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Southeast Texas veterans facing wait times & red tape
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
Southeast Texas veterans say troubles with the Department of Veterans Affairs are not going away, even though the VA scandals are slowly fading from the headlines. Problems include long wait times to see doctors and difficulty receiving benefits.
"It says right here that I kept the appointment at 9:30a.m., and I was never seen by the physician," said Steve Gibson, pointing to a piece of paper listing past appointments.
Gibson is a Vietnam Veteran. He says he sat in the waiting room for hours at the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic before walking out.
"It's just several times, but this is the worst one. Two hours and 15 minutes, it's just not acceptable," said Gibson.
The Communications Director for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center gave us this statement:
"Providing Veterans with timely, quality healthcare has been and continues to be a top priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic is the largest of VAs nine outpatient clinics in the Houston area and serves nearly 11,000 area Veterans. While there are wait times for some specialty appointments, Veterans with acute healthcare needs can walk in the clinic and be seen that day. To shorten the wait times, the Clinic began implementing extended evening and weekend hours, is hiring several additional staff and is deploying additional resources, such as an additional audiology booth, to the clinic. Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic is also significantly expanding its mental health and telehealth programs."
Michael Campise says he's treated as a priority patient, because he has acute healthcare needs.
"The VA in Beaumont and my doctor there, and in Houston, have been excellent for me," said Campise. "And I guess that's because they take care of the spinal cord injuries a lot better than they do some of the other veterans."
The retired master sergeant was injured while on active duty in the Army.
"That's double titanium rods from T2 to T12, and sixteen screws" said Campise, pointing to an x-ray of himself that shows his spine. "Vertebras T5, 6, and 7 are gone. That's why you see a void in there. I don't have no bones in there."
He doesn't have a problem with the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic, but has been trying to get the VA to approve his disability claim for three years.
"I mean I'm 100 percent disabled and unemployable," said Campise.
The VA has rejected his claim twice.
"I just need them to approve my claim so I can get housing assistance, and so I can have a walk in shower instead of a tub, because I've already fallen many times in and out of my shower. Just trying to get in and get out," said Campise.
Gibson says people need to be aware of the problems veterans are facing in the system.
"We put our lives on the line and this is what we get in return and it's just not acceptable," said Gibson.
"It really makes you feel bad. I know there's veterans out there far worse off than I am, just really bad that I can't get the help that I need," said Campise. "That I believe all veterans deserve if we're injured while we're on duty."
U.S. Congressman Randy Weber says the recent VA scandals are a national disgrace. He gave KFDM this statement:
The recent Veterans Administration (VA) scandals are a national disgrace. To ensure that all veterans receive the highest level of medical attention, my staff and I are dedicated to expanding access to care, while holding the Veterans Administration accountable for their actions. To provide greater support to veterans, I voted for the Veteran Access to Care Act (H.R. 4810) on June 10. This bill will dramatically assist Jefferson County veterans by expanding access to health care services through the use of private medical facilities.
On July 3, I will be touring VA Houston Medical Center and meeting with staff and veterans where we will discuss current problems with the VA, as well as how VA Houston can better serve the needs of my constituents. My staff and I are committed to assist the veterans of our communities, and are working to ensure the VA is processing claims in an expedient manner. And here is some background in how our office provides veterans in need of assistance.
What the office of the Congressmen does to help veterans:
Make Congressional inquiries with regards to all VA claims.
Work with VA medical facilities in Beaumont, Houston and throughout the country to ensure veterans get required medical assistance.
Work with VA to ensure that private medical facilities are properly reimbursed so that they can continue to provide assistant to our veterans.
Work with the Department of Defense to locate service records.
Assist homeless veterans to get in contact with proper housing authority."