I’m glad to be of help. I am a disabled veteran. Prior to receiving SSDI, I had to rely on the VA for medical care. I was first injured in 1987 at Ft. Jackson, SC. I suffered a back injury, spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with herniated discs L4/L5 and L5/S1 and a hairline fracture of L5. I can best describe it as vertebrae that popped out of alignment in my spinal column. It is an incredibly painful condition. Offers of surgery to put the vertebrae back where they belong came with a steep price of permanent paralysis from the waist down. I declined. Since then, L5 has broken into 3 pieces. I also suffer from medullary sponge kidneys with stones, fibromyalgia, arthritis, bone spurs in both knees, and spondylosis of the cervical spine which developed into spondylolisthesis of C4-6.
Long drives and infrequent appointments were just the beginning of the nightmare. I first had a PCP who refused to prescribe any pain medications. Her medical advice was, “Take an Extra Strength Tylenol with a glass of Coke.” I have been through lots of therapy – physical, occupational, pool, TENS, massage, chiropractic, core strengthening – for many years, rinse and repeat. I have taken every anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxer that the VA offers or offered. I have been on short-term pain killers like Vicodin, Toradol and Percocet during particularly difficult times. It wasn’t until a few years ago that things became so painful that I needed daily medications. So when this female doctor refused to offer me anything for the pain, I was downright suicidal. I have suffered greatly, and beared it, because there was no other choice but to turn to street drugs. After two years of this, I was allowed to switch doctors.
My new PCP was the head of the clinic. He was appalled that the other doctor refused to treat me. He said he had no recourse to discipline her though. He immediately started me on Vicodin. Then we progressed to Morphine. I had extended release pills and immediate relief pills. It was the first time my pain was adequately managed in decades. At my worst, I had permission to take 120 mg of Morphine a day. I never once exceeded that amount. In fact, I often took less. Imagine my surprise, three years later, when the clinic called me to say I had to come in immediately to see my doctor. He told me the VA was kicking all VA patients off opiates.
He let me read the email on his computer. It was from the “parent” VAMC in Lebanon, which was a forward from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. It detailed that all patients were to cease being prescribed opiates, with a 2 week tapering. Any patient who had less than 6 months to live, and was suffering from a high pain level (doctor discretion) could be given a new prescription for opiate therapy. All other patients on opiates were to be sent to the newly formed pain management teams at the regional VAMC. No patients were going to be seen prior to the tapering! It also stated that patients were not to be promised any future opiate therapy, even cancer patients. About a month later, I did see the pain management team person (nurse practitioner, I think). She told me bone conditions don’t respond to opiates. She told me I would never be given opiate therapy for any of my medical conditions. I would not receive any future appointments unless I developed a new condition which met the new criteria for opiate therapy.
I went back to having no medication or treatment. I was suicidal. I went inpatient twice for suicidal ideation. Two years later, I received SSDI and was able to access a pain management doctor. I’m back on Morphine again, 60 mg a day and without the extended release pills. I haven’t been suicidal since I’ve been back on pain medication.