ROCHESTER, Minn. – Allegations of excessive wait times and secret lists at the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Phoenix has the nation watching every move the VA makes.. It has lead to a big push for change.
Last week VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki stepped down and Thursday the Senate reached a deal on reform.
In the short term, veterans would be able to visit private health care if they live too far away from a VA location. In the long term, it calls for more clinics across the country.
Harry Nevling is a U.S. Army combat veteran who visits the Minneapolis VA Hospital for his medical care. He said he has got no complaints about the medical staff, but there are some issues with administration.
“There’s a lot of people there who seem to be there just to draw a paycheck. They’re not paying attention to the clients; they’re not doing what’s right for the vet,” Nevling said.
He said in his case they cancelled an appointment because he had one 15 months prior. He believes that cancellation hid a medical condition that was not caught in time and that lack of attention led to a heart attack that nearly took his life.
“There is no excuse for what they did to me and to cancel an appointment. Not only did they cancel the appointment, they didn’t bother telling anybody that they cancelled it,” Nevling said.
Those stories are what U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Minnesota, stopped by the area to hear about. He also knows that not everyone has had a bad experience.
“Of course they’re appalled by what happened in Phoenix, but there’s also a recognition that many people receive quality care and I think what they’re concerned about now is how do we improve upon what’s working well and how do we alleviate those things that are causing this backlog or causing the problem,” Walz said.
The congressman wants to hear straight from those receiving the care. That is his way of making sure what he is hearing from the clinics is backed up by real stories.
“I’m going to be skeptical of the numbers I get. I want to make sure what they’re telling me is what’s happening and I think, like many people in this room and many veterans, wait times are nothing new. Fudging wait times to look better, or for criminal purposes of receiving more pay or whatever, that’s something that shocked many people,” Walz said.
He wants to make sure he does not hear stories like Nevling’s ever again.
“Agent Orange got me. I don’t need the Veterans Administration compounding my heart problems by neglecting my care,” Nevling said.
President Barack Obama’s choice to run the Veterans Affairs has withdrawn his nomination. Jeffrey Murawsky is afraid it will take too long to win confirmation.
Meanwhile, the acting VA secretary said Thursday 18 more veterans in the Phoenix area have died. Their names were kept off an official VA appointment list.