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Crisis in Care: 4-State Veterans Speak Out Part 1 - KOAM TV 7

Crisis in Care: 4-State Veterans Speak Out Part 1

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Over the past year, the Department of Veterans Affairs has come under a great deal of scrutiny. It stems from the alleged malpractice and lack of care from its medical centers.


The office of Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn released a report in June stating there is an accountability deficiency, bad scheduling and mismanagement when it comes to VA healthcare.

     

Now, 4-state soldiers speak out on their concerns and experiences. 


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Jesse Lewis served in the air force for eight years.  

"We took the components of the bomb, set it on the floor and dried it off with trichloroethylene and paper towel."

He is one of more than 8 million veterans in the country who look to the va for their medical needs. He says the care receives is good, but it shouldn't take so long.  

"The waiting time," said Lewis. "The waiting time is tremendous. In order to get back to see my cardiologist i had a heart monitor on two weeks ago. And they got the results of it and they called and scheduled an appointment. Well that's November 14th. I mean I've had a heart monitor and I to to wait 'till November the 14th, to see the cardiologist."

According to a gallup poll conducted in June, 55 percent of veterans say accessing VA healthcare is either "somewhat" or "very" difficult. It's's just that they don't have enough doctors," said Lewis. "They are booked solid. I mean, everyone of them are booked solid."

The VA has come under scrutiny for alleged mistreatment of veterans, including delays to get  care.  

In response to the scandal, the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability act of 2014 was enacted. Its intention is to address areas where the VA may be lacking, including the hiring of more medical staff to provide faster service.

VA officials say the department is adequately staffed now.

"Our facility leadership regularly reviews our access and wait times in all of our clinics and makes resourced and process decisions  as appropriate to ensure timely access," said Laurence Lang, Department of Veterans Affairs in Wichita. 

"We don't normally hear complaints, too much, of veterans not being able to get in," said Dana McKenney, a VA nurse practitioner at the Fort Scott Community Outreach Clinic.

The clinic is smaller than the main VA hospitals and limited in services. But the staff says this is changing.

"There are a lot of programs that have just come about in the last few years," said Marianne Crane, RN. "So people don't have to make multiple trips up to Topeka for a lot of their services. They can come here for a lot of things they couldn't in the past. I think the VA works hard to meet the needs of those veterans that are in the outreach communities."


While waiting times vary with each facility, some veterans say it not a concern in the four states.

"I think, we're just more down to earth and hardworking country people and we want to try to take care of everybody the best we can," said Tom McNeil.

"We really care about them and we do," said Crane. "We love taking care of our veterans."

Part of the intention of the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 is to give soldiers the option to seek care from non VA facilities to cut down on wait times.


"I don't know why it wouldn't save VA some money if they contracted with some of our local hospitals," said Harold Coleman, veteran. "Why not?"

"Everybody I've talked to say that is the answer to this whole thing," said Charles Howard Felt, veteran.

"To me that only makes sense," said Tom McNeil, veteran. "If you've got an emergency and think you're going to jump in the car and get to Topeka, you're really gambling."

VA officials say just how to provide the best care is an on going conversation.

"We're holding quarterly town hall meetings with veterans and other stake holders in order to share information and obtain feedback from them and ideas to approve our services," said Lang.

But Jesse Lewis is discouraged.

He hopes change will come soon to give vets like him immediate care.  

In the meantime, he will have to wait.




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