Local vets voice concerns over VA health care system

Published 07/09 2014 06:18PM

Updated 07/10 2014 05:25PM

"It's no different than when I walk to Lyster or when I went to the Dothan clinic.  It's hurry up, sit down and wait.  And when you ask a question, or you want to ask a question, you don't get an answer," shouted one frustrated veteran at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System’s town hall meeting held in Dothan.

Frustrations have mounting over a system designed to meet the medical needs of veterans.  And many of them say they're tired of getting the run around.

The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System held a town hall meeting today at Elks Lodge #1887.

The VA health care system has been under fire after a national audit revealed false scheduling records and patient wait time discrepancies.

"My own government tries to treat me like I'm a secondary citizen, rather than give me the help they should give me," said William Land, who served 12 years in the military and later worked as an FBI agent.

Amy Pietras served as a medic in Korea and Iraq.  She says her providers are great, but the communication at some clinics is unacceptable.

"Myself, nor anybody else, or another veteran is going to want to be treated like we're on an assembly line, that we're just a number, and that what we're there for has no value," Pietras said.

Not enough doctors and prescription refill issues were some of the main concerns.

And some vets have driven hours to other VA clinics, only to find out their appointments were cancelled without notice.

"Anytime they're taking from us it's causing us to have less quality of living.  It's just more Vietnam Veterans killing each other every day," said Hershell Godwin II, who served in the Army from 1973 until 1980 and has a long family lineage of service members.

Administrators say they've been working on these issues for years.  But budget shortfalls, salary caps and the high turnover rates at the top of the health care system are the biggest challenges.

"When you have that kind of turnover, clearly it cuts into your processes and accountability.  [Those] are all concerns,” said CAVHCS Director James Talton.  “What we're doing now is actually trying to establish firm processes, communicate our expectations to our employees, and then develop systems of accountability to ensure that all of us are meeting the needs of veterans and keeping the veterans first in all we do."

“We're not working for them, they're working for us. That's what I expect when I go into a health care facility,” said Pietras.

Veterans say they not only hope the CAVHCS will fix these problems, they want members of congress to help speed up the process.

Talton says the health care system is also working to reduce wait list and scheduling problems found in the audit.

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