My Fight with the VA – Updated

My Fight with the VA – Updated

By Judith Bruno

Judie Bruno and dog Fred

Judith Bruno and friend

On Sept 19, 2015, a pharmacist at the VA, Loma Linda (in California) just decided to not send me the Morphine I need for pain and quality of life because I use Medical Marijuana (which is legal in the state of California where I live). I was granted a meeting of the “Pain Board” and I proved to those attending that not only do I need the pain medication prescribed to me but that I have never, in over 40 some years abused drugs. (In fact many of my doctors have wondered how I can get by on so little)

In 1995 I made the decision to amputate my right leg in order to get off of the high levels of Pain Medication that VA had me on. Over the years because of Degenerative Disk Disease, Sciatica, Bursitis and Arthritis effecting my left and only leg that causes extreme pain every time I put pressure on the leg when I transfer, I need the pain medication prescribed for me. My level of pain in my “good leg” depends on how many times I do transfer during the day.

After the meeting of the “Pain Board” I was sent to the “Pain Clinic” again at the VA, Loma Linda, CA, where we made a deal that I would stop using the Xanax the VA had prescribed for me over the last 9 years and we would work out the amount of pain medication I needed. I kept my part of this bargain. I was doing just fine on the amount of pain medications the Pain Clinic and I agreed upon and my Primary Care Physician was sending it to me every month as ordered by the Pain Clinic.

I am well under the CDC’s “Recommended” amount of 120 Mil of Narcotic Pain Medication advised for “new patients”.

Then last month I was given a new Primary Care Physician (PCP) at the Palm Desert, VA who told me in a phone conversation that the VA, Loma Linda had sent all the PCP’s a “memo” giving them the right to refuse pain medication to any Veteran who uses Medical Marijuana, if they so choose. So she refused to give me the pain medication I need as long as I use Medical Marijuana and has refused to care for me, a 100%, SC Disabled Veteran.

I’ll tell you what I tell them.

Marijuana is the only thing that helps the problems in my gut and my bowels that cause me to wake every morning with dry heaves, cramping, pain, sweats and chills every day. The VA has found nothing that will help with these problems and I refuse to give up my legal rights as a California citizen to use it. This is discrimination against Veterans living in a state where Medical Marijuana has been legal since 1996.

How many doctors at this VA will buck this memo and continue to treat their patients?

Not many I’m guessing.

In the meantime, I will be fighting this action of the VA, Loma Linda and the doctor for “Refusal of Care”.  I am told that I must file a complaint with the Patient Advocate even though we know their jobs depend on the VA and they will never have the nerve to take a stand for the Veterans they supposedly advocate for.

I have quit doing anything that will cause me pain if I can’t have even the small amounts I need to get through each day.   I refuse to transfer to and from my wheelchair unless I absolutely must. And only then it has to be for something fun.

I refuse to run errands, do housework, laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning and all those things I do that cause my leg to throb in pain every day. I refuse to do any of those things I will need to do in order to continue to live independently.

I will be requesting “full, in home care”. If the VA, Loma Linda and the Primary Care Physicians refuse to provide me with the pain medications I need, I will not be able to transfer to and from my wheelchair or care for myself. I hope the VA is prepared to do so. They should also have to provide such care for ALL the Veterans who are being treated with such discrimination.

How can the VA turn these Veterans away from the care they need? Why is our own government torturing those who have already given so much for us and our country? Why do they deny you care if you use medical marijuana in a state where it’s legal?

It doesn’t make sense and yet here we are.

We, as pain patients, must be heard.

So maybe we should hit them where it hurts the worst—in the pocketbook.

File with the VA, file with your insurance companies, Medicare/Medicaid and tell them all that if you can’t get the pain medications you need, you can’t continue to do whatever it is you are trying to do because of the pain you are in and file for Full Disability.

It’s always about money. If they won’t listen to common sense, then let them pay.

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Authored by: Judith Carr Bruno

There are 29 comments for this article
  1. david marineau at 8:30 am

    This is a great site and heather I have wrote the white house and have got one call from the suicde people both times and the subjects were nothing to do with it and one letter I am proud to here of finding this site and greatfull for the people speaking up this country owes the vets and people with disabilities. I am also in cronic pain its been 16 years with alot of issues.

  2. Chuck at 8:24 pm

    Ohhhh a Papillon. Mine is nicknamed Little Big Dog. She is the best pain med on the planet. I think the VA is F#ing with the wrong soldier with you. May you kick their a**! Thanks for serving.

