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Current News Impacting Veterans

Veterans Denied Pain and Anxiety Medication


    Veterans nationwide are being denied Opiate based pain medications regardless of their physical injuries and severity of their injuries due to the current political and law enforcement war on prescription pain medications. The only exception to this new policy on Opiate based pain medications are cancer patients. Current VA patients that are receiving Opiate based pain medications are being stopped or are being placed on a tapering plan to reduce the medication levels they are on with the goal being to completely stop the use of Opiate based medications.

    This applies to all patients even to those with degenerative conditions that will continue to worsen over time and have no surgical or other means to repair or fix the injury causing the pain. The VA is also not offering substitute pain medications to help Veterans cope with their pain. In some cases they are offering other treatment methods which sometimes will work but more often than not, only provide temporary pain relief for a few hours or maybe a day. This leaves the patients to be forced to endure pain for the remaining time until another appointment is attended. Veterans have also been denied medication for anxiety such as the popular medication Xanax also being tapered and discontinued by the VA. What are Veterans to do when the physicians and VA refuse to provide the necessary anxiety and pain medications they have become dependent on?

    This is nothing short of patient abandonment by the physicians at the VA and the VA Medical Centers. Many VA patients have been forced to purchase medication illegally to alleviate their pain. Many have turned to alcohol or illegal drugs for pain relief while others have been forced to see doctors outside the VA to obtain necessary pain medication. Many Veterans are drinking alcohol in conjunction with their pain medications to attempt to alleviate the pain. Many have turned to illegal drugs or the street to obtain their medications. Physicians at the VA when told about this have said they know and there is nothing they can do. Many physicians that work for the VA have voiced their opinions that they do not agree with the policy and do not support it. When a VA physician attempts to not place patients on a taper plan, the VA pharmacy will intervene and only partially fill the medications or refuse to fill the medication completely until the doctor sends in a new dosage. Veterans face arrest and incarceration for obtaining medications the VA has been providing them with for years by purchasing it on the street. This can also lead to Veterans losing all their benefits due to a felony conviction which would be devastating to the Veterans, their families and way of life. This could lead to an increase in Veteran suicide rates and death.

    A physicians oath first states "To do no harm" to the patients. I believe that every VA physician and the VA Medical Centers are violating this oath by not providing the necessary medications to alleviate patients pain and forcing them to suffer and diminish their quality of life. The physicians at the VA Medical Centers placed these patients on Opiate based pain medications for illness or injuries that required it to help the patients with pain and to allow a better quality of life for these patients. Many of these patients have injuries that cannot be cured or fixed with an operation which leaves the only options of pain management or the patient living with debilitating pain. With the new VA policy on opiate based pain medications, the only option remaining is to live with debilitating pain and lose the quality of life they one had. Many of these veterans have been on pain medication for over 20 years and now the VA is abandoning these patients and no longer providing them with necessary and vital pain medication. In many cases it was the VA that placed these patients on pain medication in the first place and now after years of providing pain medications it has in many cases resulted in mental and physical addiction to opiates.

    It is understood that opiate addiction and abuse of opiate based medications is a crisis in the United States. This needs to be addressed by law enforcement and other agencies but it is felt by many that forcing patients that need this medication to do without is not the right way to do it. Attempting to stop opiate addiction by preventing patients that need these medications and depend on them is cruel and uncaring. It is my hope that the VA, the physicians and the political powers involved with the opiate crisis reevaluate their current plan and immediately take different approaches to this dilemma. Our Veterans and Disabled Veterans that have served and sacrificed their body for this country should not be forced to lose their quality of life and have to suffer every day because the pain medication that once allowed them to tolerate the pain and improve their quality of life has been taken away from them at no fault of their own.

    Why should our Veterans have to suffer in pain and have their medication discontinued due to no fault of their own? Physicians should be allowed to review the patient’s medical records on a case by case basis and make a determination if the patient’s medication can be tapered or discontinued. Unfortunately this is not the case; physicians are not allowed to place patients on a low dose of opiate based pain medication. It has to be completely discontinued, regardless of the patient’s illness, injury, dosage, time on current medication or any other factors. This is complete patient abandonment by the physicians and the VA with no regard to the patient’s pain and loss of quality of life.

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