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CRUELLY IGNORED: Iraq, Afghanistan veterans unable to get help in Phoenix for months

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/22/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

'It's not just Phoenix VA. It's across the country, which is why everyone is hiding a backlog,' official says

They're missing limbs, suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and they're being swept under the rug. Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the Veteran's Administration in Phoenix are waiting upwards to six to nine months before they are acknowledged. Dr. Katherine Mitchell, medical director of the Phoenix VA's post-deployment clinic took her case to CNN - and says that things need to change fast.

Dr. Katherine Mitchell accuses the Phoenix VA of not following a mandate that the highest priority be given to new or injured veterans for scheduling appointments.

Dr. Katherine Mitchell accuses the Phoenix VA of not following a mandate that the highest priority be given to new or injured veterans for scheduling appointments.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/22/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Veterans, Phoenix VA, backlog, trauma, medical care


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The nation's newest veterans are being made to wait for months in the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. This continues despite a national mandate they be given priority access to medical care.

Dr. Mitchell accuses the Phoenix VA of not following a mandate that the highest priority be given to new or injured veterans for scheduling appointments.

Hunger never takes a vacation --

Wait lists in Phoenix for veterans injured in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan can be "six months, nine months or longer," Mitchell says.

"People that are 100 percent service-connected that are poly-trauma were waiting anywhere from six to 10 months to get into a new appointment when I found out about 'em," she said.

"We're talking about people that were injured by being blown up by IEDs. We're talking about people who had a mental breakdown and have severe PTSD and ...are having trouble functioning."

Case managers have approached her in her clinic and have asked: "This guy can't wait. Can you see him?"

Mitchell reported the alleged practice to the VA's Office of the Inspector General.

The VA then referred to the testimony of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki before a Senate committee looking into the allegations.

"It is important to allow OIG's independent and objective review to proceed until completion, and OIG has advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing review."

It's all part of a quickly unfolding scandal amid allegations of scheduling tricks and secret lists to hide months-long waits for care.

By far the most distressing problems emerged at the Phoenix VA, with sources revealing details of a secret waiting list. Sources say that at least 40 American veterans died while waiting for care at the VA there.

The allegations have been followed by news of investigations at more than two dozen facilities across the nation.

Mitchell says that this is because the VA doesn't have enough medical providers to care for veterans.

There are a few reasons for this, she said: low pay, lack of qualified professionals applying to work at the VA and a slow hiring process.

"As a result, you've got a lot of patients and not enough providers," she said. "It's not just Phoenix VA. It's across the country, which is why everyone is hiding a backlog."

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