Thousands of veterans wait months for appointments at Dorn VA - - Columbia, South Carolina

Thousands of veterans wait months for appointments at Dorn VA

Rev. Munchie Ivery and his wife. Rev. Munchie Ivery and his wife.

A watchdog for the Department of Veteran Affairs found wait time in Phoenix took 115 days, and WIS discovered similar delays in Columbia.

The announcement for Phoenix's wait times comes as three top VA officials will be under pressure to explain the delays in care before the House Congressional Committee. While Arizona's wait times will be the focus of a hearing before the Committee, it is likely the six deaths from Columbia's VA will also be raised.

The Rev. Munchie Ivery has been waiting since November for an appointment at Dorn VA Medical Center.

"I know his Dr. Reed retired, so if you can't get him in to see that doctor, can you get him in to see a doctor," said Barbara Ivery, wife of Munchie Ivery.

The Iverys call the VA's 14 days appointment promise laughable.

"Ever since he's been with the VA, he never got to see someone in 14 days," Barbara said.

The Iverys aren't along as of last week. The Center for Investigative Reporting found more than 10,500 veterans have waited longer than 125 days for an appointment at Dorn.

After delays in Phoenix, WIS found the Administrative Investigation Board memo from 2013 concerning the gastrointestinal delays at Dorn. That memo shows Dorn management was aware of several factors that lead to the backlogs. Testimony in the Office of Inspector General report warned the OIG that there were "systematic failures to fill nurse case managers and case manager positions in a timely fashion."

That was before a patient turned up in the emergency room with esophageal cancer in 2012, after appointments were repeatedly canceled. That patient died.

The AIB memo recommended administrative action be taken against two individuals for "failing to take swift and corrective action to mitigate the backlog in GI." The names are blacked out. WIS' open records request filed in February asking who was held accountable are still unanswered.

The OIG's report and physicians who left Dorn "in disgust," claim nursing leaders were refusing to fill important GI nursing positions with no explanation and with no back-up plan. However, the OIG report points a finger at Nursing Services at Dorn VA. According to documents from Dorn, the same woman holds the job today. WIS reached out to her, but requests for comment have gone unanswered.

Now the focus for wait lists is on Arizona. The OIG report shows Dorn staff was also not using the electronic waiting list appropriately, nor did the hospital's leaders monitor it. One doctor told WIS as they cleared out patient cases, more appeared. The AIB memo shows in December 2011, the backlog at Dorn jumped 1,300 cases in eight days.

The Iverys say delays still exist today. Ivery had a port for dialysis shut down months ago. After a contract doctor deemed it a health hazard, he had it removed at a private hospital.

"When they raise their hand, they're not going over there just to be going over there," Barbara said. "But they're going over there to be fighting for their country. When they come back, it should not be where they're still fighting to get the benefits and get the care that they deserve, and it's not right."

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson called for Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki to be removed from his job Wednesday.

"The Administration's inability to provide services to our veterans is inexcusable," Wilson said in a statement Wednesday. "When President Obama campaigned for the White House, he claimed a desire to help our heroes receive the care they deserve and earned while fighting for our freedoms. Sadly, throughout the last few years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has become riddled with scandal, neglect and incompetence under Secretary Eric Shinseki's mismanagement.

"The only way to move forward is to appoint a new secretary in hopes of restoring faith to our veterans, military families and the American people," Wilson said. "I support American Legion Commander Dan Dellinger's call for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki. As complaints, illnesses and deaths that are a result of inadequate care are brought to light on a daily basis, wasting precious time is not an option. We must take immediate action to ensure the issues with the VA are resolved quickly as possible with effective leadership."

The hearing in Washington, D.C., starts at 7:30 p.m.

WIS has reached out to Dorn and has not received a response.

The OIG has ongoing investigations at 25 other VA hospitals.

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