Veteran says he was denied procedure for condition that causes weight loss, pain ‘all the time’

EUGENE, Oregon — An Army veteran says that after nine years of suffering, he feels like he’s out of options after the Veterans Administration denied surgery that could help treat his pain.

KVAL reports Brandon Donovan, who was deployed to Iraq in 2009, was diagnosed in 2017 with Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome, or MALS.

“I look like skin and bones. I feel like skin and bones. I see it every day, and it chips away at the mental armor,” he said.

He recently posted photos of himself on Facebook, and in them, one can count the bones on his rib cage, and his face is gaunt.

“I have no energy,” he said. “I’m in pain all the time.”

Because of the pain, Donovan said he can hardly eat. He said he’s been through almost a decade of tests at the VA, but they produced few results.

Donovan said he sought outside care from a vascular surgeon, who suggested one more test. After that test, the surgeon, Dr. Richard Hsu, diagnosed him with MALS and said he could fix the pain.

A physician at a top hospital in Portland agreed it is medically necessary that Donovan be able to work with Hsu in pursuit of medical treatment. And even Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden got involved. But the surgery was denied twice by the VA  Administration.

Donovan said the first denial stated that the VA has their own vascular surgeons. Those surgeons, said Donovan, suggested Hsu take over. The second denial stated it didn’t have a billing code.

Now, Donovan said, he and his family are relying on fundraisers to help pay for the surgery.

Donovan provided KVAL with detailed medical logs released from the VA. They date back to 2013. When asked about Donovan’s claims, the VA told KVAL they were unable to provide any specific patient information without written permission.

“They try their hardest to get you the care, but they don’t follow through with it, and you will be forgotten if you don’t advocate for yourself,” he said.

Wyden told KVAL that he is continuing to work with Donovan and the VA.

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