Veteran with lung cancer fights VA for proper care

Veteran with lung cancer fights VA for proper care

Army Formation Marching

Priscilla Delacruz, 52, is proud of her country and her time served in the U.S. Army, 1981-85.

But now she is in a fight with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It has been an absolute nightmare,” she said

Delacruz wants the VA to approve her chemotherapy at a non-VA facility, but she was told she is not eligible.

A few weeks ago, she went to an area hospital’s emergency room for pains in her abdomen. It turned out that she was carrying a large tumor.

“I looked like I was five months pregnant,” she said.

The VA approved her surgery at a non-VA facility and while doctors were preparing for surgery to remove the mass, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“I said, ‘Which stage?’ He said, ‘You have stage four lung cancer,'” she said.

After coming to grips with the shock of it, she turned to the VA for approval of her chemo treatments. Delacruz said since Sept. 23, she has been trying to get the VA to approve continued care as a non-VA patient at a non-VA facility.

The VA instead wants her to travel to Gainesville where they can perform the chemo treatments. Removing the tumor required a specialist, but the VA said it is capable of performing the chemo treatments.

Delacruz said physically she is not able to make frequent trips to Gainesville and wants to continue her treatment at a local Oncology center.

The VA told Delacruz she is not eligible.

“Everyday you take away my chemo, you take away a day of my life,” she said.

On Thursday, she told her VA representative that she had contacted First Coast News and Ken Amaro.

“I told them I was going to the press and demanded in writing why I was being denied,” she said.

A few hours later, DelaCruz received approval to be treated at a non-VA Jacksonville medical facility

“I think it is pathetic. What we have here is a reactive system rather than a system that is working for the underlying patient,” said Sean Cronin, a medical malpractice attorney.

Cronin, who noted that Delacruz’s experience is not unusual, has heard similar complaints from veterans.

“I think there are still a lot of problems with access to care that remain with the VA,” he said. “Lawmakers don’t want to talk about it.”

His advice to veterans is get your treatment at a non-Va facility, like an emergency room, and then let the VA worry about how to pay for it

“They’re going to fight you over payment,” said Cronin, “but rather they fight you over payment than your life.”

A VA spokesperson said a patient advocate will reach out to Delacruz to be sure she gets her chemo without further delay.

 

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