WRAL Investigates

Local veterans voice frustration with VA

Posted November 10, 2014
Updated November 25, 2014

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— Three local veterans who have decades of service between them, including silver stars, bronze stars and service awards, say they have one other thing in common – they are all frustrated with the VA.

“This is the greatest country in the world, and look at what we’re doing to our vets,” said Veronica Bailey, who served 20 years of active duty.

Bailey says changing veteran care is about more than just adding more clinics and more doctors. It's about truly caring for those who risked their lives for their country.

Veterans’ health care went under the spotlight earlier this year when vets died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA. The government promised changes, but statistics obtained by WRAL Investigates show things are not getting better.

In May, only 74 percent of Fayetteville VA appointments were scheduled within 30 days, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In September, 73 percent of vets got an appointment in less than a month. The Fayetteville VA has the worst percentage in the country.

In Durham, 13 percent of patients had to wait at least a month for an appointment, according to September's statistics. While unacceptable, it's still better than the Fayetteville VA's 27 percent.

Veteran Bruce Dockum was injured on the USS Yorktown off the Vietnamese coast when 500 pounds of metal fell on him. After years of getting morphine pills to reduce the pain, a VA doctor suddenly told Dockum his medical record showed no history of morphine pills, though Dockum had the bottles to prove it. Dockum has been to several VA facilities, including the Durham VA.

“My back’s a problem. I suffer day (and) night walking. I have grandkids I can’t even pick up because it hurts,” he said, tearing up. “I have a private doctor that I go through now to get my pills that I pay for out of my pocket and everything. It’s not fair.”

Ed Bailey also served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal with a silver star and two bronze stars. But with those honors for serving his country came the medical problems – post-traumatic stress disorder and leukemia, which a private doctor said is likely connected to Agent Orange, an herbicide the U.S. military sprayed on trees and vegetation during the Vietnam War.

Bailey waited at least eight years for the VA to make the connection, but he says he never heard a thing. When Bailey went to the Fayetteville VA to get treatment, he encountered another nightmare.

“I found out they didn’t have a doctor there at the time – a cancer doctor,” he said.

Bailey also had teeth extracted in September 2013, and he's still waiting for dental implants that fit properly.

Waiting is a major problem at the Fayetteville VA, and not just for established patients. New patients wait 83 days for a primary care appointment, 53 days for specialty care and 33 days for mental health. All three wait times are among the highest in the country.

Elizabeth Goolsby, director of the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, recently opened a new VA clinic on Breezewood Drive and staffed it with three primary care teams to help ease wait times to see doctors. She admits that building new clinics and getting more doctors to see patients will take time and Congressional funding.

“We are seeing a disproportionate growth of the number of veterans,” she said. “The cycle for determining a need, getting Congress to approve the budget for it, going through the design process, the building process, takes a number of years.”

Goolsby says she wants to hear from veterans about their problems. She's holding another town hall meeting on Dec. 19 in the hospital's auditorium at 3 and 6 p.m.

Despite the tears and anger, all three of the local veterans say they'd enlist again to fight for the country. They just wish the country would do the same for them.

“It’s a shame we have to fight for our medicine, for his dental work,” Dockum said. “It’s a shame we have to fight for everything we get. We’ve already done our fighting. I’m 68 years old Dec. 1. How long do I have to keep fighting?”

Wait times for all patients by North Carolina VA hospital

please wait

Editor's note: This data represents the last two weeks of September 2014 and includes every scheduled appointment at that facility except surgery and procedures. Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

12 Comments

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  • Wacky_dood Nov 11, 2014

    Shutdown Veterans Health Administration and give the service connected veterans a special medical insurance card they can use anywhere they like.

  • Phil Larson Nov 11, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    When they have control they will cut funding for services. Watch and see.

  • LetsBeFair Nov 11, 2014

    They will get all they help they need now that Kay Hagan is now removed. If they want help ... next time don't vote for the 'hope and change' guy.

  • LetsBeFair Nov 11, 2014

    Why are they complaining on the news ... they need to complain to the president and Senate ... this is where the money comes from.

  • LetsBeFair Nov 11, 2014

    wonder what was wrong with my post ... its true ... congress cant get anything past the democratic senate. they will not approve bills written by republicans. pretty simple. When the republicans have control of both, Senate and House ... only the president and his veto power will stand in the way.

  • rusty101 Nov 11, 2014

    My father has been diagnosed with Leukemia. He is now being told that this should have been discovered years ago by a simple blood test at the Fayetteville VA. It's just not right.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 11, 2014

    The VA could save over a $1 Billion annually if they ended the Sleep Apnea loophole that allows people to game the system, be considered 50% disabled and increase their income at least $800/month (more if married or have other dependents).

    And, this is just one point of fraud that is committed at the VA that robs truly injured & disabled veterans from getting the care that they need.

    http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/attorney-urges-congress-to-end-sleep-apnea-claims-abuse-1.223588

  • aliput5 Nov 11, 2014

    Bailey also had teeth extracted in September 2013, and he's still waiting for the dental implants

    What's wrong with dentures. Unless there is a dental reason for costly implants over dentures, dentures should do. Would like to have implants but CAN'T AFFORD THEM
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/local-veterans-voice-frustration-with-fayetteville-va/14164802/#M1cGcKG5IiTFGQUO.99

  • delilahk2000 Nov 11, 2014

    THIS IS A DISGRACE TO OUR MILITARY. OUR GOVERNMENT SHOWS MORE CONCERN,AND CARE OVER ILLEGALS THAT BREAK OUR LAWS THAN THEY DO TO OUR VETS.......THEY ARE THE ONES THAT NEED THE JOBS AND ALL THE BENEFITS THAT ARE GIVEN TO THE LAW BREAKERS.......NOT THE ILLEGALS.....ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.......THEY HAVE SACRIFICED MORE THAN ANYONE AND THEY DESERVE THE BEST OF THE BEST... THEY DESERVE THE FREE HOUSING, FREE MEDICAL .......ETC............NOT THE ILLEGALS, NO MORE MORE,,,,,,,,ESPECIALLY!!!!!! AFTER I SEE WHAT OUR VETS ARE STILL GOING THRU......

  • Grand Union Nov 11, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Well sadly doctors are plagued by people claiming to have back and other pain just to get narcotic painkillers which they are addicted to to or to sell for profit.
    And your private doctor has less reason to care if you are faking it........he gets paid, and the hospital makes a profit either way.

    One question about the VA.....do they have a patients advocate group? Somewhere independent of the VA that people could voice complaints about service and that could have ferreted out the cheating that was going on with the waiting lists?

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