  3. Lisa Hess at 4:08 pm

    Hello, Thank you to all the Veterans who have fought for our safety and unfortunately, because the VA is a government program you are so dependent on them for all your medical care. I have watched my best friend’s husband deal with this for the past 5 years for Disability and it’s like he’s been on a roller coaster that never ends. They’ve lost his documentation, they lost the applications, they never received doctor reports etc. I too am a Chronic Pain patient and have been on SSD for the last 9 1/2 years. I was 45 when I became disabled. I am lucky that I had private LTD as well, but they made me apply for SSD and I had to “repay” all they had given to me from my own earnings and after 1 year cancelled me and I had to hire a lawyer and take them to court of which I won. For anyone out there who has faced the same situation, the insurance companies cancel you out because they know less than 50% will fight to get their benefits back, but if you know you are owed it, fight for it. I also live in NJ and I’m lucky that I found an attorney who helps only disabled people to fight. As for the Medical Marijuana programs, if your state is legal, follow up with the small print. In the state of NJ, if you are on the Medical Marijuana program, you are not permitted to have any opioid medication prescriptions or your prescribing doctor can lose his license. If you have a doctor you love like I do, I would never put him in that position. I do know that more and more Pain Management doctors are getting certified to prescribe Medical Marijuana. It is a year long process and the downfall for their patients is that if they are on the MM program they cannot take any type of Opioid. That comes from the top!!! Is that fair, absolutely not because if you are granted into the program you have to be weaned off your pain meds carefully. I was actually released from one PMD because he had cut my medication so low because I do believe he received a letter from the CDC and/or DEA about his prescriptions, so he put me in a state of despair and his knowledge of Oxycodone – Morphine ratio was so outrageously wrong (he really thought I was stupid and wouldn’t know the difference–I was an engineer so no, I did my research), I challenged him with the correct information and he released me. It took me 6 months to find a new PMD. And, because the DEA has all the PMDs running scared to prescribe what his/her patient really needs, that every doctor I called turned me down stating they only performed injection procedures and no longer prescribe pain medications. I’ve been in Chronic Pain for 20 years and worked thru the first 10. I’ve had 5 spine surgeries and have a ton of other nerve and neurological and physical issues that keep me housebound almost every day because unfortunately, I have had over 40 maybe more procedures, but none have ever worked. Even a Spinal Cord Stimulator failed. Since Jan 1 with the DEA restrictions, the opioids I’m on now doesn’t get me through even the simplest tasks on most days. I’m fighting every day to move and my quality of life, well, it no longer exists because the pain is so severe it exhausts me so I have to lie down, fall asleep, can’t stay asleep at night, sleep most of the day away, and the cycle is never ending. I’m not an addict. I’m a woman who used to have an amazing career, two amazing children, two beautiful grandchildren and because of my physical issues and medication cuts, the government does not allow me to enjoy what God has given me. I with all of you. WE HAVE TO FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES TOO!

  4. Mmwagner at 11:28 pm

    That pharma st should be fired as he has no right to make a call like he did, it would of had to been a personal call on his part., that’s is one of the things that is wrong with the va, I quit them years ago on a call like that he made, a dr wrote me some pain prescriptions and when I took them to the pharmacy to get them filled, he said he couldn’t fill them as it was more than regularly prescribed, when does a pharmist over power what a doctor writes is beyond me.
    Mike

  5. lauree at 8:15 am

    judie and to all you beautiful vets who served and are suffering, i read Judie’s blog and all these comments and it angers and saddens me. i am ashamed of our government and yet i live here and am grateful to be an American and don’t want to be against our government, but it is nothing but corruption at it’s worst. we are told lies; they sound like promises, but they are lies; nothing gets done and one has to do all the battle oneself these days…i am sorry, but this is our America now, this is the norm and if you buck the system, they have you numbered and you are either locked up or quietly done away with. it is sad. judie, don’t give up…do what you can for yourself; i realize you are angry with the system, but the system is not going to change for you or for others….they have another agenda and this current admin is so rigged. i will keep you in my prayers. the only hope for America is to repent and turn back to God.

  6. Bruce at 10:04 pm

    P*ss on this administration. I had to move out of Florida because of the DEA regulations on narcotics. Now they’re trying to hit me for $4,000 because they claim that somehow I wasn’t eligible for Obamacare subsidies in 2015. This lifelong democrat is voting for Trump. Hillary is gonna get smoked.

