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'Broken promises, pain, mistreatment, delays'

'Broken promises, pain, mistreatment, delays'

During the past six weeks, American Legion staff has teamed up with local Legionnaires and Departments of Veterans Affairs employees in conducting Veterans Crisis Command Centers in five cities. At these centers, veterans get to meet face to face with Legion service officers and representatives from the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration.

More than 2,000 veterans have come to these centers for help. And many of those, the Legion’s Verna Jones told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs today, have tragic stories to tell.

“I’m deeply saddened,” said Jones, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation director. “The American Legion is saddened. We’ve listened to veterans and widows and children who, one by one, told their stories of broken promises, pain, mistreatment, delay and, yes, even death. Many of them – full of hurt, anger, confusion and uncertainty – just wanted to be heard.

“They’ve told their stories many times, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. The American Legion listened, because what they had to say matters. We wanted to help. It’s woven into the very fabric of who we are.”

Jones, who has been to all five crisis centers, told of a homeless veteran who spent his last $40 on a cab to the center in Fort Collins, Colo., to get help. In Phoenix, a 70-year-old widow was reduced to sleeping in gas station bathrooms because VA couldn’t get her claim right.

“She came to us in tears,” Jones said. “We were able to put her in front of the VA and get the errors fixed on the spot in our crisis center.

“I talked to a veteran in North Carolina who had been working on his claim for 14 years. As he left the crisis center he said, ‘I can’t believe it took me 90 minutes to fix 14 years.’”

Jones said she’s read letters from VA’s Office of the Special Counsel that reference “harmless errors” that include a veteran waiting more than eight years for a psychiatric appointment. “We have veterans taking their own lives 22 a day here in America, and it’s a harmless error that a veteran has to wait eight years for an appointment?” she asked.

Jones said that those who become whistleblowers within VA should be put in positions of leadership “so they can set the model for the people who work for them. You can clear out some room for them by getting rid of the ones who covered up veterans waiting for care so they could earn a little extra money every year.”

Jones said the Legion wants to fix VA – not tear it down – and that opinion is shared with many other veterans.

"I talked to veterans in every city who has a VA – a place that belongs to them – and want the doctors who understand their service and understand their needs,” she said. “When The American Legion says VA has a problem with access, with accuracy (and) with leadership, we don’t want to throw out the VA. We want to fix it.”

Jones again referenced the homeless veteran who spent his last $40 to get to a Legion crisis center.

“The system was supposed to take care of him,” she said. "He was broke, he felt broken, and he felt lost. He arrived after the crisis center had closed for that day, slept at a nearby gas station and walked to the crisis center the next morning. He was at his wits end. This was do or die for him.

“We were able work with VA to get him placed into a supportive housing program and receive the services he desperately needed. The (Legion) chairman for Veteran Affairs & Rehabilitation for The American Legion was so moved (that) he reimbursed the $40 the veteran spent to get there because we truly believe no veteran should have to pay for services they have already paid for by virtue of their honorable service. That’s what we want for veterans – the benefits they deserve. They shouldn’t have to get down to their last $40 to get there.”

Following her testimony, Jones was asked what advice she had for Robert McDonald, who has been nominated to take over as VA secretary. "Transparency, so things like this scandal don't happen again," she said. She was also asked if she though VA's budget needed an independent budget; Jones said yes, if it ensure every resource was being used to care for veterans.

The hearing also featured testimony from acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, as well as other veterans service organizations.

To read Jones' submitted testimony, click here.

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Paul Brault

October 15, 2014 - 12:33pm

The sec. of the Va stepped down. So what. We still need to hold those accountable for their actions. This is not right our Veterans deserve nothing but the best treatment and that includes those coming home now.

Alan Anderson

July 25, 2014 - 9:03am

I'm sick and tired of hearing all the veterans who bellyache about their poor treatment at the hands of the VA system. Here in Tucson, we have a VA hospital that provides better treatment than I have ever seen or heard of by any health care facility anywhere in the country. Also, I used to work for a VA hospital as a medical support assistant/specialty clinic scheduler. I know from first hand experience that many of our "heroes" and veterans demand care they are not entitled to, or demand care in inappropriate manners (threatening and attacking health care staff, screaming, and other dangerous activities. So, I, and many of my fellow veterans in Arizona/New Mexico are extremely satisfied with the care we receive at the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System.

