Veterans: VA care good, but too bureaucratic - FOX 13 News

Veterans: VA care good, but too bureaucratic

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SEMINOLE (FOX 13) -

The Veterans Administration was described Tuesday by Pinellas patients as very big, with bureaucratic barriers, but good health care.

Consider the case of Army veteran Roger Clements, a diabetic "in the system" since 2001.

"The doctors are wonderful, absolutely wonderful," Clements told FOX 13 News. Yet he has been trying to get special medically-prescribed footwear since October.

"I have orders showing where the medical doctor ordered the shoes, and they should have never been denied by a clerk in Prosthetics," he complained.

Clements was among more than 100 military veterans responding to an "intake" organized by U.S. Representative David Jolly. He wanted to hear the stories firsthand, while offering liaisons with a variety of veterans service agencies.

Jolly acknowledged the praise.

"One of the things we've learned today is that the VA care at Bay Pines and [James A.] Haley is excellent; the employees there are great," Jolly said. "We have had folks come here just to defend the VA."

The congressman then pointed out the VA budget has nearly doubled the past decade, while the patient load has risen 16 percent.

"With as much money that has been put into the VA, it doesn't make sense why there's such a waitlist in some areas and it doesn't make sense why we're hearing so many concerns," he continued.

Navy veteran Merrick Charley said his issue spans more than 20 years, through several federal administrations.

"My thought on the matter is that we should not get into any more conflicts until we have fixed the problem of helping people that we send into harm's way," Charley said.

His claim for service-related disability pay has been denied, and he's been told his appeal could take two to four years.

"The last time it took 665 days for them to adjudicate my claim. I've now started that process over again" he complained.

Congressman Jolly already has some thoughts on what has become a national priority.

"Our long-term reform on the VA needs to center on the fact that veterans deserve choice," Jolly added. "If a veteran wants to go outside the system, we need to make it easier for that veteran to go outside the system to get more timely care."

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