Bonuses to VA Hospital workers may be incentive to turn veterans away from treatment
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -
The fight gets personal for veterans in the ArkLaTex wondering what's next for their health care.
"I didn't feel like he treated me like a normal customer," Freddie Prince, a veteran from Minden, said.
One-by-one, veterans stood up and told lawmakers they went from one fight to another, fighting to be seen and to get quality treatment at the Shreveport's Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.
"My left hip bothers me more now than it did before. I had the surgery and I still have the low back problems" William Alexander, a local veteran said.
The Shreveport VA is being investigated for its scheduling practices.
"I was on the receiving end of an IED outside of Fallujah," said Andrew Tucker, a veteran from Bossier City. "Doctors told me it was a miracle I could even walk, that being said, why am I not being seen? Why did it take four-and-a-half years to get rated? why did it take over four years to get a CMP appointment?"
Louisiana VA Secretary David LeCerte and local lawmakers said hearing these stories will help them make changes.
"Accessibility within specialty care is a reoccurring theme that we always hear fails out veterans in the VA system" LeCerte said.
"The real reason I came is because of the words I heard that the possibilities of alleviating the problem is farming out to the communities or the areas, some of the care," Prince said, adding that he was sent to an eye doctor outside of the VA Hospital and wasn't happy with the experience.
"It was at one of our optometrists at one of our malls, and word came back to me, well he might not get paid."
LeCerte said that may, in fact, be the case.
"Not only would that provider not get paid, because they're not issuing a new set of glasses or lenses, they might not ever get a check from the VA at all, period," he said.
Tucker had the room in uproar when he asked the secretary about a rumor that VA hospital employees were given bonuses for turning vets away. The secretary's answer shocked them.
"It's based on the expediency of their reviews so if you get someone who's going through an IED in Fallujah, that's got a medical record that is four feet long, that's going to hurt his bonus to adjudicate; to pick up the paper that has four sheets of paper in it, they can move that thing in four hours."
Here's the exchange: Tucker: "How can they do that? Why are they giving bonuses on expediency when they obviously have no clue what they're doing?" LeCerte: "That's a good question and that's what we need to hold our people accountable for."
The room full of veterans erupted in angry muttering. Tucker: "That practice is unethical, it's asinine." Rep. Jeffrey Thompson: "It's frankly illegal in some instances. It's taxpayer money."
The lawmakers said they are taking these concerns to a special committee meeting on June 27in Baton Rouge. Wednesday U.S. Senator David Vitter also asked for a thorough investigation into the VA hospital in Shreveport.
Stay with KSLA News 12 as we continue to follow this developing story.