Can I start off by saying, "Grrrrrrrrrr!"?
I am so fed up with DoD workers and their laziness. I understand that not every employee falls into this category, but unfortunately the majority of the people I have come in contact with over the past 4+ years seem to care less about being friendly, customer service, helpfulness, their job, and yes, sadly even telling the truth. This goes for my OB/GYN, our labor & delivery Dr., the man who hands out vehicle decals, the woman in the medical records office, and many others.
I know that I should probably write an ICE complaint on the Fort Leonard Wood website, but unfortunately I never remember to get the employee's name when issues come up. Maybe its the fact that I get too worked up in my head to ask or maybe its that lil' H is trying to crawl out of my arms and onto the dirty hospital floor - either way I have no name to go with my complaint. So, I have decided to tell my story here in hopes that it will help other military wives avoid the same frustrations.
In the past each time you make a PCS move, you had to pick up your medical records and carry them with you to your new duty station. Your new doctor will need them, and it is always a good idea to have a copy in your personal files anyway.
When we moved from Schofield in Hawaii, I was told by the medical records office that they could not give me my medical records without a power of attorney from my husband. Seth told me he would just swing by the next day and get them; well they would not give them to him without a power of attorney from me! We ended up just leaving them there since we had so many other things to get done before our move. Ridiculous!
Here's the important part of this story: The Army must give you your medical records if you ask for a copy! It is illegal to withhold someone's medical records. Also, they should not give your medical records to your soldier without a power of attorney. For privacy reasons (this goes for all medical records military or civilian) you are the only one who can pick them up!
Ok, flash forward to the present, as in yesterday. I once again need my medical records for a PCS move. I walk into the hospital expecting to have to put up a fight, and I was right.
Side note: I feel it is really sad as a spouse that to get any straight answers from the military, I must be defensive and assume the DoD employee I am talking to is lying from the get go. It has taken me four years to figure out being friendly, smiling, and asking questions will get you no where. Always second guess what you are told, and if something sounds off or illegal, it probably is. Go home, do your research, and go back armed with the info you need to get something done.
I learned yesterday the Army has changed its policies when it comes to carrying your own medical records from duty station to duty station. You must now fill out two forms (DA3705 and a Memorandum for: Custody & Control of Health/Outpatient Medical Records) with an attached copy of your soldier's orders (to prove you're actually moving) then your current post will send your medical records on to your new destination. Anyone else not trust the Army to get your records where they need to go? Especially since we don't have a Primary Care Doctor at Fort Lewis yet, who exactly are they sending my records to? The medical records office at Lewis? TRICARE? Who knows. I can see our records arriving in Washington just to get lost somewhere in the medical records vault up there.
I will fill out the form, but I also want a back up copy for my own file cabinet just in case. Here's where it gets tricky...that's a whole different office. We head down the hall only to encounter a hostile DoD worker. She proceeds to tell me that 1st) the Army will not give me my medical records, 2nd) they don't have the resources to make copies of my medical records (there is a copy machine sitting behind her), 3rd) she who works in the medical records office is not authorized to release a copy to me, 4th) that actually no one in the entire Army is authorized to release my records to me. See how her lies keep changing each time I challenge what she tells me? When I finally throw out that it is illegal for me not to be able to get a copy, she reaches into a basket that is sitting on her desk not a foot from her chair and hands me a form. She says, "Fine, here, fill out this form, and your records and your son's will be mailed to you."
What?! That's right; all I needed was a simple fill in the blank, one sided form from this woman. She sat there and fed me lies, hoping I would give up when it was her job to help me. Why did she put up a fight? Why does she feel it is ok to try and keep me from something that is lawfully mine? I just don't understand, and it makes me so frustrated.
This story is getting long, sorry y'all. Really I just want to empower other military wives to fight for what you know is right. Require these DoD workers to do their job and treat you with respect. I was timid at first because growing up in the south, you learn that if you treat people with respect and kindness, they will treat you the same way. Unfortunately that is not true in the military world.
I am not advocating rudeness. You should still walk in with a smile on your face. You should still treat everyone the way you want to be treated. But, while navigating the Army's maze may be intimidating, remember it is absolutely fine to stand firm when you know you're being given the run around. The more times we hold the Army and the DoD employees accountable for the job they are supposed to be providing, the better for any military spouse who comes after you.
Phew, thanks for letting me get that off my chest, and hopefully we've all gained a bit more confidence for next time. Oh, and in the end, I am getting a copy of my medical records! Chalk that up as a win for the Army spouses!
Interested in following our whole PCS story from beginning to end? Catch up on Out Processing and our Packing List.
Remember Army Lie: you are not authorized to have a copy of your own or your children's medical records. Truth: it is illegal for the Army to withhold them from you. Any other wives want to spill on lies the Army will tell you and what the actual true answer is? We're all ears! :)
Update: Well, we went to turn those two little forms and a copy of our orders in today at the hospital. Any guesses as to what I was told by the office who gave me the forms yesterday? That's right - I didn't need to do it because Seth will be required to take care of his, mine, and lil' H's medical records during Out Processing next week. Oh, but if I wanted I could trust them to hold our two forms until Seth came through Out Processing on the 1st; um, no thank you. We'll just hang onto our forms, so they don't get lost. So, really the Army's new PCS policy is that the service member will take care of not only his medical records but everyone he is a sponsor for through Out Processing now. Which is nice for the spouse if only someone would have actually told us that beforehand.