Local veterans react to national VA investigation - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Local veterans react to national VA investigation


Officials at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center say they're ready for the close examination of their operations at the Shreveport veteran's hospital that could come any day now as the government responds to disturbing allegations of critically-delayed care at other facilities around the country.

The allegations involve secret waiting lists and U.S. veterans who have died awaiting care at VA hospitals across the country. However, local veterans told KSLA News 12 on Friday that Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport is an example of what's "right" with the VA system.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has now ordered a "face-to-face audit" at all VA clinics and hospitals around the country, including Overton Brooks. Overton's Public Affairs Officer Sandy Franks says no date has been given for the in-person, external audit of their scheduling system, and they may not be notified before the team arrives.

Franks says they'll be ready whenever they do arrive. It will be a big job. Overton Brooks and its three satellite clinics in Monroe, Louisiana, Texarkana, Arkansas and Longview, Texas see 14-to 15-hundred outpatient clinic visits every day. Overall, they have 50-thousand veterans enrolled for care.

Among them: 59-year-old Willie McDonald of Shreveport, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant who's gone to Overton Brooks for treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). "The doctors and the staff are, I give them an A-plus."

Then there's 83-year-old Steve Vasko of Shreveport, a former Air Refueling Operator for B-29s during the Korean War with the U.S. Air Force. Vasko just visited Overton Brooks to have cataracts removed.

In fact, Vasko fondly recalls going to the scheduling desk afterward. "She said, 'well, you want an appointment?' And I said, 'When can you get me one?' She says, 'How 'bout Monday morning?' That was three days away!"

Both Vasko and McDonald expressed shock and sadness about the accusations coming out of other VA medical centers around the country, with allegations of secret waiting lists and deadly delays in health care. "I don't think it's isolated to them, but I don't think it's nationwide, because I haven't seen anything like that at this hospital," added Vasko.

McDonald even points to something called My HealtheVet.com as a web site that has greatly improved access to VA health care for him recently. "And you can re-order, refill your prescription, you can send your doctor email and you get either the nurse or the doctor go and respond back to you almost immediately, mostly the same day or the next day," McDonald says.

Bottom line, Steve Vasko says, is that he believes the kind of care offered at any VA facility largely depends on the leadership there.

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