UPDATE: Congressman, VA Hospital Director Discuss Wait Times

By: Todd Baucher, James Sparvero Email
By: Todd Baucher, James Sparvero Email
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UPDATE 7/30/2014 4:05 PM

Following an area meeting on the VA hospitals scandal, one local congressman now says he's learning more about what's happening in Clarksburg.

Three weeks ago Congressman David McKinley met with executive director Beth Brown at the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center.

The congressman wants to figure out the difference between a reported 54 day waiting period for new patients and what Brown said was only 8 to 11 days.

Brown says she's sticking to her explanation that the system named some "established" patients as "new" again.

"The reality is that she was not treated differently than any other VA hospital across this country and I think that's what she was trying to suggest, which made me uncomfortable," says McKinley.

"I've never said that. If he implied that, then I'm not sure where that was coming from. My message has been the same throughout. I'm using the numbers that central office provides us. We're trying to clarify if there's been any discrepancies," says Brown.

Congressman McKinley says the bottom line is they need to find out what the problem is in Clarksburg and fix it.

He says he'll have another conversation with Brown at a later date.

Brown says she's open to speaking with the congressman at any time.


UPDATE 7/28/2014 4:55 PM

With immense pressure to get our nation's heroes better healthcare, lawmakers in Washington reach a deal.

The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees announced a plan Monday giving the VA $17 billion in emergency funding.

That includes money for private care, if veterans can't be seen at a VA facility like the one in Clarksburg where Congressman David McKinley visited this month.

The congressman says the deal between the House and Senate is the right step towards getting veterans better care.

"Both sides are trying to find a way that our veterans can get healthcare immediately. This is what they were promised. This is what their expectation is - they don't have to wait 30, 50, 60 days to get an appointment so that they get their care," he says.

The bill requires Congressman McKinley's vote, along with the rest of the House and Senate.

It also includes $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and about a billion and a half dollars to lease 27 new clinics across the country.


Update: 7/7/2014 6:00 P.M.

It's a stigma one local politician says he's determined to change.

Congressman David McKinley met with director Beth Brown at the VA medical center in Clarksburg Monday morning.

After the conversation, McKinley went to nearby Stonewood City Hall and met with local government officials to discuss other matters.

McKinley says there's a lot of work to be done to assure our veterans are receiving the care they deserve.

"We weren't aware that it was alleged that there was a 54-day waiting period. Now, they will claim that it was only eight or eleven. So there's a discrepancy. So before I jump and try to enact a new legislation, let's make sure we have all the facts," said McKinley.

The congressman says the veterans he spoke with Monday complimented the treatment they've received at the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center.

Update: 6/11/2014 5:20 P.M.

On the same day that veteran told us of alleged altering of records at the Clarksburg hospital, the VA itself announced an audit based on visits it made to facilities across the country during the past six weeks.

That report says the Clarksburg VA hospital has among the longest waits for patients seeking appointments with a specialist, and for new patients seeking mental health care.

Area members of Congress say those numbers contradict what they were told by hospital officials.

"There were issues with the emergency room, there were issues with the lack of certain treatment they would get at Clarksburg, but generally, they were OK," First District Congessman David McKinley said in an interview Wednesday. "But generally, that didn't quite mesh with letters and e-mails we were getting. So, I think it's appropriate that we have a sit-down discussion, face to face, and talk about why we have a 54-day waiting period in that facility."

And Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito wants answers from VA Hospital Administrator Beth Brown.

In a letter to brown, Capito says she wants to know how the delays happened, and how the hospital intends to address them.

According to the audit report, both the Clarksburg VA Hospital and the VA clinic here in Parkersburg have been designated for "further review."

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He served as a sergeant first class in Iraq starting in 2002.

Now he's calling for an investigation and overhaul into how the Clarksburg VA treats patients.

His main complaint surrounds something called procedural clinics.

Clinics that patients are transferred to based on a backlog.

Problem is, they don't exist.

Not even on paper according to him.

This veteran agreed to talk with us if we didn't identify him.

He is a veteran of 27 years in the Marines and was in Iraq for the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

And he is adding his name to the growing list of people who charge veterans aren't getting the care they were promised.

He charges wait times at the Clarksburg VA Hospital were changed to reduce the backlog of veterans seeking treatment.

His main allegation is that veterans were documented as having outpatient services as a way of reducing the times in which they had to wait for treatment.

The VA denies all this.

"There is no such thing as a procedural clinic. The veterans are put there in a computer so their long wait times in the ER, as long as seven to ten hours to be seen is not documented, thus allowing the supervisors to receive their bonuses," says the veteran.

"There's no way that, if a veteran is in primary care, that, by putting on the list to go to specialty care, does not alter how quickly we can see somebody in primary care," says Beth Brown, director of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.

Brown also denies the veteran's allegation that some doctors at the Clarksburg hospital are performing services they're not trained for.

He's calling for an investigation not only from the VA and Congress, but from the state nursing board.

He does say in a statement sent to Beth Brown which he also shared with us that he has no complaints about the treatment he has received but is concerned about others who may have been victims of the system.


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