Three members of The American Legion's System Worth Saving Task Force follow up with local veterans at Legion Post 205 in Augusta, Ga., after a town hall meeting that focused on the quality of VA health care. (Photo by Marty Callaghan)

Legion hears from vets about VA care

At a March 10 town hall meeting in Augusta, Ga., local veterans shared their concerns about the quality of VA health care they are receiving at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. The facility came under scrutiny last year after three of its patients died because of long waits and delayed care in the hospital’s gastrointestinal program.

About 70 people attended the meeting that was hosted by American Legion Post 205 in Augusta and facilitated by members of The American Legion’s System Worth Saving (SWS) Task Force.

Jacob Gadd, the Legion’s deputy director of health, explained that SWS teams, since 2003, have visited about 15 VA medical centers per year to evaluate the quality of health care that’s being provided to veterans and their families.

"This is our primary health-care evaluation tool for really understanding how VA is delivering care," Gadd said. "But it’s nights like tonight, at a town hall meeting, where we get to directly hear from you on that level of care. So our agenda for tonight is yours."

Mentioning that a previously scheduled meeting in Augusta had been cancelled because of severe winter weather, Gadd said, "But we promised you that we would come back, so here we are."

Veterans brought up a variety of issues about their treatment at the Norwood center: scheduling delays for specialty care treatments, problems with obtaining service dogs, and complaints about hip replacement surgery and other medical treatment.

One woman veteran, who is a member of The American Legion Auxiliary, described her difficulties in seeking timely treatment for her husband’s wounded foot caused by diabetes. "You’re going to have problems," she said. But after she contacted the VA facility’s patient advocate, "they fixed the problem."

Several veterans raised concerns about the quality of eye care at the VA medical center. Complaints were voiced about delayed deliveries, prescriptions that were too strong, and VA’s refusal to pay the cost for transitional lenses.

Another Vietnam-era veteran noted that Physical Evaluation Board services used to be available at every VA hospital, but those services have been curtailed.

One woman talked about the difficulty that her 90-year-old father, a World War II veteran, was having in proving that he actually served in the U.S. Army. Referring to the treatment her father had received from VA staff, she said, "There is good staff and there is bad staff."

A VA retiree with serious health issues, who worked more than 30 years helping veterans, received a standing ovation from the audience for her service. She described the difficulties she has encountered in seeking VA benefits.

Besides Gadd, SWS team members Rev. Daniel Seehafer and National Field Representative Jennifer Colaizzi participated in the meeting, as well as Department of Georgia Commander Lynne Rollins and Department Junior Vice Commander Dennis McClendon. Other attendees included Post 205 Adjutant Robert Taylor, Department of Georgia Sergeant-at-Arms James Whelan and VA Voluntary Service Representative Fred Zamora.

Several staff members from the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center also attended, including the facility’s patient advocate.