  7. Maureen at 6:05 am

    Judith, God bless you each day with courage and strength and Thank YOU! ever so much service and ongoing sacrifices. My heart broke reading your story. You have been through way too much.
    I’m proud of you for being such a fighter for yourself. What we go through truly is exhausting. One day at a time…never give up.

    @ DC I feel for you. I know what you are going through. Been there.
    We are your family, your support. You are not alone. Please keep on keepin’ on. You can do it! Know that I will be praying for you.
    Maureen

  8. Tracy w at 9:32 pm

    I had an appointment with my new PCP at the VA 8/6/16, as she has been on maternity leave almost the entire time I have been under her care, and I wanted to know her stance on medicinal MJ. Today she resigned. My temp doctor is in place until late October, and according to the rep I spoke with, as I change doctors (as they continually quit or are sub par medical professionals), that I would have to get my MJ approved by each new doc…. Which ain’t gonna happen. The tiny amounts of pain meds I get are hardly worth staying on… But I don’t know how much medicinal MJ will help me before I try it…. I guess I need to try it and avoid the doctor for a while…

  9. connie at 8:30 pm

    When obama. was first running he told us that there would come a time for the old and infirm would be given end of life counseling. This is all part of his overall plan. I was on large doses of opiates for ten years and had just enough pain relief to have a minimal life. I am now back to a very limited life. The government has an agenda to gain complete control and this is part of that agenda. It sucks that while a lot of us can be productive WITH pain medication in the RIGHT amount we are caught in the middle of them gaining control. I wish I could see hope for those us who suffer but I don’t.

  10. Rebecca Lunsford Anderson at 6:28 pm

    Have you tried Tylenol4? ( Which has “cured my migraines” as long as remember to take it when I feel a migraine coming) or Tramadol? which I was given once for a pulled muscle and it went directly to that leg muscle pain? They are much lower on the chart than morphine, but incredibly specific in relieving the particular pain approved for.

  11. Krissy at 5:12 pm

    Judie, you know that I know your story well. I am so glad to “hear your voice” today, but what you say and how you have to live, because of the ignorance of others, makes me so sad and so angry.

    I can’t think of a word that is right for this — maybe there isn’t one, but I am constantly downright puzzled, amazed, astonished — something like that — at how the people who are supposed to be degreed medical professionals, have been “un” treating you. The VA and the rest of the government’s part in this are medically inept with your situation, as they are with many others.

    Caring for injured and chronically-ill Veterans is one of the most serious and important parts of what this country should be doing right.

    Gold standard, nothing else.

    All of them are representing themselves with low-quality, out-dated ideals and rules that are hurting you.

    I believe your punch-back is good and I pray it helps to get through to the doctors and other people who work with you. But I am so sad that you have to spend your time fighting, hurting, feeling sick, when some sensible changes would allow you to lead a far better life.

    I had a conversation with someone today along these same lines. I stated that if Medicare hadn’t pulled illegal “stuff” on me, and that Medicaid (which I now refuse to have) hadn’t made a tiny office error that caused me to lose my BCBS years ago, I would have good care. But their mistakes have caused me to have to live the way I do. One electric wheelchair and a good attorney would be a great start, but I have lost every penny I had because of government mistakes that they won’t take responsibility for.

    God help us all. Adding what we go through to this year’s election, I believe any author who has any sense should see an opportunity or two.

    Take care, my friend. You are always in my thoughts.

  12. Michelle Ziemba at 4:07 pm

    DC,

    I’m concerned about you. I know this is a painful life to say the least. There are people who care. My family is stupid too, except for my husband and savior, my dad and cousin. I’m estranged from the rest and the much better for it. I rely on my friends to be surrogate family.

    I know how little SSID pays so I know how hard it can be to live off of it. Perhaps there are other resources? Have you contacted a state social worker who can help you navigate the system?

    Can you go to another dr for meds? Please talk to a professional about these thoughts of harm you’re having.

    Michelle Ziemba

  13. Bill & Claudia Archer at 3:04 pm

    Judie and Fred:
    It is so sad to read that you are still having such issues with the VA. This is all politics, and they are trying to make changes to policies that make no sense what so ever. You would think that the Drs would embrace proven methods to treat their patients, but it’s not the Dr, but rather the VA who is doing the treatment (or lack there of) which is causing all these problems.

    Hopefully, your articles and the comments from people who have read it, will be read by the people in the VA, and maybe cause them to have a bit of compassion for the Vets.

    I guess it’s time to write letters to the VA and the Senators/Congress persons.

