Lawmakers call for change in state VA system

Posted at 10:43 PM, Dec 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 23:43:10-05

More and more people continue to come forward about the lack of adequate service at Oklahoma's VA medical centers.

This week, USA Today released an article showcasing the shortcomings here at home.

Some of the worst cases of care by the Oklahoma VA are featured in the article. They're just a few of the thousands of veterans that share what they call a "nightmare experience".

"I feel just like them, that they don't care about the veterans whatsoever," said veteran Kenneth Crowley.

Crowley knows all about problems with healthcare for veterans.

While stories of missed diagnoses and wrong treatment made the national spotlight, he's been living the nightmare. 

"My knees, my back and even my right would turn on me," he said.

Crowley entered the army in 1972. By the time he left, four years later, his health had suffered.

"And they're trying to say that's a sprained ankle. 41 years of a sprained ankle? That's baloney," he said.

Crowley says he waits for months just to see a specialist, which made his trust in the system waiver. His comrades are also pleading for help to treat serious illnesses like infections and even cancer.

Wednesday, two Oklahoma senators released statements on the problem.

Senator James Lankford says:

"Our veterans have sacrificed to keep us safe and protect the freedoms we enjoy every day. I remain continually frustrated by the issues happening at both the department of veterans affairs and in our veterans affairs medical centers, the front line where we need to honor the promises to treat service-related medical needs of our veterans. In the last 2 weeks, I've visited VA centers in Muskogee and Oklahoma city and it is clear that the progress being made is too slow. Earlier this year, congress passed legislation to give veterans more choice so they can conveniently receive the care they need. Whether it's care within the VA system or the ability to receive care in the private sector, change needs to happen faster.

"I am working with the Regional Veterans Integrated Service network-19 leadership to get a director in place at the Oklahoma City and Muskogee veterans facilities, and I will closely monitor the VA's progress of these problems. Our veterans deserve better, and I will fight to ensure they receive the care they have earned."

Meanwhile, Senator Jim Inhofe writes:

"Taking care of Oklahoma's veterans has been a leading priority throughout my time in office. The stories of problems at our Oklahoma City VA center is unacceptable, and I have already been in touch personally with the facility,the VA director who oversees all Oklahoma VA operations, and the VA headquarters regarding the specific cases recently brought to light by the press. This year alone, my office has worked hundreds of cases for Oklahoma's veterans that are facing inadequate care or blocked access to their earned benefits. This past fall I personally brought the VA's chief of staff to Oklahoma to see first hand the progress that needs to be made toward improving health care for our veterans. Following his visit, I also initiated a full review by the Va's office of inspector general of Oklahoma's VA facilities. This is an epidemic not only at the Oklahoma City VA center, but across the state. I will keep working so that Oklahoma sees significant change in the care provided to those who bravely and honorably served our nation."

Crowley feels the same and says progress can't happen soon enough.

"I didn't have to volunteer, but I did. I served my country for four years," he said. "I could die before they ever do anything about it."

VA directors did not return our phone calls for a comment on the article. 


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