Health

VA Hospital Delays Are Killing Veterans, Report Says

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Delays in diagnosis and treatment in VA hospitals are killing American veterans, according to an internal report.

At least 19 veterans have died while waiting for routine medical screenings, like endoscopies and colonoscopies.

A group of 82 veterans are either dead or dying while they wait for diagnoses or treatment at VA hospitals and clinics, according to an internal document from the Veterans Administration obtained by CNN.

Veteran Barry Coates, 44, told CNN that he began experiencing severe pain and rectal bleeding in 2011. It took him about a year before he received a colonoscopy that revealed he had a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball.

Coates is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

He filed a claim, citing the "failure of the Columbia (South Carolina) VA Medical Center to timely diagnose his rectal cancer." The VA settled his claim, but did not admit any wrongdoing.

It is unclear whether anyone at the VA was ever held responsible for the delays in care.

Ten veterans died in South Carolina and Georgia alone as they waited for care, the report said.

Another 29 veterans and their family received disclosures from the VA that they had serious “adverse events” due to delayed care.

In Florida, five veterans are dead and 14 received disclosures.

As many as 7,000 veterans were on a backlog list for colonscopies and endoscopies in Columbia, S.C., and August, Ga. The VA says the backlog in these states has been cleared up, but the documents show the issues go far beyond the southeast.

"The fact that we've had veterans who have died in the very facilities that are supposed to be taking care of them, and not by natural means, by means that could have been prevented is egregious," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "And it's not acceptable."

"I grieve for the families who lost loved ones that could have been with them this Christmas that would be celebrating 2014 today had the backlog not existed," said Miller. "That's not what anybody in this country wants for our veterans."

"I don't know what my outcome is going to be," said Coates. "I just try to live every day like it's my last day."

In August 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to put an end to long waits and 23-page claim forms at VA facilities.

Coates said the president never made good on that promise.

"Someone needs to stand and face the person who suffered and the veterans who have died and say, 'Hey it was me, I let the ball drop,'" Coates said. "How many lives are we going to lose from this?"

Sources: Newser, CNN