Local veterans react to call for audits of VA clinics

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Reports that veterans have died waiting for medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs have prompted action nationwide. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a "face-to-face audit" at all VA clinics, including the ones in Jacksonville.

Several veterans told Channel 4 on Thursday that vets are having to wait too long for care at local VA clinics.

"I told my wife, it's just like they're waiting for you to kick the bucket," veteran Bryan Gilbert said. "Once you're dead then it's like, 'oh, now we gonna' get back with you and find out what's wrong with you.'"

Gilbert is  a fourth grade teacher who's been out of work a week with his wife caring for him because he's been waiting on an MRI for his back since last month. Gilbert said he's barely made any headway with the VA, which he claimed is pretty standard.

"She was like 'I'll put a note in, I'll get her to call you back,' and this happens over and over and over again," Gilbert said. "The only time it seems like I get a call back is when my wife calls patient advocate."

Shinseki ordered the audit of all VA clinics after being subpoenaed by Congress over reports that the VA was providing inadequate and sometimes deadly delays in patient care.

"I don't see why you have to call and make an appointment and 2-3 weeks later you're seeing a doctor," veteran Kerry Gaovin said.

Veteran James Hutchinson said his claim has been in the system for 5-6 years but he's only received about half of it and has no idea why it's taken so long.

The VA released the following statement: "VA takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously.  VA invited the independent VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct a thorough and timely review at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)."

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