US Rep: VA system ‘overall just broken’

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. (file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Those who work closely with the Veterans Affairs hospital system, which has been under national scrutiny, doubt West Michigan is seeing problems of the same magnitude as those at other regions’ facilities.

But they admit that things could be better.

In a nationally televised address Wednesday, President Barack Obama made clear his stance on alleged misconduct at VA hospitals across the nation. Among those allegations are claims that one Phoenix hospital covered up its backlog while 40 patients died waiting for care.

“Whether it’s allegations of VA staff members covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it. Not as commander in chief, but also not as an American,” he said. “We are going to fix whatever is wrong.”

Care for Michigan veterans has also been in the headlines. In April, Target 8 reported the state had a backlog of about 13,000 benefits claims and average wait time of eight months for a decision on a claim.

“There’s a lot of good people that are trying to serve these folks,” U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga said (R-Zeeland). “I think it’s the system overall that’s just broken.”

Carrie Roy, who works for Kent County and helps direct veterans to care, told 24 Hour News 8 some do wait for care. But she doesn’t think there is a major backlog like those making national news.

“I have never heard of personally anybody here locally passing away because they weren’t able to be seen by a provider here,” Roy said.

The major problem, she said, is informing veterans they are eligible for care.

“That’s the hugest gap right now, is veterans aren’t aware of what benefits are available to them,” she said.

Roy said another problem is the lack of specialist doctors available under VA benefits.

She also said the assistance available to veterans has gotten better over the years.

Federal investigators are looking into 26 VA hospitals, but it doesn’t appear that any from West Michigan are on the list.

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