EXCLUSIVE: Disabled veteran records mistreatment from doctor at VA hospital


In an exclusive interview with Popular Military, Kenny Porter, a 100% Service connected disabled 82nd Airborne soldier, reported that treatment conditions were intolerable at the Dorn VA Hospital in Columbia, SC, more than an hour drive from his home.

After checking into the Emergency room at 3:11 p.m. and receiving triage care at 3:30, the veteran, his wife, and their daughter waited for 4-hours and 20-minutes before Porter, 44, was seen by a doctor for primary complaints of no feeling in either of his legs, feeling cold to the touch, severe pain to his right side, knee from an injury sustained a week earlier, and his heart was racing. Porter was diagnosed with Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC) a disorder that causes regular palpitations and radiating pain in the chest.

“At no time did anyone put a stethoscope to my chest to listen to my heart or lift my pants leg to see my knee. How do you treat someone with such incompetence?” Porter continued, “Every time I opened my mouth the doctor shushed me or tried to shut me up. He was impatient. I was humiliated in front of my daughter”.

Porter was physically uncomfortable and emotionally upset from the wait when he phoned his mother, who lives in Greenville, SC. Porter’s mother called a family friend who lived closer to Dorn VA Medical Center, Tammy Snider Neff, SFC (Ret.), Army Medic, also a retired 100% service connected disabled veteran, to come to the hospital and held Porter. She arrived around 10:05 p.m. and began asking questions and reviewing Porter’s treatment plan.

According to Neff, “as soon as I arrived I could see that Kenny was still upset. I already knew things were not ideal when I spoke to Ken’s mom so I went to his room in the E.R. and immediately noticed that the treating physician, Dr. Bennett was being disrespectful, rude, and refusing to answer Kenny’s questions or put him at ease about his health. I just started recording the dialog because it was just wrong”. Neff also added, “There was a point the doctor was insinuating that Kenny was seeking drugs. It was not the case at all. The nurse offered a Toradol shot. He kept refusing medication and demanding information about his health. They [the medical staff] were not hearing him at all”.

As the video recorded in the emergency room shows a defensive and argumentative Dr. Bennett trying to end the discussion insisting “I’ve done all I can do here. I have scheduled a follow up for you with your primary physician. The last time you were here was 5-years ago so how do you expect me to deal with this? There’s nothing more I can do…I could prescribe you medication but I would write a lower dose that what you’re already on”. Neff demanded information from a nurse when Bennett refused to address the results of Porter’s tests indicating there was blood in his urine and responding “it is not uncommon so don’t worry about it”.

Porter stated clearly “I am scared. That’s why I haven’t come for care. I would like more information”. Porter had taken his heart medication earlier and continued to experience PVC in consistent intervals and Bennett refused to address his concern.

Neff went to the nurse’s station and found out that Bennett did not explain the results of the tests he had run and in spite of Porter clearly stating he had PVC and was experiencing frequent contractions, he had not been on a heart monitor in the 7-hours he had been in the hospital. No one addresses his blood pressure being high at 153/109.

“This is the most uncaring and unprofessional care we have ever received. A person should not have to beg for information about his own health and treatment. It’s ludicrous.” Porter said.

Not unlike many recent reports of negligence in the VA medical system, Military servicemen, servicewomen, and veterans are suffering longer waits for treatment and follow ups, claiming over medication and poor pharmacology management more frequently, and there is an overall discontent with the system being overwhelmed. There are an increasing number of reports of verbal assault, disrespectful treatment, and a sense that patients are a bother. “They should be doing their jobs and if they don’t like it, they should quit, not take it out on us”, said Porter.

When Porter explained to Bennett that he could not afford medical care since he was being billed by the VA since letting his benefits lapse, he had been un-enrolled’ Bennett told him “Nobody gets a free lunch here. Veterans have to pay, too. He responded “I’m not here getting a free lunch…I jumped out of airplanes for my country and I earned my care. I should be treated with respect and not talked down to by anyone in the VA. You work for me”. Porter proclaimed, “I have never felt so ashamed, devalued, discarded, or disrespected in my life. I will not be made to feel afraid. That’s another reason why I have avoided coming back here for 5-years. No one should have to be afraid to ask for help.”

Porter has returned to the VA for care after exhausting the available benefits on his own private insurance. He would’ve preferred to use medical services closer to home with doctors he selected. He has incurred over $40k worth of medical related debt, according to Neff.

Bennett asked Porter “why did you even come here for medical treatment? You should’ve gone to your own family physician”.

While the Veteran’s Administration is aware of many allegations of negligence or abuse in patient care it is just surfacing now the degree to which this endemic problem has grown. Investigations are pending and ongoing in some cases. Regardless, it is of the utmost important that veterans and their families continue to advocate for their rights to receive quality care, and to be included in their treatment.

Our military servicemen and women are heroes who have served their countries. It is abhorrent that they be made to feel like victims when they are in need of the service of others.

Porter added, “When I came to the hospital this was about me. Now, this is about all of my brothers and sisters in the armed forces. They all deserve to be treated better than this. I’m every veteran. I serve for my brother to my right and my brother to my left. That is who we are when we serve in the U.S. Military”.

To report abuse or waits for treatment longer than 2-months, Veterans and Active Service patients should reach out to the Attorney General of Veteran’s Affairs for immediate attention to their claim http://www.va.gov/oig/hotline/default.asp

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Author

  • Penny M. Polokoff-Kreps earned her BA in Sociology from Queens College of the City University of New York. She is a published author, speaker, FL Supreme Court mediator, and a Guardian ad Litem. She runs a non-profit with her husband, a Vietnam veteran, providing nutritional supplements for veteran cancer survivors, and supporting veterans in obtaining service dogs. She is passionate about veteran's issues especially those related to PTSD and mental health.

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