A New Hampshire veteran says he almost operated on himself after the Department of Veterans’ Affairs reportedly declined to pay his medical expenses.
John Irish, a veteran of the Army National Guard and trained emergency medical technician, went to the hospital for a laceration on his thumb from a power tool, WFXT reported.
“I looked down, and there was a piece of my finger missing,” Irish told WFXT.
When Irish arrived at Lahey Medical Center to get his stitches removed, however, he was in for a surprise.
“They handed me a slip of paper saying, ‘We are going to have to have you sign this, because the VA says they’re not going to pay the bill,’” he said.
The veteran says he does not blame the hospital for denying him treatment, but instead blames the VA’s broken system for trying to force him to pay for his medical care.
Irish is enrolled in the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to access medical care from private providers if it takes too long to get an appointment at a VA facility or if it is too far away.
Irish said the Veterans Choice Program declined to pay for his medical expenses before, and he was not willing to put up with the latest incident.
“I thought it was about time the VA of New England got exposed for what it’s doing on this Choice program,” he said.
Fed up with the VA, Irish threatened to remove his stitches himself and stream the experience live on social media.
The VA agreed to pay for Irish’s medical expenses before he carried out the procedure himself.
“It’s totally disgusting that they have to threaten, beg, or borrow to get medical treatment,” he said.
Lahey Medical Center’s records show that the Manchester VA called the hospital to discuss Irish’s procedure and recommend that a follow-up physical is set later in the year.
A VA spokesperson said Tuesday there was “no prior contact or authorization” regarding Irish’s case and added that “no care or payment has been denied.”
Lahey Medical Center said that any veterans who have trouble accessing care should contact them directly.
“Lahey Health is committed to providing high-quality health care to all of our patients, including veterans,” the hospital said in a statement. “We recognize that navigating federal health care programs can be complicated. Any veteran having difficulty accessing care from a Lahey Health physician should contact us directly.”