Local vets have mixed reviews of VA health care - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Local vets have mixed reviews of VA health care

There was an intimate gathering outside New Orleans City Hall on Friday morning, complete with colorful decorations. The purpose was to honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

Across from Lakeside Mall in Metairie, on a section of the neutral ground dedicated to those who defended America's freedom, there was a similar event.

"Sherman had it right back in the 1860s - war is hell," said Bill Friedman, who served in Vietnam and is an executive committeeman in the American Legion's 2nd District.

This year's Memorial Day observances come as the U.S. Veterans Administration faces a barrage of criticism resulting from jarring allegations of treatment delay for veterans, and deaths that could have been prevented at VA hospitals around the country.

"We talk about it being in 26 states, it's not, it's everywhere," said James Jackson, Commander of the American Legion Department of Louisiana.

Jackson served two tours in Vietnam. He is now disabled and uses VA medical services.

"In 2012, I was referred to the hospital to get a knee replacement. My primary care physician said 'you need a knee replacement.' Three weeks ago I had my appointment - three weeks ago," he said.

The allegations about health care at some VA medical facilities has left Friedman outraged.

"A disgrace, and to my mind, no punishment can be worse for people who did what is alleged to have happened at the Phoenix VA," he said.

A group of veterans gathered outside the local VA Medical Facility on Perdido Street. It offers outpatient care as a new state-of-the-art VA hospital is being built on Canal Street.

The vets said care at the New Orleans facility is generally good, but some feel services in Baton Rouge need improvement.

Veteran Marcus Davis said he has been subjected to long delays.

"A lot," he said.

Davis served in the Army.

I've had some problems and stuff, but you know, they just dismiss it. Sometimes, like, well, you know, 'we'll check you out, come back,'" said Davis.

Veteran Murphy Johnson said there is good and bad happening within the VA system, but politics at the national level hinders solutions.

"If we can all get together as one, I don't think we would have these types of problems," said Johnson.

And some veterans said in their opinion the best thing the VA could do is get rid of its hospital system altogether.

"Not do away with the VA, but do away with the hospital system. And say you're a veteran, you live in X,Y, Z town, you have a problem, you go to your doctor, you're doctor will bill the government," said Friedman.

"I do go to the VA, okay, you don't have that problem here," said veteran James Mitchell.

Still, others want VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down.

"He can't do the job he was hired to do, he needs to go," said Jackson.

A controversy that generates much discussion as the community also focuses on the price of freedom.

"You have to get back to the real meaning and realize that these people we owe a debt of gratitude to and a debt we could never fully repay," said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

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