VA problems ‘a national disgrace,’ Warner tells Gloucester gathering
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, on the campaign trail Monday, stopped by the Disabled American Veterans office in Gloucester to find out what local veterans think of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He got an earful.
Veterans told Warner stories of appointment delays and cancellations, inability to get through on telephone calls, inadequate coverage, lost records, and rude treatment at VA hospitals.
As each person talked, Warner approached him or her and listened quietly, occasionally patting this or that one on the back for comfort.
One man said that he was experiencing dizzy spells and had blood in his urine and arrived at the Hampton VA hospital only to find that his appointment had been cancelled. Another questioned why he had to go all the way to Hampton or Richmond for treatment in the first place when there’s a hospital “right down the street.”
“There would be better care for veterans if local hospitals could provide care,” he said.
Cathy Hinson of Newport News and Mathews told of her struggle to get benefits for her 80-year-old mother after her father, a World War II Merchant Marine veteran, died in 2012 without having received services. Four days after he died, she said, she received a letter from the VA with an appointment date for her father—90 days away. Hinson said the VA has lost the paperwork she’d sent for her mom, and she’s now supporting her mother.
Cathy Ratley of Gloucester said that thousands of veterans have to wait endlessly for a decision on whether their disabilities are service-related. Several other people expressed frustration with denial of their claims, as well. One man had been in a helicopter accident, but his injury was mysteriously attributed to problems with a parachute drop. Another said a service-related knee injury is preventing him from working and he’s sinking deeper and deeper into debt but he can’t get his claim approved.
Crystal Heidenthal of Gloucester Point said her husband, Stephen, has been experiencing PTSD, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, but that the VA has treated him with rudeness. She said that he was eventually given a prescription to have a sleep study done to determine whether he has sleep apnea, but the civilian facility he went to wouldn’t accept his veteran’s card. Instead, he was told he would have to pay up front.