FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

VA Prescriptions
How to keep them organized, taken correctly, and filled on time!

My husband has 12 prescriptions through the VA... and the scary thing is I know veterans
who have many more than that.  During our first year as part of the VA system, I spent
countless hours trying to get prescriptions filled at the last minute (a HUGE pain in the neck
when you're trying to track down over-worked VA doctors!).  I'm normally reasonably
organized, but let's face it, living with and loving a Veteran with PTSD, TBI, and other
injuries has made me... well... a little scatterbrained!

As of this month I've been caring for my hubby for four years and thankfully have the job of
managing his
VA prescriptions down to a fine science.  I hope to save you the time,
headache, and tears of facing the same learning curve that I did!

First, let's look at a typical
VA prescription label:

To get ready to manage VA prescriptions, you'll need to know the location of these 8 key
items -

  1. The refill phone number for your VA system.
  2. The location of the Patient's / Veteran's name.
  3. The prescription number.
  4. Prescription refill date (date prescription was filled).
  5. The name of the prescription.
  6. The quantity of pills in this bottle & the quantity of pills in a full refill.
  7. The number of total refills on the original prescription and how many are left.
  8. The date the medication should be discarded.

Refilling VA Prescriptions

When I first started trying to keep track of my husband's prescriptions, I was using the VA's
online system (
MyHealthEVet).  As someone who does pretty much everything online, this
made perfect sense - I thought.  But, the catch is, I had to wait until the prescription was
eligible to be filled in order to fill it.  So, my poor, silly, muddled brain kept forgetting to log-
on until there were 2 pills in the bottle.  Not a great situation when it takes 7 - 10 days for
them to fill it and mail it! (
Note: They are supposed to change this at some point so that
you can order ahead, but they haven't yet to my knowledge.  If I'm wrong, please send an
e-mail to brannan -at-

Then, one of the pharmacy technicians told me a trick that has drastically simplified life.  By
using the refill phone number on the prescription label, I can call anytime on or after the
"prescription refill date" and request the refill.  Then, when it's eligible to be refilled, the
system automatically sends it!

So, now when we pick up prescriptions at the VA after an appointment I call the number as
soon as we get in the car (because it's on the refill date) and submit the refill request.  

When prescriptions come in the mail, they sometimes arrive a few days before the
technical refill date (they mail them early to make sure they reach Veterans on time).  If this
happens, I simply set the bottle on the ledge over our sink (*out of reach of little hands, but
still in my face so I don't forget*) and call in a few days.  Now, we always have my hubby's
VA prescriptions on time - and most of the time we have them early!

Checking VA Prescriptions

The VA pharmacies are really busy.  Unfortunately this means that sometimes mistakes are
made.  We have received the wrong medications twice - both times they were labeled for
other Veterans.

When you pick up prescriptions or they arrive in the mail, please double check the
Veteran's name, the prescription name, and then look at the pills and compare them to the
"ID" information located under the prescription name.  It takes a few extra minutes but could
literally save a life.

Also, check the dosage information.  Sometimes the VA uses different dosage pills as a
cost cutting measure.  This may mean a veteran needs take two of a pill that they're used
to taking one of... or that you have to split a tablet in half.  They're supposed to alert you to
changes like this, but it doesn't always happen (a tip shared with us by one of our
Grassroots Team volunteers)!

You will also want to check the Quantity information.  If, for example, the bottle says "QTY:
30 of 90 TAB," that means you've only received one-third of the prescription.  Sometimes
this happens because the pharmacy was out and will send the rest in a separate shipment
and other times it occurs because the pills are too large and need to be put in three
separate bottles.  Whatever the reason, make sure you have the complete number of pills
in the prescription.

Finally, check to see how many refills are left.  Another GREAT benefit of calling for refills
early is you have the opportunity to notice if you need refills.  If you are out of refills, call
the doctor / provider who prescribed the medication (listed on the top, left hand corner of
the label underneath the VA facility information) and tell them you need more.  Calling early
also gives you plenty of time to schedule an appointment if the doctor needs to see the
Veteran before the prescription can be filled again.

Organizing VA Prescriptions for Daily Doses

I have a husband who hates to be "nagged" but, he has a wife who REALLY wants to make
sure he's taking his prescriptions on time, at the correct dose.  When you throw PTSD, TBI,
and normal marital "challenges" into that mix, it gets a little tricky to figure out how to keep
peace and make sure the meds are being taken.  So, here is the solution that works for us!

We have five
Apex 7-Day Medical Planner boxes and one Ezy Dose Deluxe Metal Pill Fob
Key Chain.  The VA issued two of the Apex boxes (talk to your doctor and ask for a
"Prosthetic consult" for some!) and we purchased three of them.  [Of course, if you / your
veteran only has to take meds 1 or two times per day, you'll want to pick a different box!] It
may sound excessive, but it means that I'm able to sit down one time every five weeks and
organize all of my husband's medications.  I also keep a pill splitter (I found mine at Dollar
Tree for $1, but the cheapest one available at Amazon is listed on the sidebar) handy
because two of my hubby's prescriptions have to be cut in half.  I've numbered the sides of
each box (see picture above) so that if he's taking a time-specific medication like an
antibiotic, it's taken at the right time.  When I have the boxes filled, I stack them on a high
shelf in our kitchen with the numbers facing out.  As he finishes one box, that box is put at
the bottom of the stack and a new box is taken from the top.  I also make sure that his Pill
Key Fob has one dose of each of his medications.  This way, if we happen to be delayed
returning home, he always has a dose with him.

