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Local veterans respond to VA scandal

By Mallory Cooke
By mcooke@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. -- A nationwide audit exposes long wait times at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Memphis.

“It's pathetic,” Bob said, a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with cancer.

Bob chose not to give his last name out of fear of retaliation.“Once your primary gives you a referral, sometimes it takes two to three months to get your appointments down in Memphis,” he said. “We didn't wait to be sent overseas. We didn't wait to fight for our country. Why should we wait to get medical benefits?”

An internal veterans affairs audit found that tens of thousands of newly returned veterans waited 90 days for medical care.

“There's not enough hospitals, not enough people,” Johnny Farrell, an Army veteran, said. “They need a hospital here in Jackson.”

VA Medical Director C. Diane Knight spoke at a news conference Tuesday about the hospital in Memphis needing further review from auditors who want a closer look at scheduling problems.

“The reason we are going to get an additional review was not made known to us,” she said.

When asked about overall quality care, Knight walked out. “Thank you, I think we have exceeded our three questions,” she said.

Knight said the new goal is for all patients to get appointments in 30 days or less.

Bob wants the issue corrected. “They need to get doctors,” he said. “They need to get help for the veterans. They need to send veterans to outside help if they're totally booked up.”

A bill that would give veterans more options for medical care passed unanimously in the house. The legislation would allow veterans who experience long wait times for appointments to seek care outside VA facilities. The senate is expected to consider a similar measure.