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At Mpls. Meeting, Veterans Ask Questions About Alleged Misconduct

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Veterans packed a town hall meeting Friday to express their concerns about health care at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

The Town Hall meeting is in response to a federal investigation into allegations of misconduct within the Minneapolis VA.

The Office of Inspector General is interviewing whistleblowers who say they were pressured into falsifying patient records.

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs ordered every VA in the country to hold these town hall meetings by the end of September.

It's the VA's attempt to learn the concerns of veterans first hand--to figure out what needs to be done to restore trust and a level of care consistent with the mission of the VA.

A room full of veterans with lots of questions, and even more concerns, addressed those at the top of the VA health care system in Minnesota. Many had concerns about long wait times for care.

"Why is there an average right now of six months on claims for PTSD and mental health and that's just to get the claim done and then to get in the next line for care," said veteran Dennis Davis.

Others had questions about benefits.

"I just don't understand why so many of us have lost our records," said one Korean War Veteran.

The VA has been under scrutiny nationally and in parts of Minnesota for months after the inspector general issued a report detailing issues with health care for veterans.

In Minnesota, federal audit numbers showed veterans trying to make first appointments were waiting up to 90 days in some cases to see a doctor.

Director of the Minneapolis VA health care system, Pat Kelly, says things specific to care at his VA can be addressed locally.

"I am always disappointed when veterans express they are not getting what they need, and we've come away with several things we need to follow up on," Kelly said.

But, Kelly says, there are issues that have to be taken care of at the top.

"Changes: some can be quick and some can be almost immediate," Kelly said. "Others are more gradual and will take more time ."

For some veterans in the room, their questions were answered by VA administrators who were on hand to help.

"You try and call, you can't get through, " said veteran Levy Jones, Jr.

Others say they hope the federal probe into problems at the VA will produce changes that will help restore faith in the way it cares for veterans.

VA officials addressed the scheduling troubles and the newest allegations of misconduct by those whistleblowers.

They say they welcome the investigation and know there is work to be done.

(Full disclosure: I am a Desert Storm veteran who uses the VA for my health care.)

While the federal probe is ongoing, Kelly believes he can address some issues immediately, like the lack of military sexual trauma groups at the VA.

Kelly encourages veterans to talk to patient advocates at the VA if they are having issues. He does say there will be more town hall meetings where veterans' voices can be heard.


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