KSDK finds 70 years of VA complaints

ST. LOUIS - Can you guess which president said the words, "I am trying to get this mess to operate… The Veterans Administration will be modernized…That should be done as soon as possible, but I can't do it immediately."

Was it President Obama, Busch, Clinton, Reagan? How about none of the above.

It was Missouri's own Harry S. Truman on May 15, 1945. The buck may have stopped with President Truman, but after 69 years nothing has stopped "the mess" as he called it.

One St. Louisan who did not want to be identified is fighting for her husband's care.

"I have never seen care (horrible) like our veterans get at John Cochran and Jefferson Barracks," she said.

Her husband is a Vietnam veteran who was diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure and sent to a cardiologist. He waited nine months for an appointment. It's an example of why St. Louis ranks among the worst in the nation when it comes to wait times for specialty care.

"I had a nurse stand in the hallway when I was standing in the hallway yelling about the care my husband was getting and I said I was going to call somebody. She said go ahead, all they do is send a letter and your husband gets worse care," said the wife.

The wife didn't stop fighting for her husband and reached out to Rep. Ann Wagner's office. Congressional staff is now helping to navigate the complicated bureaucratic system so her husband gets the help he needs.

"The treatment my husband has gotten, our dog gets better care than that," said the woman.

It's important to note KSDK also receives letters and emails daily from veterans very happy with their care and we report those stories as well.

Also this week, nurses told us they are spending their own money buy food for patients. They complain after hours and on weekends they often go without snacks like crackers or sandwiches to serve hospitalized veterans.

In an email sent by a Desert Storm veteran and nurse, Wes Gordon writes to supervisors in April,

"How can we as an organization not be embarrassed? Tonight (Monday the 21st) we received no snacks, no sandwiches… I mean nothing but juice and milk for the veterans. And I checked all three floors. How embarrassing do you think it is for the nurses to tell patients a professional organization in this day and age can't even bring packs of graham crackers to patients?"

The St. Louis VA insists there are three meals a day plus snacks available for veterans. But when we asked whether supervisors were aware of nurses complaints that they were spending their own money to provide food for veterans, we did not hear back.

This weekend Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo. 2nd District) is holding a VA intake day to hear firsthand from local veterans and their families. She wants to hear about wait times, quality of care, and services.

The intake day will take place Saturday, June 14 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at her congressional district office in Ballwin, Mo., 301 Sovereign Court, Suite 201, Ballwin, MO 63011.


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