The VA is forcing sick veterans to travel hundreds to thousands of miles to receive organ transplants that could be conducted within an hour of their homes. Veterans that need live-saving organ transplants can only have the procedures completed at 13 locations across the entire United States. In an effort to save money and reduce costs the VA is forcing veterans to travel extreme distances despite mountains of evidence showing that travel before and after medical procedures can have disastrous effects on a patient’s health. A recent study also revealed that veterans living farther from one of the 13 locations were far less like to be placed on an organ transplant wait list than those living closer to the facilities; meaning a veterans life or death can be determined solely on their home address.
Jamie McBride is the whistleblower responsible for revealing this injustice to the public. He is the Program Manager for Solid Organ Transplants at the San Antonio VA that couldn’t sit idly by as veterans’ live were needlessly risked. He claims that thousands of veterans have needlessly died due to the antiquated and outdated policies employed by the VA. He claims that veterans would normally be approved for transplants at a private medical center are being turned away from VA facilities based solely on bureaucratic red-tape.
A program known as “veteran’s choice” was signed in to action by President Obama in 2012 was implemented to prevent veterans from traveling long-distances to receive care. Under “veteran’s choice” vets can attend appointments with non-VA doctors that are closer to home. The “veteran’s choice” policy does not apply to organ transplants according to the VA, the VA has declined to comment on the reasoning behind this policy.
Many veterans are being forced to finance their own transplants at local non-VA facilities simply to survive. Aaron Arch, a medic, was forced to travel to Madison, Wisconsin for a lung transplant while living in San Antonio. John Moore is another veteran forced to needlessly travel for treatment. Moore traveled from Minnesota to Texas for over 10 years to receive treatment for his Hepatitis C.
McBride claims that bureaucracy prevents the VA from covering the cost of a living non-veteran to donating an organ to a living veteran. The VA is forced to scavenge organs from deceased organ donors and living veterans. Lawmakers have introduced a bill to force the VA to perform transplants on living donors that are not veterans in the hopes of ending the needless deaths of countless veterans.