It has been approximately six months since my heart attack and the subsequent passive aggressive battle the VA has been waging against me, as they try their best to squirm out of paying the bill. Good news, I’m still alive. Well, maybe that’s good. At this point, I’m not certain. Let me explain….

This is part of my Medical Crisis series. Stay tuned, as I will be posting periodically on my progress.

Done with Rehab

I spent several weeks in Cardiac Rehab before I had to call it quits. I really grew to dislike that place rather quickly and begrudgingly went only out of fear that the VA would use it against me if I quit before “graduating.” Well, I finally asked them one morning, “Hey, what are the requirements to graduate?”

The nurse looked at me for a long moment, then asked me two questions. 1. Do you have a regular doctor? and 2. Do you have an exercise program at home? Apparently, to graduate, you just have to ask how. She said I could graduate that day.

So, my suspicions, I think, were true. If you have #1 and 2, you don’t really need Cardiac Rehab. Now, I will say, for the first few months after my heart attack, Rehab was very important for me. It was a tether to an otherwise “suffer alone” circumstance. At first, the VA System was utterly and completely unresponsive. They would not return my phone calls. They would not answer their phones. All they would approve was Rehab – they wouldn’t even approve me seeing my Cardiologist for a follow up appointment (later they did agree, and acted as if they’d never said no the entire month before).

But, Rehab had nurses and they monitored my heart while exercising, and they monitored my medications. A few times, they pulled me off the machines (one time they never let me get on them) because something was wrong with my heart. They had the cardiologist increase my meds a few times. So, I guess it’s not all a scam to milk the insurance for a little more money. But, still….

I’m just really glad I don’t have to go anymore. I officially “graduated” so the VA can’t use it against me. I got a certificate, sucker. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

On the Docket

My first appeal was immediately denied. My second was also denied. The third one, unbeknownst to me, is an Appeals Board in Washington D.C and this is apparently where you really need to go after you get through the knee-jerk denials below them. Now it’s a waiting game – a year or longer waiting game.

And, thankfully, the hospitals have been relatively easy to work with through this entire process. Really easy. It could be SO MUCH WORSE! But, two of the five bills have agreed to freeze collections as long as I pay them $25 per month. One, though, decided they needed to verify the appeal. So they called the VA. They were referred to the local VA hospital in my region. For whatever reason, they told the creditor that I had no Appeal pending. And, with that, the account was going to be turned over to a collection agency and hit my credit.

So, instead of fighting with the local VA (you know, the idiots that do not answer their phones, do not return phone calls, and get nasty when you ask for a live person), I took a settlement of $350 (bill was for $750) and put it on a credit card. Problem solved. Temporarily. But, it got me thinking. Is my case really on appeal?

Nicest VA Rep I’ve Ever Spoken To

I went back and looked at the Appeals paperwork they sent me in the mail. It said to log onto the website to check the status. I did this. On one website it lists it as an Open Appeal. But, it then re-directs you to another website and it shows nothing as pending.

So, I called the number on the paperwork and got a representative on the phone. I explained the situation, and what the local VA had done. She was quick to apologize, and provided immediate empathy (yeah, I’ve had customer service support classes, too. I know what you’re doing). After answering my questions, the woman starts to tell me about her experience (not sure if it was actually real or of trying to connect with people – yeah, I know I’m jaded). Anyway, the story went, she got hurt in Basic and they retired her. Surgery would be done back home. They referred her to a specialist, she had the surgery, then the VA denied her claim. Tri-west denied her. Everyone denied her. She said it took over a year before it all got sorted out, and it didn’t sound like the VA ever paid (and I’m betting they won’t pay mine either).

In the end, though, I have to say, this was the BEST conversation I’ve had with a VA representative – EVER! She was nice. Friendly. Apologetic. And, even if everything she told me was a complete fabrication, it still worked. I got off the phone feeling better because of it.

What’s At Stake

So, at this point, I’m in limbo. I’ve suspended work at the Eden Property, because, if I do end up filing for bankruptcy, that property is as good as gone. Just like that. And, because I own my home outright and there is, on paper, quite a bit of equity (how did that happen?), they may want to sell my house, too. At least I will get back what I paid for it with my exemption.

But, if this happens, I will then be homeless. But, I will still be free. I’ve thought alot about what I might do if that happens. I could just bum around for awhile. Be homeless. My state has a lot of campers and travelers, so I could pretend to be one of them, just live out of a backpack, dip in and out of the woods, enjoy the simple things. I’ve also thought about getting a van, too. At this point, I really don’t know what I will do. Maybe I’ll cross that road when I get to it.

I know, in the end, I’m thankful for the direction my life is going. Not sure why exactly I’m still alive. I shouldn’t be. They told me as much when I was in the hospital. But, maybe they tell everyone that.

Either way, I’m excited about my writing. Excited about my uThM program. I’m even excited about quitting my day job and spending the next year unemployed.

Now we’ll really see what kind of trouble I can get into.

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Article, Blog, Heart Attack