Cohen brings high level VA officials to Memphis but vets leave frustrated

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis veterans got a chance to take their complaints to the top. An acting under secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs was in Memphis Friday at the request of Congressman Steve Cohen.

Cohen said he’d been on top of the issues from the beginning.

However, late last year, WREG asked the congressman about some of the problems vets were telling us about and he didn’t speak of any charge for change at that time. That didn’t come until other areas of the country started complaining. WREG asked him about that Friday.

Cohen responded, “My office deals with VA complaints on a regular basis so do I. I asked General Shinseki to come here. I personally talked to General Shinseki about Memphis. I got the Deputy Administrator to come here. Very few districts have got the Deputy Administrator to come.”

Cohen insists he’s always fought for vets and has staff members who specialize in their needs.

“This was an open meeting to get the word to Washington as well as the VA hospital about the problems that the veterans have,” said Cohen.

The meeting meant a packed house of vets at the Benjamin Hooks Library. Extra chairs had to be brought into the room.

Cohen brought with him Jan Murphy, part of the senior leadership of the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C. A regional administrator was also on hand, as well as the physician who leads the Memphis facility.

However, the meeting may have been too late for some already frustrated vets.

The congressman spent a great deal of time trying to keep the crowd under control, even changing the format of the meeting several times. At first only written questions read by Cohen aids were going to be read, but vets demanded to speak from the floor and did.

The meeting got heated at times, with veterans venting about years of problems at the VA. They talked about long wait times to see the doctors, treatments being denied and relatives spoke about losing loved ones because of what they considered misdiagnosis.

The Memphis facility is one of those being looked at by the inspector, but during the meeting, Murphy said initially she doesn’t think there are many problems here.

“I don’t know what the answer is for Memphis. In general, for Memphis, I don’t have a lot of concerns,” she said.

That statement drew rumblings from the audience of vets. Many of them had come to talk about their concerns.

“When you make a formal report they disagree with you, they refuse to treat you. I got injuries on my body right now on what they refused to treat me for,” said one vet as he showed off scars on his body.

The physician heading the Memphis facility told vets the emergency room was undergoing expansion. The 22-bed area is being expanded to 33 beds. She said they are also preparing to treat more PTSD patients.

However, even top level officials admit these changes have come quick enough.

“We’ve heard a lot of folks that are having problems. They’re having trouble getting through the system. We need to keep hearing that. We need to understand where the glitches are in the system so that we can fix those,” said Murphy.

Cohen insists he’s always fought for vets and has staff members who specialize in their needs.

“This was an open meeting to get the word to Washington as well as the VA hospital about the problems that the veterans have, “said Cohen.

Cohen says he is also supporting several bills in Congress to solve some of the problems at the VA hospitals.

One of those bills allows for more money to hire additional staff. The other makes it easier to fire those bad hospital employees that aren’t working on behalf of vets.

After the meeting, Murphy and Cohen toured the VA Hospital to see some of the changes that were talked about Friday.

9 comments

  • Doctor

    Cohen is a big part of the problem. Walking around with an official on a tour is just a waste of time and part of a dog and pony show. We want a black person to replace Cohen….. NOW,,,,

  • Sam

    I was there twice last week. Noticed the hospital was cleaning early in the week, and getting ready for the show. It was clean Friday morning. Even the receptionist in the eye clinic was being courteous.

  • Truthy

    Not sure why all these Obama voters are complaining. Their man is in the White House. They’re getting what they voted for.

    • Jasmine

      So true .. The VA is just Obamacare for all of us… I guess they thought it would never hit them .. ha ha ha .. nope it won’t hit Steve Cohen.. that’s for sure .. Goes back to why this town is complaining about the cuts in pensions .. We will all be forced into Obamacare soon.. that Democratic city should be the happiest place for Government workers !

  • Gerry

    So degrading as the whole problem has been “HIGH V A OFFICIALS” but this is how government works at it’s best.

  • Cindy Lou

    Cohen will ALWAYS just give you a FISH .. This is how he rolls … The latest report came out which basically said the VA was a complete mess .. How did those people get bonuses Steve? He don’t care as long as he gets is $174,000 yr

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