Local veterans called for a more responsive U.S. Veterans Administration in a listening session held by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) Tuesday in Perrysburg.
About 20 people attended the meeting at American Legion Post 28 to voice concerns or listen to an update from Mr. Latta about the controversy over delays in getting veterans the care they need and decisions on their appeals for service-related coverage.
“We cannot have veterans waiting for service at a veterans hospital or clinic,” Mr. Latta said.
He said the 5th Congressional District has about 70,000 veterans.
Several veterans said they get good care at the V.A. clinic in Toledo but said they are frustrated by bureaucratic delays.
Earl Moeller, 64, a Vietnam War-era Navy veteran of Waterville said he was sent to Cleveland to have his hearing loss reviewed, but instead the doctor examined another service-related disability, pain in his knee.
“There’s some challenges on the administrative side. The doctors and nurses have been very good,” Mr. Moeller said.
Army veteran Gregory Symington, 64, of Perrysburg recalled that he was supposed to get a call from the V.A. in March about scheduling an eye exam. “They never called. It was April I finally got in to get my eyes tested and new glasses,” he said, saying it was his first new pair in five years.
“How can we change the wait time?” he asked.
Mr. Latta encouraged veterans not to be afraid to call him or speak up with their concerns and said he’s noticed an uptick in cases being forwarded to this office for assistance in the last several years. The House passed a bill last week streamlining the process by which the V.A. can fire incompetent administrators. The bill passed 390-33, with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) one of the 33 Democrats who voted no.
Steve Fought, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur, said the congressman believes the report by the V.A.’s inspector general will “pinpoint any individuals or administering authorities who might have been responsible for any lack of care for our veterans.
“It is crucially important to the veterans community and everyone who cares about them that decisions be made on the basis of all the facts and not just partial information,” Mr. Fought said.
Mr. Latta sent a letter to V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki last week requesting that the V.A. allow more non-V.A. care “if it is unable to care for our veterans in a timely manner.”
The V.A. Inspector General’s office has said that 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital where staff allegedly kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care, and 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment.
Mr. Latta’s Democratic opponent in the November election, Robert Fry of Toledo, issued a statement calling for “a sense of urgency” to clear up mismanagement in the V.A.
“The real tragedy here is that poor service and long waiting times have been an issue for veterans for years, encompassing both the Bush administration and the Obama Administration. Why do we have to keep waiting and hearing endless excuses from both members of the administration and members of Congress like Bob Latta, whose job it is to provide oversight of the V.A. and to make sure problems such as this never occur?
“Career politicians are no substitute for competent management, and now, sadly, our veterans are paying the price,” Mr. Fry said.