Prepped for heart surgery, vet told VA won't pay
Cressy, a 58-year-old Vietnam-era veteran from East Kingston, would have to be transferred to a Boston VA hospital for his surgery, she said. The Department of Veterans Affairs wouldn't pay for the operation to be done at CMC.
"I don't want to die," he told the social worker. "I want to have this surgery done now."
He refused the transfer, and the cardiac surgeon went ahead with what turned out to be successful bypass surgery.
But under a bill that passed the Senate last week, veterans like Cressy wouldn't face such choices in the future, thanks to bipartisan advocacy on behalf of New Hampshire veterans by the state's two U.S. senators.
Had that been in place last fall, Cressy's care at CMC would have been covered.
Veterans here "have faced serious inequities within the VA system, such as enduring long drives to neighboring states for care," Kenigsberg said, and the proposed change would finally give them "the opportunity to seek care closer to home and get the timely and accessible care they deserve."
To start with, he doesn't have health insurance and usually gets his medical care through the VA. But after he suffered a heart attack on the day after Thanksgiving, he wound up in the emergency room at Exeter Hospital. Tests showed that four major blood vessels were 80 to 90 percent blocked, he said.
It's not clear why he wasn't transferred to the Boston VA after he was stabilized at Exeter's emergency department that Friday night.
Debra Krinsky, acting public affairs officer for Manchester VA, said she couldn't discuss Cressy's case, even if he gave permission, since he plans to appeal.
But in a typical emergency situation, he said, Exeter doctors would do interventional cardiac catheterization. And if surgery was required, it's typical to transfer patients either to CMC or Portsmouth, he said.
He urged Cressy to contact Exeter Hospital with any questions about how his case was handled there.
"If he was really in dire straits and he chose not to go to the Boston VA himself, we can't turn him away because we treat anyone who needs care regardless of their ability to pay."
After the VA denied his claim, Cressy didn't file an appeal right away. "I thought I was fighting against a giant," he said.
And while it won't affect his own case, he welcomed the news that Congress may enact more options for New Hampshire veterans. "What I find is hope," he said.
"She was the type that it didn't matter that you had a D or an R after your name," he said. "She didn't vote along party lines. She voted for the people."
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