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Thread: VA rehab versus non VA rehab

  1. #1

    VA rehab versus non VA rehab

    I am trying to research SCI rehab centers for my brother and was curious if anyone had advice on if VA or non VA centers were better? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    He was going to go to the Tampa VA center and I suggested that he do some more research before choosing. There has been some talk of looking into the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, but he has concerns of what his military insurance will cover if he goes somewhere that is non VA. What VA SCI centers do you feel are the best? If all goes well he will be dismissed from Walter Reed in a week or two, so he's got a huge decision to make and not much time. His injury was a gunshot wound to the lower back which missed the spine by 1 1/2 to 2 inches, with a fracture between L3 and L4 vertebrae (they fused his back from, I believe, the 12th vertebrae down), one root nerve in that area was severely damaged and the MRI's show no spinal cord damage. He has feeling and some mobility in his left leg, very little feeling and mobility in his right leg.
    Last edited by buttershot; 02-25-2007 at 01:17 AM. Reason: More questions

  2. #2
    Senior Member MikeC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Tampa, FL
    Hey buttershot - I did rehab at both the VA in Tampa and at Tampa General. The VA was better than I expected - I thought they would be used to treating old folks. However, rehab at both depended on who I was working with. At the VA they rotated therapists every month - some were good and others not so good (just put me on a nu-step and went in their office).

    Neither the VA or non-VA were nearly as good as when I started working with someone who had worked at Project Walk. She had more knowledge and ability to tailor the workout to my level of injury and what I could do. Mike
    T12 Incomplete - Walking with Crutches, Injured in Oct 2003

  3. #3
    Thanks Mike! But give yourself some credit too - your attention to what changes in your body and the feedback you give me helps me to create the workouts!
    Buttershot - Regardless of what kind of therapy or treatment you are looking for, remember that you are your best advocate. So ask lots of questions, talk to people who have been to the hospitals/centers you are considering, and educate yourself. This forum is a really good place to start

  4. #4
    Which VA SCI Center? They are all different, although they do all meet the VA regulations (1176.1) for SCI Centers, and are all CARF accredited. Regardless, we say "when you have seen one VA, you have seen one VA"....we are not all the same. For example, I am in San Diego, and we do NOT rotate our therapists...we have OTs and PTs and TR staff separate from the main hospital therapists, so all they do is SCI care. The same goes for our nursing staff and physicians, social workers and psychologists. Also remember that VA general rehab centers, while also CARF accredited, are NOT supposed to take SCI veterans. You must be referred to a SCI center, of which there are 22 in the country.

    Some major advantages of VA SCI care:
    1. You will not get kicked out because your insurance says 20 days is all the rehab you get. Your length of stay is based on your needs, not your funding. Our average length of stay for rehab is nearly 100 days, with a range of 10-180 days based on individual needs.

    2. All prosthetics (DME) equipment is covered, including lifts, bathroom equipment, the best wheelchairs, etc. This is extremely rare for other insurances, even workers' comp.

    3. You will get care in a specialty center that most likely is involved in clinical research, and be eligible for participation in studies.

    4. Even if you have a co-payment, it is very low (about $850/90 days of hospitalization plus $10/day). Try to find that with most insurances!

    5. Veterans make veterans welcome. Between our outpatients and the PVA chapter office (right on site) we have a built-in peer counseling program that is very effective, and helps the newly injured veteran or active duty member learn to deal with their injury with the support of other vets.

    6. Passes, both recreation passes and passes with family are pretty liberally granted, while this is rarely the case in private sector rehab now days.

    7. Getting into the VA SCI healthcare system means getting care for life...mandatory annual check-ups at a SCI center, DME needs for life, etc.

    Please ask more questions. I am going to move this over to the New SCI forum though.


  5. #5
    Senior Member MikeC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Tampa, FL
    KLD, thanks for the great summary about everything the VA offers. Of course, you don't have to be in rehab at the VA to get all of those benefits. But you're right - not having to worry about insurance is definitely a plus along with all of the other care that you get at the VA - when I needed new AFOs I just went down the hall and got them.

    buttershot - whether or not you decide to get care at VA you should definitely get enrolled in the VA system. The annual physical and other care (that KLD describes) are great. The folks at the Tampa VA are the ones that got me walking on a treadmill - they have a harness system with the treadmill - so the equipment that each facility has is also important.

    Lindsay - glad to see that you're watching the forums. I'm sure my feedback helps but none of the therapists I've worked with have had your level of knowledge of exercises to target the muscle groups that need targeting. I'm assuming that other folks at places like Push to Walk and Project Walk have the same level of knowledge even though they may not be as nice as you .

    Last edited by MikeC; 02-25-2007 at 01:31 PM.
    T12 Incomplete - Walking with Crutches, Injured in Oct 2003

  6. #6
    He is looking at the Tampa facility, but we've had a hard time up until now finding out much about which VA SCI centers are the best. At this point he is capable of moving where the best rehab is. Do you know how the VA centers compare to somewhere like the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago?

  7. #7
    The Tampa VA has an excellent reputation for its SCI Center. Where does he live now? He would probably do best to go to the center nearest his home. Tampa is heavily impacted with active duty patients from IOF/EOF so he may have to wait to get in.

    I worked at RIC as a grad student, and can say that we provide similar quality of care, but don't have insurance companies and utilization review down our necks all the time telling us to send the patient home too early.


  8. #8
    His home is in Royal Palm Beach, FL. He was stationed in Iraq when injured and was planning on moving when he got home, so he's pretty open to location. He will be medically retired from the Army when all is said and done. His biggest concern is the quality of the facility at this point.


  9. #9

    I found this site for SCI

    Just thought this may be of help
    It is a list of centers and information on financial assistance.
    Good luck and god bless

  10. #10
    If he was stationed in Iraq when injured, the Army/Marines, etc. were REQUIRED to send him as an active duty SCI patient to a VA SCI center within 3 days of him being medically stable to be moved. What happened?


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