YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As the number of complaints filed against Veterans Affairs facilities around the country continues to grow, local veterans say they are disturbed by the stories they’ve been hearing, in particular of so-called wait lists for patients trying to obtain care.
“It is a pity what is going on with these veterans,” said local Marine veteran Bruce Kirkland. “In my opinion, they should prosecute them.”
“See who is involved in it, who is causing it, and then get rid of that person,” said Vietnam War veteran Anthony Tisler.
While investigators look into what happened at a VA facility in Arizona where as many as 40 patients reportedly died waiting for treatment, most local service retirees who have been going to clinics like the one in Youngstown said their care has been excellent.
“I really believe it is the personnel that are not getting the veterans in on time,” said Korean War veteran Ray Ornelas. “They need to grip on that.”
U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he’s been working with the VA to reduce the time needed for processing claims by veterans. While he has not heard of any problems in Ohio like those in Phoenix, he admits getting information out of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been easy.
“That tends to be the best disinfectant sometimes is just a little sunshine. And so what we’ve asked for is the information on the clinics, including the clinic in Youngstown, but also the hospitals, the Cleveland hospitals for example,” said Portman.
In response to critics who allege the Obama administration is not doing enough to investigate the situation, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he spoke with the President Obama’s Chief of Staff Thursday who said everyone involved will be held accountable.
“We know there are 85 million veteran patient visits a year, and there are going to be some mistakes, but any kind of altering of records is unacceptable and those people should be terminated,” said Brown. “I think the overwhelming number of veterans that go to VA facilities in Youngstown, Wade Park, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, they are getting very good care. It is one of the best health care systems in the country.”
Portman said he wants to hear more about the problems before calling for the firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Kirkland and other veterans said they just want lawmakers to “do their job.”