Patient Advocate: “Helping Veterans very rewarding”


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“Words cannot really describe the level of dedication, loyalty and drive that VA Patient Advocates have when it comes to helping Veterans.  Many PA’s are Veterans themselves or are a family member of a Veteran.  It is exciting to hear the passion in Patient Advocates’ voices when they talk about the need for ensuring our Veterans get the best health care and benefits possible.  Thank you Patient Advocates – what you do matters!”   

Lana Frankenfield, PhD, CNHP, LCSW
VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation

In this series, we would like you to meet just a few of VA’s Patient Advocates and to read about why they love their job and some of the remarkable things they do for Veterans.

For VA employee Brian Mason, being there for his fellow Veterans is not just his job, it is also his passion.  Mason, a 10-year Army Veteran, by day is a patient advocate at the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System.  In that role, Mason fields phone calls and visits every day from Veterans needing assistance navigating the health care system or understanding the benefits available to them through VA.  He’s been in this position for three years, and he takes his role very seriously.

In his “spare time” Patient Advocate Brian Mason also participates in pet therapy. Twice a month, armed with four Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Mason visits Veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi.

“What inspired me to want this job was the fact that when I was medically discharged, back in 2007, I had an excellent experience with a patient representative. She was attentive, compassionate and knowledgeable about the process.  She answered any questions I had and was able to guide me through the rather stressful process.  I shared with her during my last few days in the Army, that her job seemed like a great job to be able to “give back” to Veterans, since I was not able to stay in the service.  We talked about what her job actually was and I decided at that point that I would attempt to regain some of my self-confidence by obtaining a similar position in VA.  Fast forward to today, and I have been able to make that decision a reality,” Mason said.

“My job as a patient advocate has been very rewarding to me. I can assist Veterans every day, each encounter different than the other,” Mason explained.  “They can consist of educating Veterans on a process or procedure that they may not understand. I may have a Veteran that perceives some part of care is going unattended or there might be some equipment or medication they need. Each Veteran that comes to me is treated with respect and honesty. If I am unable to assist them, I will involve someone that can.

“We, as advocates, will involve as many resources as it takes to obtain a positive outcome for the Veteran. Having a job that affords me the opportunity to help a Veteran get his/her medication that might be lost in the mail, assist in getting that piece of equipment or device that the Veteran needs now is a wonderful way for me to “give back” to my fellow Veterans. I hope that in some way, each day, I am making a little bit of a difference in the lives of the Veterans that visit my office requesting assistance.

Small Victories are All I Need

“Probably one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is seeing Veterans that I was able to assist in getting a surgery, that may have been delayed and that they needed to improve their lives and to see them now smiling when I see them again in the clinic. Those small victories are all I need on a daily basis for me to feel good about what I do at the VA. I am looking forward to many more years of service to Veterans here at the Gulf Coast VA,” he said.

And if that isn’t enough giving back for one person, Mason takes it steps further. He has also found ways to give back to Veterans during his off time.  One such activity he has been involved with over the past five years is pet therapy.  Armed with four cavalier king Charles spaniels, Mason visits Veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport twice a month.

“I don’t know who gets more excited,” Mason said, “my dogs or the Veterans waiting in the hallway when we arrive.

“We stay for about two hours, visiting Veterans who can’t get out and about around the home.  Some are bedridden and spending time with a pet brings a huge smile on their faces.  There aren’t many activities you can do that bring out this emotion like a dog can.  And my dogs just love the interaction,” he said.

Sense of Peace and Satisfaction

Mason explained that many of the Veterans who live at the retirement home had pets throughout their whole lives.  Now they find themselves missing the companionship and joy that a pet can bring to a person.  Through his regular visits, Veterans truly enjoy petting the dogs and letting the dogs sit on their laps.  It brings a real sense of peace and satisfaction.

With still just a few hours on the weekend left, recently Mason got involved with Team River Runner, a national organization dedicated to creating environments of healthy adventure, recreation and camaraderie for healing active duty, Veteran service members and their families through adaptive kayaking.  He found a chapter in south Alabama.

“This experience has been both healing for me and it is giving me the foundation to helping others Veterans that are taking part in this group,” Mason said.

“I would suggest any Veteran that has a willingness to want to get better and heal to look into joining this group.  It’s hard to explain to someone that hasn’t taken part in something like this.  But to be out on the water, regardless of your physical or mental disadvantages, to be able to still enjoy the physical challenge in an environment that is soothing, almost spiritual – that is very healing.