We use this system in conjunction with a
Cadex 12 Alarm Medication Reminder Watch that
my husband's VA Speech Therapist ordered for him (also through the Prosthetics
department).  Even if you're not able to get one through the VA, though, I cannot sing their
praises loudly enough.  I have programmed it so that the alarm goes off when it's time for
him to take the medications and a message scrolls across the screen that corresponds with
the label on the pill box (example: Take NOON Meds).  This way, I magically don't have to
nag... the watch does it for me :)  The watch can also be programmed with general medical
and emergency contact info and works as an electronic "medic alert" bracelet. Truly, it is
an amazing little thing.

Organizing VA Prescriptions for Storage

One of the benefits, but also challenges, of staying on top of VA prescription refills is
you will eventually begin to get a little bit ahead on refills.  This happens because the VA
sends medications about 7 days earlier than the previous refill should run out.  After 6 or
12 months of this (especially if your Veteran is taking 12+ prescriptions) you could start to
have a stockpile!

Now, I embrace the stockpile.  I no longer have to worry that my husband will run out of
something... a luxury for which I'm grateful as many of his meds need to be in his system
consistently in order to work well.  I have no desire to deal with "Beastie Boy PTSD" without
pharmaceutical intervention.  I've been there, done that, and dread ever going back.  So,
I'm going to explain how I keep the extras organized.  However, if you're not comfortable
having the extra medications for whatever reason - or if you / your veteran are no longer
taking a medication - you can always turn extras in to your VA pharmacy for safe disposal.

My first step is labeling the caps / tops of the prescription bottles with a permanent marker.  
This may seem like busy work to start with, but believe me it's not.  It
really makes life
easier in the long run.  As soon as I've called in the refill on a prescription, I label the top of
the bottle with a shortened version of the prescription name (just make something up that
will be easy to remember) and the date that the medication expires.  This way I can very
quickly asses if for some reason we're low on a prescription or a medication needs to be
disposed of.

Once I've labeled the bottle, I place it in a transparent Sterilite15qt container (16.38"L x
12.88"W x 6.5"H) I purchased from Wal-Mart.  If you can't find this one, though, pretty much
any container that's at least 6 inches high will work.  The 12"+ width and 16"+ length of this
container allow enough space for about 26 bottles.

I also keep a list inside the box that has the name and Rx# of every medication and the
refill phone number.  That way, if I want to make sure a refill has been ordered, I can just
grab the list and call.

I store the box on the top shelf of our pantry which, again, has the benefit of being well out
of the way of little hands and also providing a dark, cool storage place (which many of the
medications prefer).


So, there you go.  It may seem like a lot of upfront "set-up", but I promise once you have
this system going it will make your life MUCH easier.  Our after-combat, PTSD/TBI, just-
trying-to-make-it, lives have enough stress already.  There's no reason to stress about
especially when you can benefit from 4 years of hard earned experience :)

This article was written by Brannan Vines, the founder of and proud wife
of an OIF veteran.  If you would like to contact Brannan, send her an e-mail at Brannan -
at-  Thanks!

CLICK HERE to download a print version of this article for group or personal use

CLICK HERE to return to the Real-Life Coping Skills for PTSD page

CLICK HERE to return to the Real-Life Coping Skills for TBI page
Don't forget to take our Congressional Survey!
As little as 10 minutes of your time can help us make a difference in your life!!
About This Site  |  Media Room  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map  |  Link Share  |  Spread the Word

If you have questions or concerns about this site, please e-mail us at Info -at-
Family Of a Vet, Inc., is a federally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.  
All donations to Family Of a Vet are tax deductible.  For more information about supporting the work we do,
This page is dedicated to helping Veterans and their loved ones learn more about VA Prescriptions.
VA prescriptions, Organizing VA Prescriptions, VA Prescription, VA Prescription Refill
VA prescriptions, Organizing VA Prescriptions, VA Prescription, VA Prescription Refill
VA prescriptions, Organizing VA Prescriptions, VA Prescription, VA Prescription Refill
VA prescriptions, Organizing VA Prescriptions, VA Prescription, VA Prescription Refill
VA prescriptions, Organizing VA Prescriptions, VA Prescription, VA Prescription Refill welcomes and encourages the off-line distribution of content from its website through appropriate channels but no use is granted without our specific permission. Please contact us by e-mail at Permissions -at- stating the specific content to be used and place and means of off-line distribution. Webmasters, bloggers, etc., wishing to use a limited amount of content from our site for non-commercial, on-line purposes may do so as long as a backlink to our site is provided. © Copyright 2007 - / Family Of a Vet, Inc. All rights reserved.

About This Site  |  Media Room  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map  |  Link Share  |  Spread the Word  |  Volunteer
our mission: to provide real world resources that help heroes and their loved ones survive & thrive in life after combat