DENVER (CBS4)– Veterans living in Colorado hope recent complaints about long wait lists and falsified patient appointment reports that have surfaced at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics across the country will spur change locally.
The Veterans Administration is under investigation over allegations that employees lied about long weight times at medical centers across the nation, including in Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Wyo.
Those long wait times are just one of the reasons the VA promised to build a new hospital in Colorado. The current hospital was built in 1951 with just 128 beds for 500,000 veterans in the state. Veterans said they can wait months just to get an appointment.
“We’ve earned a benefit and that benefit was to be able to be taken care of if in fact we were wounded,” said Vietnam veteran Artie Guerrero.
He returned from Vietnam paralyzed. He believes America has turned its back on its veterans. Guerrero believes the stories of VA hospital delays are more common than most realize.
The new VA facility has been promised for 15 years. It’s now $500 million over budget and under a cloud of litigation.
Guerrero said veterans in Colorado are being put on six month waiting lists. And pain killers.
“They’re being pacified with damn pain killers and guess what? The Veterans Administration is killing us with a slow death and the public should be outraged,” said Guerrero.
He also believes it’s not only the wait times but the bureaucracy which he describes as a complex maze.
“I have been advocating for 44 years for the VA and this country to stand up and make some people accountable for what’s happening to veterans,” said Guerrero.
He has little hope the investigation underway now on Capitol Hill will lead to real change.
“We are tired of investigations. We want action. If directors need to be accountable they need to be accountable,” said Guerrero. “Those individuals walking into these VA hospitals and not getting the service they’ve earned is a shame.”
Guerrero said he’s resorted to paying out-of-pocket for surgeries because of the long wait.
Congressman Mike Coffman has called for the resignation of the VA Secretary. He also said directors of all 173 VA hospitals should be held accountable.