U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) addressed the growing Veterans Administration scandal today in a community meeting with veterans in Perrysburg.
About 20 people showed for the meeting in American Legion Post 28.
Mr. Latta said he's been noticing an increasing number of cases of veterans concerns with the VA being referred to his office over the last couple of years.
“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.
He said that in Arizona, VA officials kept two sets of books to conceal how long some patients were waiting for treatment and that 40 veterans died because they were not getting care.
"They were cooking the books out there,“ Mr. Latta said.
Several veterans said they get good care at the VA 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.
Gregory Symington, 64, of Perrysburg, recalled that he was supposed to get a call from the VA in March for 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?”
Mr. Latta said the House passed a bill last week streamlining the process by which the VA can fire incompetent administrators. The bill passed 390-33, with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) one of the 33 Democrats who voted against the bill. The House is also trying to get the VA to use private-sector hospitals and care-givers when the VA system is overwhelmed.
Mr. Latta was expected to hold similar sessions in Findlay at 11 a.m. and Defiance at 2 p.m.
Mr. Latta sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last week requesting that the VA allow more non-VA care “if it is unable to care for our veterans in a timely manner.”
The VA Inspector General’s office has said that 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital where 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment and staff there kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care.
Asked for a comment, Mr. Latta‘s Democratic opponent in the November election, Robert Fry of Toledo, today pledged that, if elected, “I will always fight for our veterans with deeds, not just words.”
He noted that he is a Navy veteran.
"I wholly understand the issues that our men and women of the Armed Forces face. We are spending a great deal on the VA, and it is mismanaged. Congress and the Executive Branch need to be paying closer attention, and there needs to be a sense of urgency. We must do a better job - not only honoring our veterans, but seeing them through the transition process of their homecoming,“ Mr. Fry said.