  14. Heather at 1:41 pm

    So sorry you are having to go thru this after serving out country. It is a total shame. You keep fighting. Unfortunately it is affecting all of us who deal with pain. The CDC had to stick its nose somewhere it didn’t belong and caused chaos amongst the pain world. Now everything is opiod overdose. Its BS. Tjeu are doing autpsies in people who are pain patients and of course they are gonna have meds in their system and boom it’s opiod oberdose when it’s not always the case. I have written to the CDC, DEA, FDA, and the White House in regards to the new rules and regulations and what they are doing and causing. I ask them specifically if they had a plan of action for increase in suicide as it is already occurring? If course no responses from anyone as they don’t want to hear it but yet I did see a recent post from them on increase in suicide. Humm!!! I also told them it is severely dangerous and can be deadly to just have a Dr stop a patients pain meds and treatment plan without weaning them off as the withdrawals can be more harmful. Also have they really looked at antidepressants? They are horrible and way worse to come off of than pain meds. We are real people, we are pain patients, we are not addicts. We are bro g treated inhumaely, abbusively, and neglectful. So stay strong. I am fighting a disability appeal now because they said they are in unable to Work and seeing a Dr for all my conditions but due to my age which is 41 and I’ve worked since I was 14 and my education and training I don’t qualify. Seriously because I am a nurse and 41 and they see I can’t work I am denied. The system is so screwed up. Please keep fighting. I. Am an advocate for many organizations and pain ambassador for US Pain FOUNDATION and I will fight to the end at all levels to help others. Wishing you the best.

  15. Pam at 1:10 pm

    The government, DEA need to get out of our medical care! I too suffer from multiple debilitating incurable conditions, tried all the alternative therapies MY BODY could take, thousands of dollars in debt. I was on the SAME STABLE DOSE FOR EIGHT YEARS then in steps the corrupt government and thier sidekicks, and my meds lowered to ineffective doses that leave me in agony. Im in NJ, MM is only approved for those who have pain from cancer or on your deathbed. Those of us who suffer from chronic intractable pain are not given access to it. Judy thank you for your service! It burns me up that our veterans who put thier lives in harms way everyday are being mistreated, denied pain medications, as well as the rest of us who have years of documented diagnoses that are debilitating and incurable, years of trying alternative therapies, surgeries, and every non opiod medication. Nothing worked, some therapies intensified the pain, OTC AND NSAIDS tore my stomach and liver up, in the past four years i have had well over 200 painful facet injections, trigger point injections and si joint injections that do not work but in order to get the low dose meds i have to get them done, Its all about the money! The government is committing GENOCIDE on the chronic pain community!! Innocent law abiding chronically ill citizens are being forced to the streets for relief or worse SUICIDE!

  16. Linda Cheek at 12:03 pm

    I think its a case of a double standard. The federal government still has laws that state that using marijuana is illegal and criminal. And yet, because they and the states that have legalized it are making so much money, they aren’t doing anything about that. I’m not saying they should. What they should do is decriminalize all drug use. But meanwhile, actions such as this really does show that they do have a double standard.

  17. cindy at 11:29 am

    I am o sorry you are going threw this. It’s crazy, just nuts. After serving your country you are treated like this. Garbage! You do what you need to take care of your self.
    I do think we should all start thinking about a class action suit.
    I live in Colorado were Marijuana is legal. I was also told that if I used Marijuana I would no longer be able to get my pain medication. Alcohol is a drug and legal, they don’t care if I drink. I don’t drink but I could. Marijuana has been shown to help much more then alcohol.
    The whole thing is just wrong.

  18. Kim Miller at 10:57 am

    Wonderful piece, Judie. I’m sorry you’re being treated so badly after having served our country. I hope you achieve some success in your battle against the VA. I am appalled at how little is being done for our veterans with regard to pain management.

    I think marijuana should be made available to every pain patient with no restrictions on their prescription medications. Maybe someday this will come to pass.

  19. Joanne at 10:18 am

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. We are all feeling it now, these laws and regs that are suppose to “protect” us. I think you are correct in that it’s going to take LAW SUITS to get their attention and get them regulations overturned. Also, be sure to talk to your local politician and vote for your rights. Good luck with the fight. I’m sorry you have to.

