(Memphis) “I went to serve my country and now this is what I get,” one veteran said.
“I am confused about my care,” said another vet.
“I don’t think it is fair,” a veteran told us as his voice shook.
These men are sometimes brought to tears when they think of what they gave for their country, and how they are being treated now at home.
“It’s unfair, real unfair. Sometimes I think they really don’t care about vets,” Memphis Veteran Howard Hughes said.
They say the medical center where they turn for help is turning on them, leaving them in pain and desperately searching for answers.
Hughes went to the Memphis VA Medical Center when he needed surgery for spine and nerve problems.
The surgery he thought would help him, he says, made him worse, with a loss of mobility and, eventually, his voice.
“I kept swelling up. I kept bleeding and some mornings I would wake up and couldn’t talk at all,” said Hughes.
He said the VA doctors would only tell him that what happened to him normally doesn’t happen.
“I didn’t deserve this,” said Hughes.
Fifty-two-year-old Army Veteran Samuel Rounds knows the frustration
He says workers at the Memphis VA gave him an IV during treatment for high blood pressure, but he says the needle was never removed before he was sent home.
“I didn’t know there was a needle. I just knew it was hurting. I had told four physicians it was hurting,” said Rounds.
He said he was sent home anyway, and his bus ride turned into horror.
“I looked on my pants and down my arm and blood had run all the way down my pants to my shoes and the floor,” said Rounds.
He was taken to another hospital, where doctors made the discovery.
“They cleaned it up and got some tweezers and there was a needle turned sideways in there,” said Rounds.
He says the Memphis VA left the needle in his arm.
The Memphis VA still refuses WREG’s request for an interview about problems, including those dating back to 2010 and the deaths of three veterans who were not properly treated at the center.
They will only say the issues have been corrected.
It’s not enough for another young soldier.
He hired the Ballin Law Firm after problems during a dental procedure at the Memphis VA last year.
His lawyer won’t go into detail since the case is pending, but says the treatment was below the standard of care the young veteran deserved.
“It’s a sad commentary the horror stories I hear on a day-to-day basis about the Memphis VA Medical Center,” said Randy Wade, a veteran himself, who has now become the voice of vets frustrated with the system.
He is making a record of all of their complaints and taking them to another level.
“My understanding is there will be a congressional investigation. We want our stories here in Memphis and Shelby County as it relates to our veterans to be heard. We want to go to Chairman Jeff Miller in Florida. He is over Veterans Affairs,” said Wade.
He says lawmakers have the power to make change.
WREG talked to Congressional Jeff Miller, who says the VA deaths in Memphis are part of a pattern across the country.
He says the Veterans Affairs Administration in DC has been dragging its feet in providing information.
It got so bad, Representative Miller sent a letter to President Obama.
That’s when the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, responded and said, “The VA is committed to providing the highest quality care and veterans are being well-served through a highly effective integrated health care system that is administered by a caring and effective workforce.”
Shinseki said no health care system can be free of inherent risks and adverse patient incidents, but the VA takes direct action to review each incident and put in place corrections to improve the quality of care provided.
Some veterans in Memphis think otherwise and say the more voices they can get to join them, the better.
“We are the ones who served we have a contract with the government and we want the government to keep the contract with us,” says Randy Wade.
WREG filed a request to get the follow-up reports on whether the Memphis VA made adequate changes after the deaths of those three veterans in Memphis. T
he Office of Inspector General says they are compiling those reports.
We’ll continue to dig and let you know what’s in them.