Memorial Day Honored While VA Misconduct Allegations Continue
WSIL -- Communities across the country paused Monday to honor the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice. Beyond the ceremonies, there is an ongoing debate over the quality of VA health care and growing allegations of misconduct in the agency.
The scandal has broadened over the past months as more staff members, veterans, and their families are coming forward with stories of subpar care.
After news broke of wait lists and deadly delays at the Phoenix VA hospital, the investigation spread to more than 20 locations. That now includes a VA hospital near Chicago.
So far, southern Illinois VA facilities have not been called into that official investigation. However, lawmakers and veterans groups want people to know that they stand ready to look into problems.
U.S. Representative Bill Enyart still wanted assurance from Marion VA leaders.
"I immediately contacted the Marion VA hospital and demanded to know were there any problems down there," said Enyart. "Any secret lists or any sort of thing that's making headlines."
Enyart has been satisfied by their responses, but he plans to make another in-person visit. Last week, he also voted in favor of a bill that makes it easier to fire VA executives for poor performance.
"I think we need to get to the bottom of this," said Enyart. "We have to determine what the truth of the matter is."
Enyart invites any veterans who feel they are having a problem to contact his office here.
Veterans, like Michael Joseph Little, have been waiting for lawmakers to take action. The Mcleansboro native works for a New York Senator and will soon be the Veterans Assistant for the Association of the US Navy.
"They need to hold accountable those who are not performing up to their job," said Little. "They need to fire them, and we need to get better personnel in."
Little says he experienced trouble with his own treatments at VA facilities in southern Illinois. However, he doesn't believe the whole system is bad.
"I've seen good too, because here in Buffalo and when I was living in San Diego, I've had like nothing but the top notch care," said Little.
He's worried the VA scandal is damaging for some patients. When they lose confidence in the place that's supposed to help care for them, the results can be tragic.
"The rising issue that we're seeing at the VA is 22 veterans a day are committing suicide," said Little.
Little wants all veterans to know, that even if they do run into problems with the V-A, they're never alone. There are also service organizations, like the VFW, that can help.
"Their sole job is to take requests from you and take your application and walk it through the VA system," said Little.
The Marion VA wants local veterans to know-they are there to serve them.
In a statement, Director Donald Hutson says they are "committed to providing the highest quality, safe and compassionate care to our Veterans."
"Veterans are surveyed on their satisfaction with the care we provide. Consistently, the Marion VA scores above the national average for all VA medical centers for inpatient satisfaction, and our healthcare providers are rated in the top 25 percent."
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