Bay Pines’ opioid crackdown leaves veteran without pain medication he needs

8 On Your Side

Worries the VA is "red flagging" his file.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Air Force veteran Larry Kummer never had an issue with his treatment at the Veterans Administration’s Bay Pines Medical Center in Pinellas County.

That was until May, when a new doctor at the VA clinic in Bradenton cut off the only medication that stopped severe pain in his legs. It was a 10-miligram Hydrocodone pill, an opioid.

“She just said that we don’t prescribe that for chronic pain,” Larry recalled.

Air Force veteran Larry Kummer claims the VA cut off his medication only because it was an opioid.

Larry had been taking hydrocodone for six years and never took more than was prescribed or asked for an increase in dosage. He also passed all the necessary drug tests.

But during that time, opioid abuse skyrocketed.

This is trouble for Larry, who needs, but does not misuse the drug.

Doctors began experimenting with other medications.

“Within a couple of days we went up to the emergency room up at Bay Pines cause I was shaking and vibrating so badly,” Larry said.

Over the next three months, three doctors at the VA prescribed Larry six different medications.

“It was making me sick and dizzy and lightheaded and stumbling, I had to hold onto things around the house because I was afraid I was going to fall,” Larry recalled.

None of the medications helped. And the pain kept him up almost every night.

Following an assessment in August, Bay Pines’ Chief of Neurology prescribed Larry a medication of worked, one 10-miligram Hydrocone pill, which he would have to take each night. He recommended Larry continue that treatment.

“Started taking one pill at night and started sleeping again,” Larry said.

But he found something disturbing in his medical file, an addendum, which states: “The patient’s lack of willingness to try other medications does not equal medical justification for opiates.”

“This is absurd they will literally put things in your record,” Larry explained. “Reflagging, and the VA is known for it, if they think that someone is trouble they’ll start loading up their records with problems, and one day you may find that when you go, you are being followed around by the Bay Pines police.”

Larry claims he was willing to try new medications. When he reported the side effects to doctors, they told him to stop taking them and put him on something else.

To make matter worse, Larry found another notation in his records that said VA primary care physicians will not follow the recommendation of the chief of neurology to continue his low dose prescription of Hydrocodone.

Larry eventually went to a private pain management clinic and was assessed by a team of doctors who prescribed him the one, 10-milligram hydrocodone pill, which has cost him several hundred dollars out of pocket.

If you know of something that should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1 800 338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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