Veteran says VA Hospital Director's letter is just "pretty words"

News 12 at 11 / Friday, June 13, 2014

NORWOOD, Ga. (WRDW) -- The battle continues as veterans fight for better care at VA hospitals here in Augusta and nationwide.

Friday, News 12 got a letter from the director of our local VA Hospital outlining improvements in the facility. It comes just days after a federal audit highlights serious problems in care.

We sat down with a veteran who read the letter himself who says it all sounds good, but to him, it's just words.

"Real pretty words. Real pretty words. Same thing they do every time it gets called to the front," veteran Eddie Browning said.

There's a dash of hope and a heap of doubt in the Vietnam vet's reaction after reading a letter from Robert Hamilton, the director at the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital in Augusta.

"It's all words. This is all words. They sound good when they read it. They'll say it to the camera. 'Oh they're gonna do better. They're really making improvements.' That sounds good. Let's see what changes," he challenges.

A three page message from the director himself highlights the"untold story" of improvements at the facility. The letter says they've doubled the number of psychiatrists from 9 to 19, claims they no longer have wait times, and says specialty care has seen the most dramatic improvement.

But, after years of trying to get potentially life saving digestive surgery, Browning isn't so sure.

"I particularly like the part about improvements in specialty care. 'Most dramatic in areas we discovered problems two years ago. Our Gastroenterology service no longer has long wait times. With the additional staff, equipment, remodel space, and system improvements, we now keep pace with the demand for GI procedures," he quotes from the letter. "I've been waiting months to get into the GI clinic!"

Browning says instead of surgery, doctors continue to prescribe pain medications, and even though his stomach is swollen and painful to the touch, he says he's lost 50 pounds since he can't eat any solid food.

"I came home literally and have been waiting to die. I gave up. I can't fight the government," Browning said.

So, as the letter says the hospital is "working tirelessly," Browning says he's just plain tired.

"This could be from his heart telling the truth. But until I see some action, I am so tired of words," Browning said.

The director's letter is the first response since the federal audit even though it made no mention of the audit itself. We're working on getting more specific numbers for the improvements they say they've made.

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