Navy Veteran Jacqueline learned she had breast cancer during a routine screening at the DC VA Medical Center. After getting all her cancer treatment at VA, she never wants to go back to the private sector for care.

What did you know about VA? Did you have any preconceived notions about VA care?

I had none. I went in blindfolded and just hoped for the best. And thankfully it has been a rewarding experience. I was laid off, out a job in 2012 due to outsourcing, which left me without insurance. I was approaching 40 years old and getting regular checkups was my main goal.

When I started using the Washington DC VA Medical Center, they started having suspicion that I might have a tumor. Because I’ve gone through this over and over since my career in the military, and now as a Veteran, I really wasn’t alarmed.

I just thought it might be something where the imaging is not showing up properly. We’ll do your regular testing and you’ll walk away and everything will be fine. Well, that was not the case. This time they did find something.

And from that point on, and to this very day, I have been using the VA system as far as the chemotherapy, the radiation, the physical therapy.

Who makes up your care team?

Let me start off by saying my care team is the best in this world. And I owe them an enormous amount of gratitude. They have been from your women’s health. They have been from the oncology department, physical therapy. I even throw in voluntary services and my social workers.

I guarantee you for my next physician, I have no intentions of using the private sector. My VA care is all in house and that to me is very, very important… for any Veteran. And it’s really sad that maybe some civilians don’t have that opportunity.

Because you do really have to just go to whoever the specialist is and it could be from one side of town to the other. Not so with the VA Medical Center.

Describe some of your visits there, what that world is like for you.

To my surprise, it wound up being a very pleasant experience because no matter which service I would use, the staff and the physicians, they’re just happy to see you. You know they’re not happy for the situation, but they are happy to see you and the feeling was very mutual on my part.

So you actually enjoyed your cancer treatment?

I actually did enjoy my cancer treatment. I attend the Oncology Support Group on Wednesdays and we are one big family in there.

Everyone at VA that I had immediate contact with were very supportive. And where they may not have had the answer, they searched to see who might have the answer.

I take life as it comes and I always look for the silver lining. I have to grab myself by my boots and say, you know what? This is just another obstacle and you’ll get over this too.

That my life had to take this turn so dramatically means that I have to make the rest of my life better to do the most good, for the most people, in extraordinary ways. And that’s what I’m going to do.

Apply for VA Health Care

Enrolling for VA health care is easier than ever before. Explore your eligibility today at www.choose.va.gov/health.


Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist with the National Veterans Outreach Office.

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22 Comments

  1. Tasha Caprice March 21, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    I highly recommend VA San Diego Healthcare System. My experience is great! They suggest programs I was not aware of as well as diligent regular care. Grateful for the things I can do at home through a computer. Thank you! Will be moving to Arizona and very worried service will not measure up.

  2. Billy j Wilson March 17, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    Not all VHAs are equal and with over 20 years of medical care I am not a fan. And will use my medicare first and can not understand the VA PCP’s egos.

  3. Robert Wetick March 12, 2021 at 7:33 am

    VA healthcare in Cincinnati is disjointed. Calls go unanswered or get rerouted to various VA branches without your knowledge. Had three scheduled appointments cancelled on short notice. Some staff try to do well…others no so much.

    • Billy j Wilson March 17, 2021 at 5:08 pm

      The few that get great care are very loud on the internet, but those not able to use the internet are hit with red tape and forms that are now where else to be found. Every VHA office needs video cameras like every retail clerk has on them.

  4. Barbara Matthews March 12, 2021 at 7:08 am

    During pandemic, civilian doctors can see patients, but not VA docs! Have had leg swelling issues for years in and out of the military. Durham NC docs just told me to walk more. Civilian doctor with physical therapy diagnosed lymphedema. VA rated 0 due to “nothing for small venous insufficiency”. This in addition to other ongoing issues.C&P totally ignore other doctor input and go solely on the 5 minutes their doctor sees you. Civilian doctor finally got me with a rheumatologist, which one thru the VA 18 years ago told me I wasn’t worth wasting her time. Finally getting some relief, but not because of the VA!

  5. Amber Hunteman March 11, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    I love our CBOC and the Birmingham, AL. VAMC. They have caught liver cancer that civilian doctors missed, and saved my husband’s life. I decided to try the VA (we’re both Navy Vets) after that and they fixed a problem I’d been battling for years in the civilian medical world. I can’t say enough good about them!

  6. Larry oneil March 11, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Fort custer Va is in Battle Creek Mi They are awesome!

  7. Larry oneil March 11, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Fort Custer Va is awesome.

  8. Timothy Clark West March 11, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    Yes the VA is doing a great work with the backlog of cases and claims but they can do a better job than what they are doing. With SURVIVAL BENEFITS IS ONE THE LONG BEHIND UNSOLVED PROBLEMS AT THE VA.and Rate increase why do it take so many reviews to get a RATE increase. Thank for your open comment.

