SHINNSTON, W. Va. – The American Legion hosted a town hall meeting in Shinnston on Monday night to learn how they can help veterans get better medical care.

The organization picked the areas around the VA Medical Centers listed as having the longest wait times according to an audit released by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The audit revealed the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center was 54 days for new patients seeking a primary care doctor, 86 days for a specialist and 96 days for mental health services.

Though the area around the Clarksburg VA has fewer patients than in other areas the American Legion is visiting, Verna Jones, Director of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation for the American Legion National Headquarters was pleased with the turnout to Monday’s meeting.

“We’re just grateful that the veterans wanted to come out and share their story with us, that they trust the American Legion to advocate for them,” she said. “We want to be able to do this. Simply put, we just want to help veterans.”

The veterans gave their opinions and experiences in dealing with the VA Medical Center, some in full support, others with concerns about the quality of care. Issues they dealt with included the 96 day wait for mental health services — one of the highest found in the audit in this category — to difficulties in getting timely, accurate eye examinations and glasses which fit their prescription.

The American Legion compiled all of the issues the speakers brought up and will meet with representatives from the VA Tuesday morning to discuss how they can be resolved, whether they be appointments scheduled or canceled without proper notifications or services in the emergency room.

“One gentleman had something lodged in his throat and they had to sedate him until the next morning when a doctor came in, and several veterans talked about the emergency room and no doctor being there,” Jones said. “So we’re going to find why the emergency room isn’t operating as it should be and what needs to be done and how we can help advocate to get what needs to be done for the veterans here.”

After the meeting at the VA, the American Legion will set up a Veterans Crisis Center at Post 31 on 76 Bridge Street in Shinnston to help veterans work through their issues and get them the care they need through various services with multiple organizations coming in to assist.

Staff from the VA will be on hand to explain veterans’ situations to them directly and assist in setting up appointments for new patients.

“They’ll be able to actually look at, not necessarily their eligibility, but look at their applications to see if there’s anything missing in their applications and help them,” Beth Brown, Director of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center said. “And also set them up for any medical appointments.”

The organizations at the Veterans Crisis Center will also work to help veterans receive retroactive benefits they have not already for whatever reason, if they are eligible.

Jones told the success story of a veteran who had driven to Fayetteville, North Carolina Crisis Center with his 11-year-old grandson to seek help, sleeping in his car during the week it was set up there.

“He came in, came to the Crisis Center, put him in front of someone with the VA, that was on a Tuesday,” she said. “On Friday, he came back and he said ‘I’ve been waiting, trying to get help and I’ve been in the car with my grandson and we’ve both been going to sleep hungry, but today I received an $11,000 retro check from coming here to this Crisis Center.’”

The hours of the Crisis Center will be noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Staff members from the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center were present at the town hall meeting to answer any questions pertaining to veterans’ inquiries. One of the main ones being the cause of the delays.

Originally, the hospital said the numbers they have on record did not match up with those in the audit. However, once it was understood one organization was using prospective numbers — how long wait times were predicted to be in the future — as opposed to the retrospective — averages from the last month — it was clear where the statistics were coming from.

Since then, the hospital has made efforts to bring in more providers, especially those specializing in mental health.

“The numbers are coming down,” Brown said. “It’s going to take us a while to get to the level we’re more comfortable with. What we also have done is to look at any patient that might have an appointment greater than, say four months to see ‘Is that a new patient or an established patient?’ and if it’s a new patient, we’re working to get them in sooner.”

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Comments

  • Lloyd Bardell

    Backlogs - VA - It is not the cavalcade of new applications that the VA.
    points to - it is the 1. NOD appeal to the BVA hearing - created by VA.
    policy of denying claims without cause 2. BVA decision takes 3 years or.
    more it then creates the 3. Remand to RO Backlog and the mostly endless.
    appeals/remand cycle 4. If the Vet is finally denied by the BVA then the.
    Vet restarts the claim or goes to the Court - the backlog here just.
    waiting for it to get to court is at least 4 years - then once the.
    decision is rendered again a long wait - often it is sent back to #3.
    and the process starts again.

  • Lloyd Bardell

    The VA uses euphemistic language that is in reality undefined - like "Expeditious Treatment" and "Fully Developed Claim" which are all meaningless except to delay and effectively deny through a de facto denial of due process. The only time constraints that are firm are applied to the Veteran - the VA has no firm timeline nor does it have accountability to the government or to the individual veteran. Expeditious is undefined, meaningless - Fully developed claim is a meaningless insurance company approach generally used to delay and deny claims - especially, when the VA has no mechanism to quickly address a claimed specific or general problem that the VA has used to deny a covered claim. The VA also simply chooses to ignore provided evidence without any contrary evidence and denies claims and then ties them up in an endless backlog of its own creating at the appeals and remand cycle. Once denied, for whatever reason - in error, the Vet is effectively denied ad infinitum.

