Vet says St. Louis VA mistake could have killed him

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - An army veteran says the St.  Louis Veterans Administration dropped the ball and it nearly cost him his life.  His nightmare isn't over.

Veteran Tom Phillips and his wife Bernadette have been through a lot. One of the biggest battles for the army vet has been with the  VA St. Louis healthcare system. Over the past four years he says he went to VA dozens of times since 2010 complaining of severe headaches. The last VA doctors visit about the headaches this past November.

"So, they did a few more tests and said we don't see anything thing wrong.  Maybe you're taking too much aspirin for the headaches and over-medicating yourself." said Army Veteran Tom Phillips. "I said what I do. They said don't take any aspirin."

Reporter Elliott Davis asks, "You stopped taking the aspirin on the advice of VA. Then what happened?"

"Well, I just suffered with the headaches for 5 or 6 months. 7 months and one day, I just, I just fell out of the chair!" said Tom Phillips.

About three weeks ago Phillips was rushed to a private hospital with a stroke. Doctors told him he had a blood clot on the brain.

"He had brain surgery right  then and there.  It worked, thank the Lord." said Veteran's Wife Bernadette Phillips.

"The main complaint is they tell me I was over medicating myself; that there was nothing wrong with me.  When I knew there was something wrong and then I practically die in my own living room six months later because they didn't see anything!" said Tom Phillips.

Phillips  now has to pay the thousands of dollars in medical bills from the stroke."I couldn't tell the ambulance you have to take me to the VA. I wasn't responsive enough!" said Tom Phillips.

I reached VA for their comment.  A spokeswoman sent me a statement saying, "Thank you for proving this information. I can assure you that we are reviewing the care received by this veteran. Every veteran deserves to receive first class care."


  • Steven Sweeney

    Get locked up at Gitmo.Our pro-terrorist president gives those wonderful people same day service.Meanwhile our honorable vets suffer.Just one more reason to kick Obozo out of the white mosque.

  • Billy Hill

    The problem with complaining to any doctor about chronic pain is that they think you are asking for drugs, because many people do.

  • Bob

    I never would consider the VA as my first choice of health care, more like the last resort. It’s unfortunate that people need to turn to them because they lack health insurance.

    • Pattha

      I am a military retiree but for my husband’s service related health issues we always go to the VA first. Because TRI-Care Prime like many private insurance companies won’t pay for treatment that is service connected . . . they want the VA to pay up first. The only thing that Tri-Care pays for him is when his prescription medicines are on back order at the VA and we need them filled now. Also there are a lot of civilian doctors who do work at the VA health care system. My husband gets to see the top GI specilist at the Methodist Health Care System for free because she also consults for the VA medical center in our community. If we went the TRI-Care route he would never have been approved for a referal to see her. The VA system has some problems but it is still doing some good on a daily basis.

      • Petey

        Pattha, I think your response is based on location. I am a retired veteran and I have tri-care, however, my tri-care prime doctor is located on a military base. Although I do have VA disability, I still get referals from Tric-care to take care of my service connected disability. I VA as a back up for when I can’t get something more immediate from tri-care. You might want to go back to your tri-care facility because we as retirees pay for tri-care so they cannot deny you when you are paying for their service.

      • Pattha990

        Petey, Our PCM is on the base facility as well. But when you go out for a referral appointment you are paying a co-pay. When my husband goes to the VA facility it is free. According to my retirement brief on Tri-Care they were very specific about Tri-care always being a secondary payer if there is another payer who will pay for the care first. But hey its your money. If you want to pay for something you can get for free have at it. But a lot of the rest of us don’t have that luxury.

  • JillE

    Great Job, Elliott Davis! As a veteran, I have seen atrocities like this happen many times in VA Hospitals. St. Louis VA Hospital in particular is the worst about service and treatment towards veterans. I would like to see a story on a veteran waiting on an Emergency/ Doctor’s appointment and and watch what happens from the minute they walk in to the minute they are treated and walked out. I think it will horrify most people.

  • voter

    if he was sure the VA was not helping why would he want to go the VA with a STROKE ?
    have a nice day

    • Pattha

      How about he went to the VA because it is free as long as the headaches are related to his military service. Who would want to go somewhere they would have to pay if they had another alternative?

  • ravens533

    Who waits up to 7 months when they keep having symptoms? Also, no where in the story is a direct connection made between the headaches and the stroke. Personally, I know that chronic headaches have numerous causes. Mine come from allergies and a pinched nerve in my neck. If I were to have a stroke tomorrow, there would be no connection between the headaches that I now suffer from and that stroke. There is a lot implied here with out a lot of solid information.

    • Inci Pio

      When you go to doctors you are saying … “please help me” and he went back continually… (dozens of times over a four year span). He only knew he hurt and that they were there to find out why and assist him. The problem is, this is not uncommon – and I don’t mean just the VA. The patient also has a responsibility to begin logging issues once they become “continual”. It really can be difficult to know if when he went to see the doctor what the verbal back and forth was between them. If he said it was A but it really was B, they’d be doing tests related to A and maybe overlook B. IT really comes down to communication. The body is extensive, and the doctors need not only clues but they must validate why each test is done and make a claim. They simply cannot just run every test possible until BINGO!.

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