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22 May 2016

ADA: One more step

This will make more sense if you read https://stillinthedesert.blogspot.com/2016/05/a-week-ago-last-thursday.html first.

This past Thursday I called my psychiatrist (who is really actually a pharmacist) at the VA Hospital and actually got to speak to her. The process for actually talking to one's provider goes like this: you call the clinic (in my case, mental health). You don't get your provider's direct line. The person that answers the phones for the clinic instant messages your provider to see if they can take your call. If the provider says yes, you get transferred. I got transferred. Yay.

The call was about what I expected. I explained again that I had made an ADA accommodations request at work, that I needed verification of my disability, and that I needed a form or letter that pretty much said everything that was on the paperwork that I dropped off: because PTSD affects my ability to concentrate I need to be scheduled for only one job on one day, I need noise canceling headphones, and if at all possible I need to be able to sit both away from the busiest part of the open office I work in, preferably with my back to a wall.

Provider said she'd have a letter ready for me the next day, but she couldn't fax it because of the content of the letter-- I'd need to sign a release of information form first, which would mean I'd have to go to the VA Hospital in person, and which would defeat the whole purpose of faxing the letter. So on Friday, I went to the VA to get the letter, but not before messaging the Patient Advocate's office again to let them know that I'd been promised that the letter would be available for me on Friday.

(In the past, the same mental health clinic had had no problem faxing documentation to the campus disability resource center with the same exact information. Whatever.)

So, Friday: Friday afternoon is morning for me, so I have to get up early. I'm lucky in that the VA Hospital here is attached to the university hospital, so it's on the other end of campus and there's a bus to and from. When I get to the mental health clinic, there are two administrative staff people there and they literally climb over each other to get the envelope with my name on it. My provider also happens to be there, and she smiles and waves like she's my best friend.

I'm happy that the letter is there waiting for me, but I don't have anything to say to either the admin staff (who are generally pretty nice people) or my provider besides "thanks" before I grab the envelope, do an about face, and leave.

It should be noted here that I always try to be nice, or at least very polite, to people who are working to do things for me. I work at a help desk, and I know what it's like to be yelled at. It sucks. Then again, where I work, I do everything I can to make sure whatever you need gets either fixed now or escalated to someone who can fix it for you ASAP. We have time constraints, such as if you email us with a question we either answer or escalate your issue within 24 hours. It's something of a big deal if we don't meet our times.

I didn't have anything nice to say to anyone at mental health on Friday. Yes, my provider did take the time to talk to me on the phone and get me the letter I needed for my ADA accommodations request the very next day. The problem is that it took two weeks-- a week of waiting after I dropped it off, plus the time it took to go through the Patient Advocate's office. I had to contact the Patient Advocate's office in writing before anything got done. If I hadn't contact the Patient Advocate I'd likely still be waiting for an answer.

Mental health didn't have anything to say to me, either.

There wasn't a "hey, we're sorry about the mixup" or a "sorry but ". There was no apology at all. 

Trust me when I say that at work, we (including me) have screwed things up before, and I've written plenty of apology emails and been on plenty of phone calls where I've had to say "I am the most senior person on staff here right now, this is my name, and this effup is my fault." It is not fun; but if I effed up your request it's up to me to acknowledge it and fix the problem. Even if I'm not the one that effed it up, I'm on the clock and it's my job to fix.

I'm going to take a step back, to the phone call where I called my provider and explained what I needed for my ADA request.

She did ask if I needed to come in for an appointment; I said no. There's probably nothing she's going to offer me besides either more or different medication. There might be some sort of group or individual therapy she'd refer me into, but it's very likely it would be something similar to the prolonged exposure group I was in that was really of limited value. I'm also working six days a week all summer, so I don't have free time.

She did ask "how I'm doing", to which I replied that I have PTSD and depression and anxiety and it's affecting me at work and can we talk about the ADA accommodations form I dropped off.

What she did not ask about was my medication, which I stopped taking months ago. I haven't put in a pharmacy refill request in at least six months. I was on enough different medications, for long enough, that I did a lot of my own research into what the meds were supposed to do. In every case, there were always warnings that you should never ever stop taking them without your doctor gradually reducing your doses. (When I stopped taking my meds I did a potentially bad thing, but it was a risk I was willing to take.) She never even mentioned, much less asked, about my medications-- which were the only treatment I was receiving.

Said another way: I am a combat veteran with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I was on and off the streets, homeless, for two years. I haven't been in for an appointment for just about a year and I haven't renewed my medications for at least six months meaning that at some point I've stopped taking them. I'm asking for ADA accommodations at work. 

And no one at the VA notices a (potential) problem? (That sound you hear is yet another veteran falling through the cracks.)

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It should be noted here that I'm doing all right. I'm pretty in tune with how I'm feeling, and if things ever get that bad I both know how to get help and will do so. 

There are veterans who are in a lot worse shape than I am that are treated the same way at the same mental health clinic, and probably at other VA mental health clinics.

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What's next: I managed to get the letter from the VA to my human resources office at work on Friday. The soonest they'll look at it is on Monday. Now that they have the needed documentation, they will review it and decide if the ADA accommodations I requested are approved, disapproved, or modified. I don't know how long that will take. Assuming they approve everything, which indications are they will, my department will be informed and they'll have to make sure the accommodations are made-- not sure how long that will take either.

I'm guessing mid-June. *sigh*.

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