  1. Follow up of letter to you(Director of VAMC Denver) dated 27 June 2014: I just opened this email from Jean Kottke regarding my volunteer driver physical in which she states she is clearing me “for 1 year with the caveat that you get re-evaluated in January 2015 for clearance”. Seriously? After taking all of 7 months to get to this point, denying my volunteer driving for this period, leaving the veterans of this community without access to transportation and regularity, I am left incredulous. I have a commercial driver’s license which requires a DOT physical. Normally, it is good for 4 years, but because of my age and health conditions, mine is repeated every 2 years. It happens to be the exact same physical plus a drug test given to me by the VA for being a volunteer van driver. IF you don’t know, a commercial truck driver drives for up to 10 hours at a time, stopping for fuel, rest breaks, and inspections as needed. I passed my last one almost 2 years ago, and will be due for a new one in about a month. The VA however, wants me to be reevaluated in 6 months? Then restart the physical process of whatever the whims are after another 5 months? I believe a full 2 years of driving should be approved without conditions, only that if the PCP reports a change of health as would be commonly used to preclude any driving duties, then, as in normal life, I would not be allowed to drive. The “real world” operates very differently from the “world” of the VA which frankly, is as “unreal” as anyone could imagine.
  2. AA/NA is not a cult or religious entity. I've been involved for over 39 years & tend to be atheistic in my living beliefs. I've always been accepted for who I am wherever I go.
  3. I have gone to both the Lake City VAMC and the Gainsville VAMC and could not be more pleased with my care. I have been treated under the medicare system and feel that I wouldn't be here if not for the VA. Florida is a vet friendly state and maybe that has something to do with it. From my experience, the VA's here definantly not only have the care of the vets in mind, but also have the proper staff to take care of us.
  4. How many of you out there are having trouble with simply connecting with a doctor or nurse ANP via phone?Recently tried to reach ANP> Third time over last year where my call goes unanswered. I have been with the VA since 1977. The last five years have been hell it seems. My area is Denver, Colorado. Of course our "New" hospital has not happened. What is going on? Those of us getting older are frustrated and scared. I have been ignored when making a complaint to patient rep. No call acknowledging the complaint etc.,etc.,
  5. To begin with, my claim for disability was dealt with by Bay Pines in a timely manner, roughly 8 weeks claim to check; a subsequent upgrade also went smoothly and quickly. The medical care I have received at first the Fort Myers clinic and more recently at the new Cape Coral clinic, and at Bay Pines, has been in my opinion excellent given the restraints of mass health care. I feel far less at medical risk with the VA here in Cape Coral than I do with the local county hospital monopoly. I feel that the VA is on our side, and if they, or any other government agency is less that perfect, well, like the new Pope says, " Who am I to judge." Dan Schutzman
  6. You al' are doing it all wrong. Just go to the ( ATLANTA VA.) And just ask them to kill you! OH never mine they will try that any way!!!! ( SHORT ON STAFF?? ) Their or 5 or 6 staff members for every 1 Vet. That go's their. That is a lot of the problem. When just 2 or 3 of them are doing the work. But to all that want to go good luck . As for me a 100% Vet. I've been and will never go back not even to ( TRY ) and save my life I would fill safer laying on the interstate!!!!!!!!!! AND THAT MY FRINDS IS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE VA!!!! Oh and just as a side note the Dr's you want to see are not Dr's They or WANT TO BEES and some of them should not be aloud to have any thing sharper in their hands than a basketball . TRUST ME I HAVE HAD SOME. Richard
  7. I agree. The Atlanta VA is the worst. It is a social setting for the employees who can be found walking the hall, in the canteen store, on break, at the credit union. The only ones that I have found really working is the eye glasses group.
  8. After several attempts I am finally eligible to be enrolled in VA care. I need a new pair of eyeglasses and don't have healthcare coverage for them. Thought I would try VA. I'm in group 7 so I have to pay a co-pay. Can't get an eye exam until I see regular doctor, pass a blood work exam ($9), attend orientation appointment and then get assigned a primary care doctor who will refer me to the specialist eye doctor for eye exam. ($15) Eye specialist doc co-pay is ($50). Told the glasses take 5 to 10 weeks to get. Why all this run around and frustration for a simple eye exam? The doctors time could be better spent attending to sick veterans. Now I know why VA is such a crap shoot for health care..............
  9. I live near Fayetteville, NC. I am a 35 year Paid Up For Life Member of the Legion and former Post Commander and Adjutant. I went to the VA in Fayetteville for the first time since I have been back from Vietnam, 44 years. I needed an appointment to get check by a "team". Took three months to get the appointment. Two weeks before this appointment I got a call they were backed up and I had to change it. Could not get in for two more months. The VA seems to be a national joke. (not a joke to those who need it). The middle and upper management all need to be replaced.
  10. I turned In a medication renewal form Feb 3 2014 at the Purple team in Atlanta Ga. Dr said he didn't receive it but he would renew the med I needed, that was feb 17, This is Mar 13 and I still haven't got my medication. The med I am out of is just for acid reflux, It's not a narcotic med.
  11. The Atlanta VA Medical Center has several issues as well from long phone wait times, parking issues, not enough staff, one rude staff member, among other issues. But I will give the Carrolton CBOC high marks so far and have been pleased with that clinic.
  12. We've been trying to get a homeless veterans housed for the last two years, but the VA mandates he go through a 12-Step religious AA/NA cult DRUG & ALCOHOL TREATMENT PROGRAM before they help him...just one little problem...HE DOESN'T DRINK OR USE DRUGS.
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