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Dallas Congresswoman Calls For Change At Local VA Hospitals

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - For years, the CBS 11 I-Team has brought you countless complaints of poor care at area Veterans Affairs hospitals. At times, even employees have spoken out against the VA and its poor working conditions.

Now, a Dallas congresswoman is speaking out. She says the VA is jeopardizing the quality of care for vets, to protect its own administration.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and the Veterans Affairs House Committee Chairman, Jeff Miller, agree that things are getting better. But they also believe a lot more needs to be done. At the top of their to-do list are things like: reducing preventable deaths, increasing the quality of care and addressing administrative bonuses.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs out of Washington, D.C. oversees Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. Today, its chairman, Jeff Miller, conducted an oversight visit with Congresswoman Johnson.

"There's been a great deal, in my judgment, an emphasis of protecting personalities and protecting the way things are done, instead of working the problem itself," Congresswoman Johnson said.

Johnson says for months she's been trying to address major complaints brought to her office by employees, veterans and their families. But she feels like her efforts have been ignored.

"It doesn't matter how small the complaint may be, if a person expresses it to leadership, if a person expresses it to a member of congress, it's important. So, obviously, we want to make sure the same quality healthcare is provided here as it is at other VA facilities," Chairman Miller explained.

Dallas VA Director, Jeffrey Milligan, didn't attend today's press conference. But he did meet with Chairman Miller and Congresswoman Johnson during their visit. He defended how the hospital has handled veteran care and issues of complaints.

"I would say that we're a very transparent organization; probably the most transparent healthcare system in the DFW area," Milligan told us. "And when issues come to our attention, we react to them very quickly and solve them very quickly."

That wasn't the case for Sydney Schoellman. She was at the VA today to thank Congresswoman Johnson and Chairman Miller for their efforts. She reached out to the CBS 11 I-Team a few months ago after her complaints of poor patient care went unanswered.

Schoellman blames the Dallas VA for her father's death back in 2011. She is encouraged to see Washington is taking note, but is skeptical about how quickly things will improve.

"This is obviously not isolated to five veterans' hospitals," Schoellman noted. "I truly feel like the civilians in our nation should be envious of the care that the veterans receive and it shouldn't be the other way around."
Both Johnson and Miller say they see progress at the VA.

On September 9, the Veterans Affairs House Committee will hold congressional hearings to look into some of the problems here and across the country.

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