  9. Peter J Pournaras March 11, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    F* the va healthcare I would rather go private. My wife had cancer and the va couldn’t even scope her cancer in a timely manner and did not even know if they had the right equipment for that type of scope needed and this was just a scope not even a surgery. Imagine going to a car dealership to get your car fixed and they tell you they don’t have the right equipment then you go somewhere else right? I had to go into the va and threaten them so she could get a referral to go private since the va is straight trash and wouldn’t let us go private. The va continues to s* on veterans everyday.

  10. Steven Hon March 11, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    I can’t say enough good things about the VA. I was in a motorcycle accident where I died for fifteen minutes and the doctors said that I would never walk again but the VA got me out of a wheelchair!

    • George Balabon March 11, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      I go to the va in Las Vegas NV. It is the best care I have ever had.iam 83.veteran.they are the best care.this hospital is on pecos. I went and got my 2 shots of covers and I fell great. That was in January.

  11. Thomas DrexeI March 11, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    My health care at the southern Arizona VA health care hospital has been fantastic across the board. From the doctors, nurses, support staff, all have been informed, professional, and caring.

  12. Michael Cricchio March 11, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    I retired from the Navy after 22 years, for the first 15 years after leaving active duty my family and I used TriCare Prime because it was part of the benefit for being a lifer. Over time I noticed that TriCare for retirees was getting worse and worse, the MTF’s had no room for us and would constantly farm you to the private sector. One day on a lark I decided to see if the VA was a better option for me and without a doubt it has been the best decision I could have ever made. The folks in Northeast Florida VA system are outstanding, my PCM team has gotten me to Optometry, Orthopedics, Audiology and Dermatology with absolutely no long waits or denials. I see my PCM Doc every 6 months without fail and I’m eternally great full for the VA system here in NE Florida for providing COVID 19 vaccines to any eligible VA patient no matter the age or condition, that alone has been worth the price of admission. Just remember the care may be free but it’s your earned benefit, don’t take no for an answer and keep the providers feet to the fire and they will respond.

  13. Chuck Wright March 11, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve seen the VA system at it’s worst in Phoenix, AZ when I was a grad student at ASU in the early 80’s, but have also been very impressed with the compassion and professionalism of the staff at Ft. Harrison VAMC in Helena, MT and the VA community clinic in Anaconda, MT, where I currently receive care. Having spent 35+ years in civilian healthcare systems, I can honestly say (in my humble opinion), that the VA in Montana is tops!

  14. James Robinette March 11, 2021 at 10:58 am

    I think the VA program is awesome. VA Mountain Home Johnson City TN rocks. Always on schedule.. Great staff

  15. William Davis March 11, 2021 at 10:57 am

    With the fraud, waste and constant abuse of me and other combat Veterans in Delaware and Maryland I 100% doubt that DC is any better than these monsters here who have not had oversight in years.

  16. Jose A Torres March 11, 2021 at 7:27 am

    Don’t want to know about the V.A. They aren’t doctors here in P.R.the worst .with chronic back pain and cervical pain they took me off pain meds after so many years.
    Now they are giving me tylenol. Then they wonder why we go into drugs. I should of stood in new York.

  17. Dennis Erickson March 11, 2021 at 6:30 am

    I think that VA forgot to be inform South Texas Veterans Health Care that Veterans are Supposed to Get Access to their Teams. I have Not been able to reach, or schedule an appointment with my PCP for a year.

  18. Darby D. Beattie March 11, 2021 at 5:33 am

    I have found years of great VA care.I am being honest. Poor communication is big problem.I have seen vets neglected. I tried to help but the system is behind in many ways.Unskilled and uneducated employees is their problem. No one takes responsible action.Excuses are done by unanswered calls from VA staff. My solution to this is to tell them to do their job or leave.9

  19. Jaime Duarte March 11, 2021 at 3:04 am

    I belong to the VA hospital on Long Beach, CA. I was laid off on August 13,2020. I was ready signed up with the VA, but didn’t use it. Now I am receiving 10% disability for a service connected injury and I’m waiting for an increase do due other service injuries. If the civilian section was like the VA our medical problems would be solved. Due to follow up care my diabetes is better control and now I’m having my vision taken care of. I am very happy with my VA care. Semper Fi.

  20. Patricia Lewis March 11, 2021 at 12:05 am

    I agree with Jacqueline. During a routine mammogram at VA, it was discovered that I had breast cancer. I received great care from the Temple, TX VA. I don’t want to go anywhere else. During the pandemic, my primary doctor and oncologist stayed in constant contact with me. I even received a call from the women’s clinic just to see how I was doing.

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