clinic in September. A resident doctor from Eastern Virginia Medical School's department of ophthalmology examined my eyes after they were dilated.
Before leaving the eye clinic for the optical shop, I thanked Dr. Beste for taking time with me. With a new prescription for glasses and a follow-up appointment with him, which I'm looking forward to after Veterans Day, I was satisfied with my visit. Grateful I am to have new bifocal eyeglasses now.
Thank God for a significant improvement at Hampton VA Medical Center. I'm positive my fellow veterans also appreciate the smooth delivery of health care services there.
Kudos to those behind the positive change at VA. And to my fellow veterans, thank you for your service and sacrifices.
-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, November 7, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.