System Worth Saving returns to Phoenix 10 years after crisis
Veterans share their experience and ask questions related to care at the James Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa during an American Legion System Worth Saving town hall at American Legion Post 5 in Tampa , Fla., on January 29. Photo by Hilary Ott /The American Legion

System Worth Saving returns to Phoenix 10 years after crisis

The American Legion’s System Worth Saving (SWS) program returns to Phoenix this month, a decade after controversy erupted there, which resulted in the resignation of top VA officials and implementation of reforms in how veterans receive their health care.

In 2014, the Phoenix VA and other medical centers were embroiled in a scandal over massive wait times in its health-care system. Phoenix VA officials were accused of keeping a secret wait list of veterans who were seeking health care and vastly underreporting how long it took for patients to see a doctor.

Soon after CNN reported that up to 40 veterans died while on the wait list, The American Legion conducted a town hall to address the issue. Additionally, then National Commander Dan Dellinger called on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and others to resign, which they did.

Now, The American Legion returns to continue its ongoing work with VA in ensuring that veterans receive the best care possible.

The visit kicks off with a town hall where all military veterans around Phoenix are invited to attend and share their experiences with the VA. During the town hall, American Legion representatives, VA staff and others will be on hand to address issues and questions raised by veterans related to their health-care experiences at the Phoenix VA.

The town hall, which starts at 6 p.m. on April 29, will be held at American Legion Post 1, 364 North 7th Ave., Phoenix, Arizona 85007. (The major crossroads are 7th Avenue and Van Buren.)

The event is free, and no prior registration or RSVP is necessary. However, veterans are invited to submit questions beforehand via

American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission Chairman Autrey James will be participating in the event.

“We were all troubled by what happened a decade ago,” he said. “But what happened then was not — and still is not — typical of VA care. It is the best care anywhere. Can it be improved? Of course, there is room for improvement. That’s why we are coming to Phoenix — to listen to what veterans have to say, to learn about the challenges from VA staff, and to forge solutions to ensure that our veterans are indeed receiving the best care possible.”

The American Legion launched the SWS initiative in 2003 as a way to work with VA to improve health care for the nation’s veterans. 

Each year, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission conducts a series of site visits to VA medical facilities and regional offices across the country. While on site, American Legion representatives meet with veterans, their families and VA administrators and employees to discuss issues and solutions at each site. These observations are compiled into a System Worth Saving report that is distributed to VA officials, members of Congress and the public.