Audit fuels VA scandal flame as frustrated veterans air grievances

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An audit by the Veterans Administration Monday put some numbers to the ongoing criticism of the agency.

The VA says more than 57,000 patients have been waiting more than three months for their first treatment appointment. An additional 64,000 who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have "never" had appointments.

Meanwhile 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors had told them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter. Against that latest backdrop of the VA health care scandal, the Veterans of Foreign Wars invited metro veterans to share their experiences in the system at a town hall meeting.

Nearly 100 people showed up, including Vietnam veteran Joe McDaniel. For him, getting a timely appointment with a doctor is critical.

“I have diabetes,” he said of health issues related to his service. “I have PTSD. I have neurological problems. I lost my equilibrium and most of my hearing.”

But when he tried to get his latest check-up at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, he said the soonest appointment it could get him was in 120 days, which would delay him from re-filling prescriptions on time.

“Because I can’t get in to see a doctor, I feel like they pretty much are forgetting about us,” he said of his experience and those of his fellow veterans.

Others shared similar concerns at Monday night’s VFW town hall at the Uptown Theatre, a meeting scheduled in light of nationwide backlogs and secret waiting lists for treatment.

“We’re angry,” said Jerry Newberry, the assistant adjutant general of the Kansas City VFW. “We’re frustrated. We’re not going to put up with it anymore.”

Recent audits and letters from the VA to U.S. senators reveal 71 veterans in Missouri and 110 in Kansas have been on those waiting lists for at least 90 days.  It’s just one issue among a slew of others local veterans who came to the meeting want to change.

“I want the doctors to listen to the vets,” Nicole Smith said. “Listen to them and hear them and not just pretend to hear them. And quit treating us like we’re nothing, like we`re second-class citizens because we’re not.”

VFW leaders promised to meet one-on-one with each person to discuss options for treatment, while pledging to take their concerns Monday night straight to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

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