Patient advocates: open ears & caring hearts


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On one side of a counter, a disgruntled Veteran points to a sheet of paper in front of him while he loudly explains his problem to a VA staff member seated across from him. The staff member, a patient advocate, calmly responds to the Veteran’s questions, taking notes during the conversation and assuring the patient that the matter will be further examined.  The calm responses appear to take the Veteran’s stress level down a couple of notches, and he quietly leaves.

The Patient Advocate Program was developed to provide patients and their families with assistance in a complex and technical health care system. The advocates serve as a liaison between the patient and the VA.  They focus on providing the best customer service for Veterans by using all resources available to accomplish the mission.

Their motto of “Putting Veterans First” is not taken lightly by the team. Most of their patient sessions are on a walk-in basis, though they do schedule the occasional appointment.

“We listen to both sides and try to come up with a resolution that will benefit both the patient and the staff,” said Betty Vallejos, who has been in this position for 17 years at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque.  “It is our responsibility to keep management informed with situations that arise that will affect the medical center either in a positive or negative way.”

For most of her years on the job, Vallejos, a U.S. Army Veteran, was one of only two full-time patient advocates at the medical center.

Until recently, the only other patient advocate in her office in the main lobby was Al Whitt, a U.S. Navy Veteran.  But several months ago, the Patient Advocate Office was relocated closer to the Emergency Department.  Given more office space to work with, their unit then doubled in size when two more, full-time patient advocates joined them.  Joe Baca is a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, and Randy Vigil is a U.S. Army Veteran.

Available at every medical center, Patient Advocates are highly trained professionals who can help resolve concerns about any aspect of a Veteran’s health care experience, particularly those concerns that cannot be resolved at the point of care. Patient Advocates listen to any questions, problems, or special needs and refer concerns to the appropriate Medical Center staff for resolution.

Patient Advocate contact information is available on each Medical Center site. Find your medical center’s web site.


About the Author: Bill Armstrong is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Albuquerque VAMC

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

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Comments

  1. victor manuel zavala    

    back in 2010 I file Torn Claim for my VA Clinic refuse-ing to refill my service connected Meds. It went all the way to Washington DC and got denied. I strongly feel because of my race my claim was denied. Had read and heard other settlement were settle out of court and no matter of time and as I see their last name I can see why….I also believe our VA Systems is broken on our serves toward our care, and our government leaders aren’t doing their job when it come to veteran’s needs and concerns. I served 20 years and 4 months of Active Service, served overseas, Korea, Germany, Hawaii, and got to trained exercise in Japan, Yes you all got all this offices of work if we need them but when it come for them to do their job they don’t, they are concern about losing their job so they just play It smart and don’t say or do what they sure have done. I believe someone beside the VA Sec need to come and talk to us veterans not just come and have lunch and tell us what he is doing and planning on doing….hear our problems and get us the help we need. I gave him a package when he can down to the Rio Grande Valley, have not heard from him and I don’t think I’m going too or do anything about it….Our Leaders don’t care, all they care is about them holding a great paying job and their family, not ours.
    Sincerely,
    Retired SFC Victor M. Zavala
    [Personal information removed by Vantage Point editorial team per VA social media policy]

    1. Gary Louis Meats    

      So if you think you have a problem. think of this..

      I filed a 5 Congressional inquiring against the Spokane VA I went Congresswomen Cathey McMorrisRidgers Office here in Spokane Washington. I signed those inquiring in front of my drivers who drove me to her offices. These drivers drives for the Rural resources in Callville Washington because I cant drive anymore because of the Illegal activities from my doctors at the VA.
      1. [redacted] – reporting that i was just looking for drugs. that I didn’t need any more surgeries. on my Hips, Elbows Wrists,Hernia’s, Shoulders. I had three then,,,,,,now it’s up too 15 and need 3 more.
      2. [redacted] stopped all my medications that I ended up in the Hospital for 5 days because I ended up with damaged Kidney. 1 has a blood clot in the Arteries.
      3. [redacted] I filled a complaint against him, Dr. Renner. we had a meeting with the Patient Advocate office Admin representatives, were there in the meeting.
      4. Patient advocate office for deleting that this meeting. that ths meeting never happen.
      5 against [redacted] myhealthevet coordinator for never investigation who erased all my sent and deleted secure messages. FROM MYHEALTHEVET WEB PAGE I have a tape recorder MESSAGES of Allen find that this happen. he states that he will never look into that problem.
      6 against Congressional Cathey McMorrisRodgers office for deleting and trowing away all my congressional investigating the Spokane VA

      So. there is a lot of illegal activities that the Spokane is doing, but, not even our congresswomen Cathey McMorrisRodgers office refuses to investigate the VA. She has sent all of my signers (OVER 20) letters stating the she does not investigate the VA.. WHO DOES…

      Vantage Point Editorial team note: Some portions of this have been redacted per VA’s social media policy. https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/social-media-policy/

  2. David G. Snyder, Sr    

    The VA pulled my teeth and now they won’t give me my dentures even after they “PROMISED” them to me before my surgeries and now it’s really hard to eat and try to maintain any weight.. oh they did give a 1 time prescription for Boost . I moved from Western Pa to the Tampa Fl area because of the cold and it’s been said to me that I would probably have to move back to Pa. because it’s a different VA. ???? What kinda horseshit is this ? Move back to Pa . ??? I didn’t fight for this country during the Civil war it was the United States of America !!!!!

