Rep. Huizenga listens as veterans vent about V.A.

Veterans spoke about their frustrations at a hearing at the Grand Rapids Veterans Clinic (May 16, 2014).

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Raw emotion poured out of veterans as they told a West Michigan congressman what ails their health care system.

One after one, veterans spoke about their frustrations Friday at the VA clinic on Grand Rapids’ north side.

One veteran, marine William Bailey, told a story that roused the roomful of veterans.

“And if we don’t start standing up for ourselves as veterans and start getting treated right, nothing is going to change. And I’m sorry folks, but I’m in a lot of pain and I’m tired of it. I want something done about it,” veteran William Bailey said.

He says he’s been struggling with the veterans health system for a year and a half to get help for devastating pain.

“I went to Butterworth. The emergency room doctor wanted me to see a specialist. I’ve been denied the right to see a specialist outside the VA,” Bailey said.

These sessions are held four times a year at the Grand Rapids Veterans Clinic. The veterans talk about what’s wrong with the system and officials listen.

I’ve come here, they give me a new doctor. They give me the same pills; that’s all they’ve done is create more pain,” Bailey said.

Complaints ranged from mistakes to prescription delays to lousy communication to long waits to get tests. A couple of patients said the delays could have killed them.

At Friday’s session, Congressman Bill Huizenga was there to listen to the veterans. But, even he took some heat Friday.

“I’m sorry sir, but you’re sitting right here and, I don’t mean no disrespect, but I’m a veteran standing before you who I voted for and I’m still in pain. And you’re office told me they would help me and I got nothin,” Bailey told the congressman.

“As I explained to him afterwards we checked, we had been waiting for a response from the VA ourselves. VA isn’t just slow with them, with the veterans, they’re slow with us and that’s not acceptable either,” Congressman Huizenga told 24 Hour News 8.

Veterans officials say they listen to the complaints and try to fix things. After he sat down, Bailey was surrounded by officials who wanted to hear more.

Congressman Huizenga says this kind of listening session is unique—that it started at the Grand Rapids VA clinic. He wants them to be required at all VA operations across the country.

“There’s a lot of good people that are trying to serve these folks. I think it’s the system overall that’s just broken,” Congressman Huizenga said.

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