VA Secretary Visits North Carolina
SALISBURY, NC -- A real scandal. That's what many are calling the current state of affairs in the Veterans Administration. Twenty-three deaths nationwide due to delayed care, and veterans in North Carolina tell WCCB that widespread problems in VA facilities have been building for years.
"Me personally, I think they're just trying to kill us so they ain't got to pay us," says veteran Kurt Osterhoudt. "And a lot of the veterans feel the same way."
North Carolina has more than 700,000 veterans... vets like Kurt Osterhoudt, who served in Korea and Vietnam. Men and women who gave to their country.
"We earned it. We was promised it when we went in that the government would take care us of us for the rest of our life," says Osterhoudt. "And instead of that, they're doing just the opposite."
It's a situation, a scandal, reaching critical mass. Backlogged claims and extreme wait times at VA hospitals and clinics across the country. Our veterans are demanding answers.
A nationwide audit flagged three VA facilities in eastern North Carolina for formal investigations. The results found that new patients wait an average of 83 days for an appointment at the Fayetteville VA. In Salisbury, veterans wait 53 days to see a specialist.
Vietnam vet Larry Nosker feels the system is broken.
"You call for an appointment and it's three months down the road," says Nosker. "It does make you wonder. Why so long?"
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson was in Fayetteville Thursday, talking about changes the agency is making as it tries to win back our veterans' trust.
"With veterans, we will have to win it one veteran at a time, and it may be starting the process with a phone call to a veteran that's been on a wait list somewhere," says Gibson
The House and Senate are both working on bills to combat the issues in the VA. Vets we spoke to would like to see the network expand.
"To use outside doctors. Allow us for them to contract, so we can go to outside help. So we can get help faster," says Nosker.
The FBI has opened an investigation of the Veterans Affairs Department and the VA hospital in Phoenix. That investigation could expand to other facilities.