A veteran claims he nearly operated on himself live on social media after the VA refused to pay his medical bill.
John Irish, a former soldier in the National Guard and an EMT, went to the hospital after he cut his thumb badly on a table saw.
“I looked down and there was a piece of my finger missing,” he told Boston 25 News.
Irish said that he did not blame the hospital for denying him service, but instead the VA for having a broken system that wanted him to pay for the bill.
Irish received care initially for cutting his thumb, but when he returned to Lahey Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, to have the stitches removed, he was told the VA would not pay for the bill.
“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.
Irish receives his medical benefits through the Veterans Choice Program, which allows him access to private health care. The Veterans Choice Program allows a veteran access to private health care when a VA facility has a long wait time for an appointment or if the veteran lives too far away.
Irish told the news outlet that this wasn’t the first time that the VA refused to pay his bills.
Irish said he threatened to remove the sutures himself on social media, but a few hours later, the VA agreed to to pay for the procedure.
According to Lahey Medical Center’s medical records, the hospital received a call from the Manchester VA Medical Center, Boston 25 News reported. During the call, the suture procedure was discussed and a follow-up appointment was set up for later this year.
On Tuesday, a VA spokesperson told the news outlet, “A review of our records show there was no prior contact or authorization regarding Mr. Irish.”
She added that “no care or payment had been denied.”
Irish stands by his claim that the VA refused to pay for the medical bill.
“It’s totally disgusting that they have to threaten, beg or borrow to get medical treatment,” he said.
Lahey Medical Center said they are committed to providing quality care to veterans.
“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.”