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Better Late than Never: A Vietnam Veteran’s VA Story

Compliments of: by Doug Young

I dreaded the paperwork, but she made it easy for me. I was late coming into VA’s health care system in 2002, but now I’m very glad I did. I’d heard the horror stories from other Vets and wondered if VA was just another government bureaucracy, but when the clerk (herself a Veteran) sat down with me, it was painless. I was amazed to find out that as the holder of a Purple Heart, all of my medical needs would be covered.

She also got tired of hearing me say “Excuse me” and “Huh?” too many times during the interview. The first thing she did after the paperwork was complete was arrange to have my hearing checked. I remember being processed out of the Army in 1970 in Oakland and being given a hearing exam. As I stepped out of the booth, the technician said “You were a grunt, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, I was,” I said, “but how did you know?” And he replied that all of us grunts had high frequency hearing loss. For years, I struggled with hearing ordinary conversations, especially in crowded places and with people with high voices. It was impossible for me to hold a conversation inside a car – too much road noise. Today, I am fine. VA fitted me with state-of-the-art hearing aids, and even provides batteries.

One of the things I’m glad to see change from my days after coming home from Vietnam is the way VA handles mental health issues. During a recent visit to my doctor, I was talking to a VA nurse and said something about being in a bad mood and that I got angry easily. Within 30 minutes, I was in a conversation with a psychiatrist, talking about anger issues. After a few sessions, I realized I was just having a “bad hair day” and was fine, but I was struck by how well VA was reacting to Veteran suicides and violence. I didn’t even ask to see a doctor, but was given the care anyway.

There is a wonderful irony coming from the benefits I get for my hearing loss. I’m a little unusual in that I’m married to a Vietnam Vet. My wife was a nurse over there, and we met at her hospital in 1969. In 2002, we decided – with a lot of nervousness and hesitation – to return to Vietnam as a part of a medical team working in the slums of Danang. As it turned out, we fell in love with Vietnam and its people. For them, the war is truly over and forgotten. We loved it so much that we actually quit our jobs in the US and went to live in Vietnam, where we taught English at the University of Hue.

After doing that for a year and a half, we returned home but couldn’t forget the great students we had there. They worked so hard and were so appreciative to be able to learn English from a native speaker. Cindy and I stayed in touch with some of them by email. In 2008, we brought the first one here to the US for more study. We sponsored two Vietnamese students, and three others came over as a result of those two. My VA benefits went a long way towards being able to support these two young ladies, who have become the daughters Cindy and I never had.

Is VA perfect? Hell no – the vendor who fitted me with my hearing aids still has not been paid and will probably drop VA. That will cause a lot of problems for other hearing-impaired Vets as the audiologist is the only provider in our area. I got billed for a week-long hospital stay a year ago, but got it straightened out with some phone calls. I try to keep in mind that VA is a huge organization, with all the problems any big organization has. All I can say is that for me – VA has been great.

Doug Young served two tours in Vietnam as an infantryman and is married to another Vietnam Veteran who served as a nurse there. Doug is retired and lives in South Texas where he helps support young Vietnamese students in their studies in the United States. He is the author of Same River, Different Water: A Veteran’s Journey from Vietnam to Việt Nam

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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