Valley veterans sound off on VA medical system

austintown ohio veterans day veterans recognized
Austintown students and faculty took time to recognize local veterans Wednesday.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been trying to fix a health system that left veterans waiting months to see a doctor.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald has said a number of improvements have been made inside VA hospitals since last year, including the hiring of more than 1,400 doctors, 2,300 nurses and an increase of 1.7 million square feet of new space.

With previous reports of a lack of doctors inside VA hospitals, long wait times and internal cover-ups, WKBN talked to local veterans to see if they have noticed the changes.

Marine Corps Veteran Michael McRee, of Youngstown, said he has seen the improvement at the VA hospital over the last few years.

“To me, it’s at a better point now, but people need to understand it’s overwhelmed now,” he said.

Since 2002, the number of veterans enrolled in the VA medical system has increased from 6.8 to 9 million people.

That is just over the past 12 years. But over that time, the number of medical visits has nearly doubled.

“For what the system has been trying to catch up from, from what they’ve been overwhelmed with, you got to give them credit. They’re doing good now,” McRee said.

Officially, the VA says veterans wait a month on average for a new appointment.

Marine Corps Veteran Frank Sokol said that is where the VA medical system can stand to improve.

“They might cut down on the time, the waiting times to see a doctor,” he said.

Secretary McDonald says a perfect system may take time, however.

“I’ve been here just over a year now, and obviously, it takes time to create a broken system, or a system that isn’t operating, and it takes time to fix it.”

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