Top local VA healthcare officials to address wait time issues - WKRN News 2

Top local VA healthcare officials to address wait time issues

Posted: Updated: Jun 10, 2014 05:19 PM

As more reports come out about some of the longest wait times in the country at Middle Tennessee Veterans Administration hospitals, the top local VA healthcare officials announced late Tuesday they will address the issues Wednesday in a news conference.

VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) spokesperson Jessica Schiefer told News 2 late Tuesday afternoon that Health System Director Juan Morales, Interim Chief of Staff Dr. Roger Jones, and Chief of Medicine Dr. Brian Christman will take questions at 2 p.m. on the Nashville campus of the VA TVHS.

It comes as veterans who have faced long wait times at the Middle Tennessee healthcare facilities are telling their stories.

On Monday more was revealed in an audit released from the Veterans Health Administration.

One of those affected is Gary Crawford.

The La Vergne man told News 2 that a VA official told him by phone Tuesday morning that his wait would be “six-to-12 months.”

VA spokesperson Schiefer told News 2 those waits apply only to new specialty care patients--which would appear to Crawford.

He spent 22 years in the Tennessee Air National Guard with service in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Bosnia.

Crawford thought he had contacted the Veterans Administration last December through a liaison, but also learned Tuesday there was no record of his December claim.

Crawford believes that years of climbing around and hopping off C-130 aircraft as a crew chief mechanic is responsible for lingering hip pain.

"You have to get it documented through the VA," he told News 2 “If you think it’s a service related injury."

He has spent a lot of time recently trying to find out what has happened to his claim.

“I tried to stay calm through all of that, knowing it was just a VA rep,” said Crawford told News 2 with a sigh and a shake of his head. “She had no control over the bureaucracy in the VA administration, still it’s frustrating.”

He said Tennessee lawmakers from its two U.S. Senators, nine U.S. Representatives and Governor Bill Haslam's administration need to "address this veteran's issue first hand."

Crawford sadly recounted how this was not the first time he had heard about "a runaround from the VA."

He said his father, who was also a mechanic in the military, told stories of long wait times at VA medical facilities.

Crawford told News 2 he heard back from VA officials late Tuesday afternoon informing him that they are opening an inquiry into his missing claim, and that he will be able to register for a primary care physician and appointment tomorrow.

The veteran said there was no indication how long it would actually take to see a doctor.

Hearing stories of former soldiers like Crawford, Congressman Jim Cooper said in a statement to News 2, “I am very disappointed with the long wait times for our veterans at the Nashville VA. I am doing everything I can to help our vets get faster service.”

Spokesperson Schiefer said a representative from Rep. Cooper’s office was meeting with VA officials Tuesday morning.

The VA wait time issue has generated wide ranging comment from social media sites to phones calls to television stations.

Two of those calling who said they have had "nothing but good experiences" at the Nashville VA Hospital were Amelia and William Stephens.

Amelia said she has been taking her husband William, a Korean War paratrooper, to the facility for primary care over the last six years.

"He's been treated successfully for four major skin cancers," Amelia told News 2. "Yesterday we saw a podiatrist and an eye doctor after making an appointment a month ago."

The Stephens wanted to add they saw plenty of people in the elevator at the Nashville VA healthcare facility who said "they were getting good service."

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