Hoosier heroes voice concern with veteran care

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SPEEDWAY – As the scandal surrounding patient care at VA medical centers across the country continues to widen, some of our Hoosier heroes are voicing concern with how they’ve been treated in Indianapolis.

The American Legion hosted the town hall meeting at Post No. 500 in Speedway Monday night as part of their System Worth Saving Task Force.

The town hall meeting and trip by American Legion leaders to Indianapolis was on the schedule way before the veteran care allegations sparked national outrage. The American Legion spent Monday night gathering perspectives to present to the Roudebush VA Medical Center on Tuesday.

The room full of vets came with either praise or problems.

“I’ve been to Germany, Italy, Iraq, Desert Storm, and then you come and this is the kind of hospital care that you receive,” said Joyce Richardson.

Richardson’s an Army veteran who got sick last year. She said VA doctors haven’t helped. There were too many delays, so she turned to private physicians. Now she’s having trouble getting her prescriptions.

“You have to see this doctor, you have to see that doctor, and you’re put off on ten, twenty days waiting period. That’s not good for your health,” she said.

One by one veterans took to the microphone Monday night. Some of them told shocking stories.

“For the past 15 years, I had gauze coming out of my chest. The past two years, I had blue gauze coming out of my chest,” said Rusty Johnson.

Johnson said the gauze was left in his chest because of a botched procedure, and he got bounced from clinic to clinic at the VA. He claims a nurse even gave him a death wish.

“One nurse at the hospital told me what I needed to do is go home and die, and do it quietly,” he said,” I was in the Army, and I don’t do anything quietly.”

Staff members and Tom Mattice, director of the Roudebush Indianapolis VAMC, were on hand to hear the concerns.

Some vets like Richardson and Johnson got quickly pulled to the side for direct help.

The American Legion said that’s why they hold these town hall meetings. Legion leaders will be touring the Roudebush VAMC for the next two days, hoping to keep an eye on how vets are cared for in the Circle City and calling for changes where needed. It’s part of a program the American Legion started in 2003-2004.

“Any hospital will have complaints, but we want to make sure there’s nothing like Phoenix,” said Edward Trice, Indiana commander of the American Legion.

Internal Auditors with the Department of Veterans Affairs paid the Indy VAMC a visit last week, along with every other VA Medical Center in the country.

The American Legion has a detailed itinerary laid out for its two-day visit in Indianapolis. Meetings start each morning at 8:30 a.m.