Veterans advocates call for change to VA medical system

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Veterans are calling for a change in the way they get medical treatment. 22News found out what the problem is and how it could be fixed.

Politicians, veterans and advocates said the system created to better serve those who served our country, shouldn’t be worse than treatment at other hospitals.

Only a third of veterans get treatment through the Veterans Affairs Department, but even that is too many for the system. Federal investigators discovered 40 veterans died waiting too long for treatment.

“It’s not a new problem at all…Put them over on the side for right now, and then as we move forward, because I’ve already built some kind of and or have a background with this veteran, we begin the process.,” said John Crane, Director of Case Management at Soldier On, regarding the attitude he believes the VA has toward returning veterans.

Soldier On is a veterans’ advocates group at the Northampton VA Medical Center. They said there are two problems with the system: the wait for benefits is a minimum of five months, and the way medical treatment is paid isn’t working.

Some veterans did tell 22News they had great experiences at the VA Hospital. Soldier On advocates said that can be true, but it’s usually for minor treatment like hearing aid replacements or filling prescriptions.

Soldier On President John Downing said benefits should be treated like private insurance.

“The card would come to the veteran each year after he paid his taxes and that card would have his benefits loaded up and he could choose to go to the VA, or to a local healthcare facility in the community,” Downing told 22News.

“You gotta wait forever to get any help up there,” said Vietnam War Veteran, David Baj.

Congress plans to vote on altering leadership roles within Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. Some veterans groups want VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, to resign. Others say he’s a “soldier’s soldier” and this isn’t his fault.

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