  3. Jay Cranor    

    The VA medical website called MYHEALTH, is used so veterans can order their medicines on-line plus other functions. The access to the Oklahoma City Medical Center has not been wirking since the end of August or first of September 2015. I advised the Avigut 2-3 weeks ago and the system is still down. Medicine can be ordered by using the phone access but this does not allow you to see your records. When I have over 20 different prescriptions per month, it’s so hard to keep track without it.

  4. linda colby    

    My husband was in Vietnam in 1966-1967. He was in Chu Lai with 196th I Corp and Tay Ninh with 196th III Corp. He was in the thick of all the major operations during that time with the Mortor Plt. He was heavily exposed to all the chemicals sprayed to kill folage. Has there been any updates on what is recognized health issues? Thank you Linda Colby.

    1. Megan Moloney    

      Linda, there is a list of presumptive Veterans’ diseases associated with Agent Orange at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/index.asp

  5. Royal Gee    

    I filed a Cali’s for disability and of course it was declined. What rhe ba does is they denie all these claims so it has to go to the appeals process. This takes years for the appeal to be heard because they are so backed up. I am a Vietnam vet from 1967-1968. I have bad breathing problems also colitis surgery where they removed part of my colon and large intestine. I have rumatoid arthritis in which no one in my family ever had. I went to the va in Atlanta for the agent orange registry and never had blood work or a physical. I went to the American Legion in my city and was told no one there could do any help with appeals. Tried to get in touch with someone at the DAV and they don’t have a phone number to call for help. We all breathed these chemicals in which at the time was told they were safe. Now after fighting for our country no one is willing to help us. I know they are waiting for us to die off. The va does not care for what we breathed and washed in with this chemical. I also started to get skin cancer on my face and arms now will someone tell me this is not from agent orange

    1. Jerry Lee Tennant    

      Rag- I too asked the American Legion for help and couldn’t get squat. I’ve been a member for over five years but stopped this year. All they care about is what $ they can get from you.

  6. Michael C. Cross Jr    

    I am looking for assistance in receiving help to get Medical bills that are not being paid for emergency services that I required and had to call a local Rescue Service to take me to a local Hospital due to the fact that VA services were better than 40 miles away.I have contacted my local VA being Cincinati Ohio and as by request sent in all of the bills that have occurred as of 6-20-15 and no action has yet been taken to pay the bills. I am now being threatened with being turned over to collection agents and in turn affecting my credit rating.Please inform me as what to do and how I can get this resolved ! Thank You

  7. Robert McCarty    

    I have had so many emergency room bills and Veterans Choice bills that were not paid by the VA I have just given up. They are not going to do anything but ruin my credit. It sucks that the VA is in such a state. Fee basis tells you to go to Healthnet and Healthnet is so screwed up they just apologize for being screwed up when you call them! Doctors are providing services to vets and not getting paid. Very soon they are going to stop accepting vets the way they don’t accept Obamacare patients. The system is broken and the vets are paying the price. I wish 60 minutes or someone would do an exposé on the failed medical system. America needs to know its heroes are being shunned and tortured. I pay Medicare every month and I am 100 percent disabled, WHY? Now the VA says they are broke and Healthnet has all the money, but Healthnet is so unorganized they can’t even make appointments. It’s a joke on all vets. Serve your country and you will be taken care of, ha, ha, ha.

  8. vern everette enders lll    

    I filed in 1965 am still fighting,a ask or help from the American legion and got nothing. they pulled my teeth and I had to buy my own dentures.

  9. GARY    

    THESE STORIES ARE TYPICAL OF THE VA. MY VA HOSPITAL(PITTS) HAS BEEN GIVING ME THE RUNAROUND FOR OVER A DECADE. THE PATIENT CARE ADVOCATE WENT GHETTO ON ME AND STARTED HOLLERING AT ME WHEN I TRIED TO GET A REASON FOR THE VA GIVING ME THE RUNAROUND. SHE IS NO ADVOCATE OF MINE. I SERVED OVER 23 YEARS TOTAL AND AM WORE OUT AND BEAT UP WITH MEDICAL RECORDS TO SHOW IT. I HAVE LINE OF DUTY FORMS TO BACK UP MY CLAIMS AND I AM STILL WAITING FOR MY APPEAL FOR OVER 2 YEARS AFTER THE DENIAL ILL BE DEAD BEFORE I GET THROUGH ALL THE BS THAT THE VA HAS YOU GO THROUGH. MY CONGRESSMAN BILL JOHNSON IS THE SAME AS DESCRIBED BY OTHERS.THEY CANT INVESTIGATE OR EVEN LOOK INTO MY ISSUES AT THE PITTS VA TO INCLUDE THE ST CLAIRSVILLE CLINIC WHICH THE DOCTOR IS/WAS A QUACK. THE LEGION IS NO REAL HELP AND THE DAV WHICH I HAVE HAD HOPES FOR SEEMS TO BE JUST PLAYING THE GAME AS I WAIT AND WAIT.

  10. John c landsiedel    

    I have ALS which the VA admitted and gave me 100% disability. They have been very good to me. The problem is that there is an experimental drug out there that might help me. The problem it is approved for cancer not ALS. If I am dying anyway why don’t I have the right to try. I was at camp lLejeune in the 60’s and the water was contaminated which has caused my disease. I think the VA should be able to get us a drug that might help.

  11. Nolene Rodriguez    

    if You Need help Don’t ask The Patient Advocate In N.Y. (manhattan) V.A.Hospital,The Are “VERY GOOD”” at Telling You That They Would Get Back To You (B/S)..And if You Return More Then Once They Send You to the Person In Charge Of The Department That You Are Having The Problem With “AND THATS HOW THE PATIENT ADVOCATE IN N.Y. TAKE CARE OF THERE VETERANS”

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