It seems we can often run into roadblocks when dealing with government bureaucracies.  At my last visit with Dr. Scholz, I recounted some personal difficulties I faced recently and how I was able to resolve them.  He asked me to share my story as he thought it might be helpful for other men who face troubles in their interactions with the VA.  

On August 28, 2017, while undergoing diagnostic needle penetrations in my lower back, one of the needles struck a nerve, causing extreme pain in my right hip and radiating down my right leg to my foot. Until that time, I thought the pain I suffered from severe spinal stenosis was bad, but by comparison, the nerve pain made the spinal stenosis seem like near nothing. The doctor told me to tell the scheduling clerk that he wanted to see me in one week. When told, the clerk said the earliest I could be scheduled was in about two months and that I would be notified – WOW!!! 

Well, I did what most old veterans do, I waited in agony. After a month of waiting, with no contact from the VA, I decided to author a letter to the Los Angeles VA System Director and the Chief of Medical Staff. I hand carried the letters to their offices and again, no contact. In great pain and becoming very unhappy (polite term for pissed off), I thought of who I could contact to generate a response. I was in pain and needed help. I then called upon my memory when, as a young lawyer, I used to write letters for clients that needed help from government bureaucracies. I thought, who does the VA fear most at a time when it’s receiving bad press – ah, yes, the political arm of government. 

So, I authored a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein with copies to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and copies to the VA System Director and the Chief of Medical Staff. Again, I hand delivered the copies to the secretary of the System Director and the Chief of Medical Staff. I also told their secretary that she might inform her bosses that my letter could generate newsworthy information if I also delivered copies to the Los Angeles Times. 

By the time I got home and was pouring a glass of fine wine for myself, I received a call from the Chief of Pain Medicine at the West Los Angeles VA, asking me if I could come to his office right away. Well, within four days the medication prescribed had eliminated the radiating pain and I was back to suffering pain from severe spinal stenosis – what a relief. 

Robert N. Cleaves 

Happy patient of Mark Scholz, MD, Director of PCRI

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