“To me it is both humbling and a privilege to be in a kayak or on the water with Veterans that might be amputees or have any other physical or mental challenges, and to be with them going through this together…words just don’t do it justice,” Mason said.


Mary K. Gominger

By: Mary Kay Gominger
Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System Public Affairs Officer

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Gretchen Reinhardt    

    When the Seattle VA DBC initiated the retaliatory PRF procedures against me in early 2011 for complaining about my VA PCP, my access to the VA Patient Advocate was the first thing the VA took away from me. Also taken away was my ability to communicate with the rest of the VA system except of the nasty ass hole that flagged me in the first place.

    For over 5 years, I was NOT allowed to have any advocate within the VA system, rather VA assigned me a VA staff person who talked and acted more like a “Cop Interrogator”.

  2. Luis A. Gudinio    

    I have a formal complaint towards the attending doctor on duty(ER) at Edwards J. Hines. This past Monday I went to the ER to have myself check because I was jumped and robbed by 3 hooligans on April 14, 2017. Checked in at 12:30 pm. The attending doctor is telling me what, why and expressing her opinions on the incident, as if she was a police officer. Instead of attending to my pain and bruises as a doctor should. At no time was I offered or given any medicine to help deal with the trauma and pain I have been enduring. In addition, she rudely told me when I asked about getting prescription glasses that she was not my primary and that she handles only what pertains to ER. The medical staff at any VA hospital should not assume that a Veteran just comes to ER to fill pain medications. I have been to the ER before and when offered pain meds my first response is,”Will it effect my work performance?”
    The other complaint is that the staff needs to have compassion for our time and discomfort we are experiencing. My significant other is 100% Disabled and after 5 hours with nothing to eat, she was in pain with her medical problems. We left ER at 18:00 because my wife was angered and in pain herself from the ordeal I was experiencing that day. If the medical staff cannot handle Veterans’ medical attention then either take adequate time off or leave the VA medical services and go serve the private sector.
    I have no shame of using my name, ready to answer questions and expect this occurrence to never happen again to no one. Some form of discipline should be administered to the attending physician.

  3. Arthur Schick    

    The Veteran’s choice program is killing me. My local VA hospital is incapable due to being new (Orlando VA Hospital) of doing the surgery I need to live. I have been referred to the Veteran’s Choice Program. I have been given the run-around for months having my file deleted every 30 days to keep their stats good. Then having to start over from scratch every month. For months I have had a 2.0cm kidney stone that hurts like (redacted). I pee blood daily. I will likely lose that kidney soon because they keep marking my file routine. No one at my local clinic will help me. The VA won’t consider sending me to an alternate VA hospital that can perform the surgery. The Constant internal bleeding is likely caused by a stop gap measure of putting in a temporary metal stent that is rubbing against my internal parts, something that is not supposed to happen. It will eventually wear a hole in my tube, bladder, ureter, urethra or kidney. At that point I will be peeing directly into by body cavity and will die from it. Someone please save me and help me get my surgery somewhere. I am mentally given up and depressed and close to ending it before it ends painfully due to the stent being in my body too long and the painful death that urine in my guts will cause. Arthur J Schick x-USAF

  4. Brian J. Mason    

    Peter, I have located a patient advocate at the Lebanon location. His name is Darryl Fulton. His contact info is, 717-228-6014. I hope this helps! Brian

  5. Peter J.Ragaller    

    Great article. I am a Vietnam Vet and receive great care at the Lebanon, PA facility. I would like to know who would be a Patient Advocate that I could contact here in my area of Pennsylvania. I have several issues that I would like to discuss with someone knowledgeable about VA affairs. If you can provide me contact information–that would be great.

  6. James Tobleck    

    As I read about success and failure throughout the VA system it seems no one at the Washington level reads it cares to find out what’s really happening with the beauracratic nightmare many of us experance. Not once have YOU called me, sat at my table for hours just trying to get a phone Answered. Let alone by someone competent. Does The Director have a clue what happens over decades? What’s amazing is no one’s stringing up these assinin complicated catch 22 rule’s instead of providing health care

  7. James J Runyan II    

    How seriously do the VAMC’s deal with Male Patient Modesty for Surgeries such as Umbilical Hernia … This a concern of mine with Female Nurses while the Patient is under General Anesthesia … I know the Nurses are suppose to be a Advocate for the Patient when he or she cannot speak or defend them selves in an vulnerable state… Your answer is greatly appreciated … Take care and I love the blog ..

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