Are veterans getting the care they deserve at the Cleveland VA? If a Carl Monday investigation is any indication, in many cases, the answer is "no."
With two million visits a year, there are bound to be complaints...from long wait times to allegations of malpractice and neglect. But none more troubling than the case of 57-year old Laverne "Butch" Daniel.
"Do you think your husband would still be alive today if not for the VA," Monday asked Leverne's widow, Mary. "Yes, yes I do," she replied without hesitation. "WITHOUT a doubt."
In a lawsuit, Mary claims the VA failed to properly diagnose and treat her husband, and says delays in treatment caused an infection that cost him his leg, and eventually his life. Laverne survived a liver transplant. But the coroner says it was a condition known as Sepsis, a life threatening complication of an infection, that caused his death.
"They're the reason my husband is dead," said Mary fighting back the tears. "57 years old and he's gone. He didn't get to see his baby girl graduate from college. He didn't even know he has grand children."
The Cleveland VA won't comment on specific cases, but says its constantly working to improve patient care, and reducing wait times for everything from doctor visits to disability claims.
Nationally, a recent scandal rocked the VA, when it was learned that waiting times were longer than reported, and that higher ups at some facilities may have tried to cover it up.
Earlier this month, the Cleveland VA became one of 112 VA Medical Centers flagged for further review.
Investigators may want to talk to local veteran, Charles Szerszen, who was a gunner on the battleship Wisconsin. Szerszen's biggest battle may have been a couple of years ago when he tried to get a hip operation at the Cleveland VA. He was told it would take a year and a half. In severe pain, Szerszen fought to reduce the delay to six months.
"It's appalling," says his son Randy. "My dad loves this country. My dad fought for the rights of people. He makes a big ruckus and says he needs help. And he still has to go through this kind of wait. It's ridiculous."
System-wide, nearly 60-thousand vets have waited more than 90 days for an appointment. The VA says it's overhauling it's scheduling procedures. But according to Iraq vet, Matt Shelton, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it's the attitude of some VA staffers that needs an overhaul.
"I'm waiting there for hours at some points. You're just sitting there and you go to the clerk and they tell you basically, shut up and sit down. They're like, I'll get to you when I get to you," says Shelton.
Monday tried to interview Cleveland VA Director Susan Fuehrer. But a VA spokesperson said the VA "politely declines." The VA, instead, issued a prepared statement, saying the Cleveland VA "is here to care for veterans and provide the high quality care and benefits they earned and deserved."
That quality of care that Mary Daniel says----her late husband was denied. "He put his life in their hands. And they took it. They took my husband's life."
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