Anger, frustration top agenda at VA town hall meeting

Anger, frustration top agenda at VA town hall meeting

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Allegations of deadly delays at some VA Medical Centers across the country earlier this year created a national crisis.  That led to big changes, including a new secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Now, Secretary Robert McDonald has called for town hall meetings at VA facilities nationwide.  One town hall was held at Overton Brooks in Shreveport on Thursday.

Inside Overton Brooks, officials opened the floor to any comments, questions or concerns from veterans and their families.  And it didn't take long to get that feedback.

"I've fought this battle for 15 years," one local veteran said.

He could not hold back his frustration about medical bills not being paid, saying,  "These bills are going to be turned into the credit bureau tomorrow.  And I have begged and pleaded.  I'm a hundred percent service connected."

That veteran also described having lung surgery at the VA two years ago.  The surgery itself went fine.  It was the recovery care that left him shocked.

"Your intensive care ward on the night shift- the best way I can describe it is a house of horrors," the man said.

VA staff from different programs and services were on hand to offer to help to those who turned out.  In fact, the overarching goal of this town hall-style public meeting at Overton Brooks:  "To make sure we can find out what our veterans needs are," VA spokesman Reginald Hardy, Sr said.

The easiest way to get VA care started, Hardy said, begins with one simple step:  "The best way, you come out, you bring your DD-214 with you, you come to the business office.  They will put your information in the system and see what your qualified for."

With feedback from veterans and their families, officials say they're hoping this leads to not only improved care but also improving and rebuilding trust, lost to a large degree in the national scandal of alleged deadly delays in healthcare at a number of VA facilities.

The VA is also hosting town hall meetings for each of Overton Brooks' three satellite clinics, with each running from 5 p.m to 6 p.m. as well.  The first one takes place Wednesday night at the clinic in Longview, Texas.  On October 1, there's a VA town hall meeting in Texarkana at the Holiday Inn Express on Cross Roads Parkway.  And October 8, there will be in Monroe at ULM's Pharmacy College.

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