Veterans Describe Personal Experience At VA

By Stina Sieg
Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 5:54pm
Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 6:03pm
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(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
George Ritchie is a Vietnam vet who says the VA - here and in Ohio - has been very helpful. But he adds that problems have always existed with the agency.
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Annette Harris is a veteran of the Coast Guard and Army. She says she's received good care from the VA, but that it sometimes requires multiple calls to get appointments.
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Phoenix VA hospital.

President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff toured the Phoenix VA on Thursday as a growing scandal emerges over long wait times and cover-ups across the country. The president’s emissary met with high-ranking administrators and veterans.

Most of the veterans I spoke to while Deputy Chief Rob Nabors was inside refused to be recorded or give their names. A few said they were afraid of retribution and endangering the status of their medical claims. One man said he felt like his doctors weren’t taking his health problems seriously, and would do anything to make his medical records look good on paper.

Annette Harris did speak on tape. She says she served in the Coast Guard and Army for 16 years. She’s had a good experience, she explained, but finds the troubles at the VA disturbing.

“It keeps me more on alert, in terms of my care,” she said.

Harris uses a scooter to get around. She’s been trying to get it fixed for more than year.

“Then, right after this happened, now I’m getting a new scooter,” she said. “And that’s never happened before.”

Since the scandal broke, Harris said she’s never seen the VA work so fast.

Vietnam vet George Ritchie was sitting nearby in a courtyard. He said the VA is his only form of healthcare, and he’d be dead without it.   

“I understand there’s issues going on here and there, but they’re not new. This goes, you know, I’ve been hooked into VA since 1975,” he said. “So, these problems were just as real back in, back east where I was from.”

Shortly after this interview, I was stopped by a Veterans Affairs police officer. He said I was not allowed to record sound or take photographs on campus without permission. He forced me to delete several photos. A spokesman later said the policy is a matter of privacy. 

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