The issue of care for our returning soldiers has become front page news in the wake of the Walter Reed Hospital scandal. We wanted to find out the level of care here at home.
Those poor conditions at Walter Reed outpatient apartments is now nightly television news fodder. "It made me disgusted. I was disgusted," confided Vietnam veteran Arthur Ford of Texarkana. We met Ford right outside the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport.
Ford served two tours of duty. He's seen his fair share of military medical care. So, we wanted to know his thoughts on how Overton Brooks stacks up? "I think it's fairly decent, compared to what I seen of Walter Reed."
The VA Center's Nurse Executive, Beverly Rashad, R.N., proudly announced at the beginning of our interview, "the VA is outstanding!" She pointed out a top priority at Overton Brooks: Access to care. "We'll have resources not only here in this facility but out in the community."
Hundreds of Iraqi vets have come through this Shreveport VA Center for continuing care. In fact, that helped inspired a resource fair which attracted agenies and businesses ranging from hospice care to legal services.
Dock Voorhies oversees all social work services at Overton Brooks. He told us another priority is not letting any returning vets slip through the cracks. "We've got a person identified that that's his job. He makes sure that he contacts as many of the returning Iraqi veterans as possible."
Voorhies said that includes case managers assigned to anyone who comes to this VA center. "A lot of times people are reluctant to ask for help and so we want to be pro-active and offer help to them." Voorhies added that they're now adding 25-new mental health positions to cope with the surge in vets needing psychological care.
It is necessary to point out that despite repeated requests, we were not allowed to take any pictures of the hospital rooms themselves or anywhere near where patients are located. We were given a very limited tour of one of the clinic areas. And during our guided tour we were allowed only to shoot the hallway and an exam room with no veterans present, a tough task considering 40-thousand such vets receive care here every year.
Rashad wanted to make something clear: Overton Brooks VA Medical Center is operated through the Department of Veterans Affairs and has nothing to do with Walter Reed which is operated by the Defense Department.
Story by Jeff Ferrell