  20. Jeffery Dozier at 9:55 am

    Amen to that sister,kick them in the a**.It’s amazing how much pain they think the human body can take,when there not in pain.They tell me to stop the only thing that helped me,thru the7 yrs.when the VA said they couldn’t help me cause some scum bag “lost all gulf war med records”.Now they say they haven’t done test,I am a living test.I’m still alive even after they took vics( good thing),morphine.Then they put me on PTSD meds which drove me crazy and they wouldn’t take me off,so I weened myself off.They put me on arthritis meds stomach hurt for a year this July.They took me off 3 weeks said it was to strong ,burned my insides,hurts bad along with everything else.Went to ER they said they weren’t sure if they could help me because my VA doctor took me off.This Thur. there gonna stick camera down my throat to see the damage.They gave me Maalox tell then.Since I’m not there child I’ll smoke marijuana If I want to cause I’m not there child.The VA supposed to work for us,there not helping.And as far as the camera,not letting them put me to sleep,I don’t trust them.Board of appeals supposed to give me a decision in two weeks,hope there not trying to kill me.

  21. Jo Good at 9:48 am

    DC-
    I wish I could offer concrete help. All I can say is that I’ll be praying for you and to please try to contact some person or group that can help you.
    Please, don’t give up.
    Win. For yourself.
    Jo

  22. Jo Good at 9:43 am

    First, Ms Bruno, you are a FIRECRACKER! Thank you for your service and thank you for your example!
    Never back down, never surrender!
    Why are these doctors so afraid of something that WORKS? Don’t they want us to do better? Unfortunately, it seems that most turn a blind eye when they could help. Heaven forbid they should rock the boat. I’m so sorry that you are forced to deal with this. You should be given the best care around after serving your country. But I know that’s not how it works.
    In 1990 I sat for over 6 hours in the ER of Ft. Hood, TX, miscarrying, before I was ever even seen by a doctor.
    Thank you again, for all the good you do for those who come after you.
    God bless,
    Jo Good

  23. Angel at 8:51 am

    DC where do you live? I wish there was a way I could help. Please know you have someone in seattle praying for you, someone who understands.

  24. Angel at 8:49 am

    After taking a trip to the ER last week for chest pain I was discriminated against because I’m a pain patient. I couldn’t figure out why I was being given sneering looks and no care. I ended up being diagnosed with a heart condition and costrochondritis. Never asked for pain meds since I have my own. They drug tested me without my consent. I use medical marijuana as prescribed by my neuro and pain doctors both. The targeting of pain patients is unacceptable and intentional. The government coludes with insurers to create a back door opioid ban

  25. Bob Schubring at 8:49 am

    More proof that prejudice creates stupidity. There exists evidence that Judie Bruno’s treatment plan was working. There is more evidence, that tampering with the plan made her worse. And the institution cannot figure this out, because it has decided that it already knows everything and will not bother noticing anything it has chosen to ignore.

    Hurting the institution financially is a great concept, but Judie’s method is too slow. What’s needed is a way to sue the individual VA doctor, and claw back his or her monthly salary, to reimburse the Treasury for the cost of keeping Judie disabled.

    If that were to happen, VA doctors would react differently, when receiving a memo that “allows” them to refuse necessary treatment such as this.

    Odd how politics works. A Roman Catholic or Jehovah’s Witness or member of any other religion that objects to killing unborn children, can conscientiously refuse to perform an abortion…and the full force of the US Government is working to take that right of conscientious objection away.

    But let the issue be one of blind obedience to some stupid lies that politicians made up, and immediately someone invents a way for VA doctors to object, as an imaginary matter of conscience, to the fact that patients who defy the stupid lie and use the prohibited herb Cannabis, recover.

  26. MichaelL at 8:02 am

    HEAR, HEAR!! This denial of needed treatment is nothing short of blackmail and terrorism against the people who are already victims of intractable, uncontrollable, pain!

  27. Lisa Nagy at 7:14 am

    Great article Judie. Way to fight for yourself, Veterans and all those in pain. You are a wonderful pain advocate & Warrior…I hope your story will not only encourage others but give them the courage to fight too. Is there anything as civilians we can do to help you? Proud of you my friend. And thank you so very much for serving our country, for your honorable sacrifices and our Freedom. ❤

  28. Dc at 7:12 am

    I was already forced to stop mAking a decent living and go on ssdi now living like a homeless person for the last 2 years and getting very old living like this and meds gave been cut forcing me to not even be able to work part time anymore to actually be able to afford my bills each month. I am considering to end all of this very soon. Which is what all these government ppl want, to get rid of us in chronic pain.Plus family says I’m an embarrassment and I’ve had noone in my life that cares for 4 years or more.