Kalispell veteran’s VA Clinic video goes viral
KALISPELL, Mont. —
After a bad experience at the Kalispell Veterans Affairs Clinic, which he followed up with a viral Facebook post, a Kalispell veteran is trying to make change happen with the veterans health care system.
Jonathan Devine lives just a mile from the Kalispell VA Clinic. He had an appointment recently to receive a vaccination.
"She starts looking through everything and goes, ‘Sorry, your vaccination’s not here,’" said Devine.
He was told the vaccine was at the clinic. After over an hour and a half wait he received no care.
While he was there a nurse tried to help Devine with a swollen pinky.
"And she goes -- this is a direct quote -- 'How badly do you want your X-ray?" Devine said.
In order to have an X-ray, he would have to drive 200 miles to Helena because of the Veterans Choice program’s 40-mile rule. The rule states a veteran living within 40 miles of a VA clinic has to be treated at the VA hospital in Helena.
"I walk out, make my video, with zero thought it was going to go viral,” Devine told NBC Montana. “I was just really pissed."
Over 400,000 views later, Devine sees how large the problem really is. It showed him what the power of social media can do.
"In 24 hours all the care that I have needed for months is approved in Kalispell and taken care of," he said.
Devine said he is not alone. Many veterans shared stories of not receiving care. He knows his situation is not that bad, and other veterans are suffering worse health conditions with no care.
Some veterans commented on his video with positive experiences they had at their VA clinics.
"There are a lot of guys around the country who said, ‘Hey, don't put down the VA; my care is awesome, my facility is fantastic,’ and that's what I hope for,” said Devine. “I'm not talking about those facilities, but half a million vets and their friends wouldn't share that video if they didn't have an experience similar."
He hopes to help those vets by listening to or sharing their stories.
"Small-term goal would be helping people understand that they have a voice and a tool to project that voice, but long-term would be making sure the system gets fixed," Devine said.
Devine went to Sen. Jon Tester's office in Kalispell to tell his story. He received a letter from the senator three days later that was addressed to President Donald Trump. He said the letter landed on Trump’s desk.
In the letter, Tester used Devine’s story to ask the president to support a bipartisan bill that would eliminate the 40-mile rule and help veterans receive health care at their primary care clinics.