Local Veterans Respond to VA Hospital Investigation

Published 05/16 2014 10:18PM

Updated 05/19 2014 08:18AM

A top official resigns after lawmakers push an investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs. News about the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Undersecretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, came one day after he spoke at a Senate hearing about the issue alongside Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Last month details emerged about a secret waiting list for veterans at the VA in Phoenix. In a few dozen cases, veterans actually died while waiting for care. 

During the hearing Thursday, Secretary Shinseki said, "Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me as, makes me mad as hell. I could use stronger language here Mr. Chairman, but in deference to committee I won't.. but at the same time it also saddens me because I understand that out of those adverse events a veteran and a veteran's family is dealing in the aftermath and I always try to put myself in their shoes."

The VA's Inspector General admits federal prosecutors are now part of the investigation, but the entire review won't be complete until sometime in August. 

"You call to make an appointment and it could be three, four, five, six months before you get in," said Stephen Kumfer, a Vietnam veteran who registered with the Fort Wayne VA hospital five years ago. "Those guys who really need the care, a lot of times they're sent out to Marion, Indianapolis, and they keep saying this is one of the better regional areas. There's no support here," said Kumfer.

"A few times I had to go to a Fort Wayne facility it was a pretty prompt. It was not a long wait. It was efficient and basically quick. Now I have been to others in much larger cities where it tended to take a lot longer. But I found the same thing with a private hospital," said Ed Totten, a Vietnam veteran who's been to VA Hospitals in Memphis, Louisville and Fort Wayne. 

Local lawmakers are speaking out about the VA Hospital investigation.

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly said in a statement, "The delays in veteran care leading to deaths of men and women who served our country is an absolute disgrace. I fully support the investigations that are currently underway, as well as the newly initiated review of the scheduling policies at all VA facilities across the country."

Indiana Senator Dan Coats said in a statement, "Right now, the credibility of the entire VA health and benefits system is on the line. Along with addressing allegations of abuse, the excessive delays at VA facilities, including those faced by many Hoosiers, must be eliminated."

Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman said in a statement, "I am appalled by the VA's record of mismanagement across the country. Veterans and taxpayers deserve the truth and Secretary Shinseki's testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs was an important step toward transparency."

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