Tell

August 20, 2014 - 12:36pm

I'm sick and tired of people like you who think they know it all and have experienced it all. Although glad to hear you are in perfect shape I suppose and that you're a big fan of the VA's socialized crummy health care system. Why don't you try health care in the great mid-west like Indiana and the Roudebush VA joke of a hospital? How about our clinics that are run by Humana Insurance that has a bad record in patient treatment and with their denial of treatments for patients with the HMO crap? Isn't your grand hospital covered by the great anti-American union called SEIU? Their workers don't give a hoot about us and are rude, racist (I'm white) and heard them bragging about how easy they have it and so hard for them to lose their comfy government jobs. When the clinics first opened here in Terre Haute, Indiana I though it would be okay. Wrong! The turn-over of their staff was crazy, lies and cover-ups a plenty. All they wanted was to fill positions and apparently got the worse of the worst, and most uncaring due to their VA training. I won't get into my several issues but if you want simple surgery or an easy fix they may be good. If you deal with several issues and several clinics in between the vast turn-over rate with doctors and staff well have fun. Then have to deal with scum that refuse us pain meds. Deal with foreign workers that can't understand English while ordering something in large size only to get small time after time. Try getting information or asking questions... they have no time for and be told it's "improper' and not thinking of other vets in the waiting room during your ten minute visit, or being told to go back through all the clinics again since you got a new worthless doctor who seen you and changed everything but NEVER took the time to read through the file and records!!!! VA care is a damn socialized joke and in Indiana it's horrible for many. Complain and the entire damned system knows you and treats you like crap, especially by minorities and the feminist that you aren't supposed to question or complain about..."since they are too educated and intellectual for us common people to understand." Yeah, right. US Gov PC bull sh*t. You anger me Mr. Alan for being just like many others who don't care about the ones wronged like we aren't supposed to have a voice and if so we get chastised by the PC Gov., libtard crowd of keep silent sheep or else. Also glad to see, (sarcasm) that this issue got silenced by stupid news and reporting while this issue is swept under the carpet by the Gov., and all the vets groups out there but they sure can still send out all their wants for money while I have never seen any help from them at all. And yes that includes the Legion.

J.Tennant

July 26, 2014 - 12:00am

I'm so sorry that you are sick and tired of the "bellyaching" form other vets that have had bad times in the VA system that you love so much. It seems to me you are a bit prejudiced, perhaps from your employment in the system. I've been in three different VA regions and they are all different in how patients are treated medically and respected personally. I really think if you haven't walked in another vet's shoes - then just maybe you should lighten up on the judgement. Yea, as you might have guessed, one of the hospitals I was stuck with going to wasn't fit for treating your worst enemy. Any Doctor that waits THREE years to do any testing when they know you have cancer is ________( fill in the blank). Maybe you should see your local MH pro - meant as medical advice.

rogerstump

July 24, 2014 - 6:33pm

with all that is going on with the VA why don't the VA give veterans a medical cards to veterans that has to travel over 100 miles or more to a VA hospital then it would free up some of the burden veterans have to deal with the VA, since there are more veterans living in rural areas than the bigger cities and that's where all VA hospital's are located.

Peter Bimonte

July 24, 2014 - 4:59pm

Thank you Ms. Jones for taking our concerns to House Committee. They cannot ignore us forever! The VBA & VHA criminals must be held accountable.

Bill MacLean

July 24, 2014 - 4:45pm

Why doesn't the VA hire veterans??? They might just have a more clear understanding of what it means and why veterans need help. Apparently the general public doesn't understand what it means to be a veteran. Also, for the next two years, withhold ALL bonuses. Then reinstitute and only for those that go beyond. Never could understand bonuses being provided to people who do the job they are hired to do, and for those that don't do their job - fire them.

bobcook

July 24, 2014 - 4:07pm

Well Ok, we know they had deaf ears, then what happens now to people with deaf ears? do they get terminated? do they get charged with a crime? or do they get a bonus for withholding VA medical treatment from America's veterans- wait! i think we know the answer--let's give them and their bosses big, really big, cash bonus money for criminally negligent behavior.

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