Skip to content
Subscriber Only

The Best Medical Care In The U.S.

How Veterans Affairs transformed itself -- and what it means for the rest of us

Raymond B. Roemer, 83, has earned his membership in "the greatest generation." A flight engineer during World War II, his B-24 was shot down over Potsdam during a bombing run. He managed to parachute out, but the jump landed him in enemy territory. Roemer spent 11 months in a German POW camp until he was liberated by General George S. Patton's troops in April, 1945.

A month later he came home to Buffalo with a Purple Heart and a few crushed vertebrae from that parachute jump. He married his high school sweetheart, started a successful metal-fabricating business, and signed up for health benefits with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. He can afford to be treated at any of some 20 well-regarded hospitals in the area, but Roemer has made what what may seem a bizarre choice. He goes to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo, a hulking, gray edifice first opened in 1950. He doesn't go just for his service-related injuries, either. His primary care doctor is at the VA, he fills his prescriptions there, and he uses the hospital for his vision and hearing needs. He even persuaded his 59-year-old son and business partner, Nicholas, a Vietnam War vet, to enroll with the VA.