FEMALE VETERAN FILES CIVIL RIGHTS CLAIM AGAINST V.A. FOR FAILURE TO PROVIDE BREAST PROSTESeS AND SPECIAL CLOTHING
An Oregon Veteran has filed a civil rights claim against the Portland V.A. for violation of her rights on several accounts, one of which is the failure to provide a breast prostheses. While the V.A. provides for prostheses in most cases, and for a yearly clothing allowance to replace clothing worn out from prostheses, at least one woman requesting equivalent services, Ms. Mary Birmingham, has been told by a PDX V.A. surgeon that the V.A. does not provide women who have had mastectomies with a prostheses or provide for any clothing allowance for the special clothing required to minimize the pain of wearing a breast prostheses. Ms. Birmingham has since made several calls requesting what she considers equal care but no one has even bothered to return her phone calls.
"While the PDX V.A. seemed to put some effort into encouraging me to get a reconstruction with implants, the implants have a history of problems and are not considered permanent. I inquired about "flap", a form of reconstruction that grafts tissue from another part of the body to the chest for reconstruction, but was discouraged from this option by the plastic surgeon." Ms. Birmingham Having no interest in implants, multiple surgeries, nor in the genital mutilation involved in the process described by the surgeon of cutting the labia to acquire material to reconstruct a nipple, this woman rejected the reconstruction surgery. A year latter, and after repeated requests for a prostheses, she is wearing a hand me down prostheses and ill fitting mastectomy bra, provided by the Cancer Society. Medicaid patients are provided a new breast prostheses every year. The chest wall of this patient was left particularly uneven indicating that a "Adjust to you" breast form that is 35% lighter and adjust to the contour of your chest wall would be less painful to wear. But a new, better fitting, prostheses is not all the Veteran claims she needs. "The Bra is painful, it cuts across areas that still hurt from the surgery. I have seen Post-Mastectomy bras and other garments that seem to distribute the pressure over a broader area. A better prostheses and superior special designed garments could go a long way to reducing the pain of wearing a prostheses." If this is provided to veterans who have lost legs or arms, the majority of whom are male in the V.A., then comparable services and care should be provided to mastectomy patients which are female. Failure to do so, Ms. Birmingham claims amounts to discrimination and a violation of WHCRA and her civil rights. Ms. Birmingham also notes that, "For reasons unidentified, female veterans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as the general population. One reason may be the excessive number of x-rays Veterans are subjected to starting with the qualification exam. Yet, breast cancer is not recognized as a potential service connected condition. Service connection is not a qualification requirement for the V.A. to provide prostheses in the case of other sorts of amputations, however."