Veterans speak up about complaints in patient care at townhall meeting

News 12 at 11 / Monday, March 10, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Tonight it was the veterans' chance to talk about what's going on at the VA hospital.

Several vets spoke up about the kind of care they're getting, and said it's not up to par, but they were happy about the responses they got tonight.

"We're used to suffering, so we don't say a lot," admitted Navy vet Michael Kelly.

Despite that, Monday night, veterans, spouses, and caretakers spoke up about the level of care at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Hospital.

"They misdiagnosed me twice. I had a busted appendix," Kelly complained.

"[I waited] June to February," one vet said.
"So you were in pain for 8 months?" the representative replied.
"Yes," the vet acknowledged.

"They just kinda blow you off," said Air Force veteran Rick Rogers.

Complaints of all kinds came from a room full of dissatisfied and injured veterans.

Michael Kelly is a Navy vet. His beef comes with the ER and how he was treated there.

"If I stayed a little bit longer on what they told me to do, I wouldn't be here today," he said.

After days, weeks, even months of pain without answers, representatives from DC listened one by one, handing out answers and apologies to those who have already suffered so much.

"That to us is unacceptable to us. We're going to resolve this for you, and we can't apologize to you enough," said Jacob Gadd, American Legion Healthcare Deputy Director.

Rick Rogers is a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. Talking about his pains brought both him and his wife to tears, but he says this meeting was the first ray of hope for change.

"This meeting this evening, it was so enlightening . I was so glad to see these representatives here," he said.

"I think these meetings are productive. I think they need to be done because people gotta hear what's going on," Kelly said.

Now they will. This group is a task force for the American Legion in Washington DC. They'll turn in a report to senior VA leaders and the White House, but Monday night's meeting was about reminding the veterans they matter.

"They have a job because of what you did. And sometimes you have to remind them who they're actually working for," Gadd told the vets.

Officials will conduct a site visit during the next two days. They'll take the information they get back with them to Washington.

Each case with each patient is different, but there was a common theme with complaints. Most veterans said primary care was good, but getting any kind of specialty care is where it gets difficult.

One man even stood up and said he was told the pain specialist doctor was no longer here in Augusta. So, many feel the one person who could help them isn't even around to help.

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