  • Lloyd Bardell

    Should the VA desire not to award your benefits there is no practical.
    way to get those benefits and no effective legal means at all. One knows
    that the system is corrupt simply by looking for an instance in the.
    entire corrupt system that demonstrates this - almost 50% of all appeals.
    are remanded seemingly in an automatic manner - once in this process it.
    has virtually no chance of ever being awarded and they will tie you up.
    as years become decades - for instance - you may have a covered.
    condition but there is no means to ever prove this - no time frame, no.
    mechanism, no effective due process. In my case 1. the condition is.
    covered and has been awarded to others, 2. Is there a record of this in.
    the Military Record - in my case yes. 3. Can the VA demonstrate evidence.
    that this wasn't a result or aggravated by service - no they cannot.
    But they take the reverse approach of entangling such a claim up with.
    insurance like claims examiners who act as both final medical experts.
    and adjudicators and say that I have to prove through non-existing.
    evidence that it wasn't the case before service and or that one of their.
    medical professionals has to state an absolute cause and effect basis -
    which is not a cognitive or epistemological construct allowed by the.
    medical profession - hence fraudulent denial which is in direct conflict.
    with the charge that the VA shall act on behalf and in favor of the.
    veteran where doubt exists and conclusive evidence to contrary may not.
    be offered. They know that it is for all practical purposes a de facto.
    permanent denial. It creates the backlog by acting as an insurance.
    company vis-a-vis on behalf of the Veteran. The VA's entire process is.
    set up to create grid lock by its philosophical positioning which holds.
    truly that the Veteran is attempting to submit a fraudulent claim.

  • Lloyd Bardell

    The VA is charged with awarding covered conditions with benefits to the.
    Veterans, but instead places claims processors in the role of medical.
    expert and judicial expert to deny covered claims without cause. It uses
    deception, simply ignores evidence, and commits fraud in denying.
    covered conditions. It denies a large number of claims in cursory.
    manner, it denies due process in an endless appeals and remands cycle as.
    a de facto denial with some Vets dying or being caught up in the cycle.
    for decades with no means to force to the court. Sometimes the courts.
    remand back to the cycle. There are no time obligations on behalf of the.
    VA for processing such claims. After the appeal and waiting for the.
    remand to be sent back just to be reviewed again by the RO - some claims.
    are just gathering dust in the records center for over 2 years. It took
    three years just for the judge to make a decision not to decide. The RO
    is not obligated to process in any time period at all - it is when the.
    RO gets to it. Decades come and go and covered conditions are not.
    covered.

  • Lloyd Bardell

    I am quite sure that there most likely are lists that advise processors.
    who hold biases to deny those claims that they simply do not like and.
    know that since the Veteran has no real means to force a decision.
    through an outside and unbiased party they can get away with it forever -
    despite the fact that the right has covered condition - the VA knows.
    the Vet has no effective recourse.

  • Lloyd Bardell

    It is not just Healthcare at the VA that is broken - it is the.
    Disability claims system and other benefits system. The political
    atmosphere of the VA is to view most all claims as being fraudulent and.
    you will even find articles from VA perspective focusing on fraudulent.
    claims rather than on awarding legitimate claims. The VA is more likely.
    fraudulent than the Vet.

  • Lloyd Bardell

    I want to know about ex parte communications with QTC and C&P.
    examinations - especially where the medical officer agrees that the Vet.
    has the stated covered condition, but the VA used tactics to deny the.
    claim simply by simply ignoring or through a process of deception like.
    strawman questions. A good Reporter should be able to find this practice.
    at the VA through the same investigative methods.

  • Tyrone

    all of you people watch to much fox news every thing is not about politics get a grip and keep your political views to your self or keep watching fox news and quit commenting here. you are probably the ones who vote the same a-holes in office every year and expect them to change things

  • Gary

    I think Dumb Liberals illustrates the point that mental illness needs to be treated early.

    • Dumb Liberals

      I needed to make sure you long term care was included in the reforms. After all you're one of the dumber liberals out there.

    • Rick Proctor

      Agreed.

  • Tyrone

    Had a heart attack all most two years ago .. I am a veteran .. To see a cardiologist at the Clarksburg V.A. hospital it is a three month wait from the time you set up a appointment .. Called in June to make appointment and it is late August when i have my appointment .

  • Dumb Liberals

    I can't see where this situation should have been a surprise to anyone, much less veterans who have been complaining about the poor care they have been receiving for 50 years plus. Then the liberals, democrats, (d)'s, socialist alone institute m0r0n-care on top of the failed VA care. Every step a calculated attack on the American way of life, yet you m0r0n supporting hillbillies continue to walk lockstep behind them, local-state-federal, with every step taking you one step closer to your own demise. M0r0n's m0r0ns - doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

  • Rick Proctor

    So, it's acceptable to have a 4 month wait if a Disabled Veteran is already in the VA system? What's wrong with this picture? Beth Brown needs fired and then prosecuted if the government documents she directly/indirectly falsified caused harm or death to any of the Veterans who depend on that medical center for their healthcare.

    I worked for that VAMC for 10 years and Beth Brown and her staff essentially forced me into disability retirement once my supervisors learned I was battling PTSD as a result of my military service. I know what she thinks of our Veterans, and it continues to haunt me to this day. Our Veterans deserve much, much better! !