A broken promise for Connecticut veterans

NEWINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The scandal involving VA hospitals around the country is hitting home in Connecticut. Some lawmakers say they want to know more about how the VA is treating veterans in our state

Officials at the VA hospitals here in Connecticut have assured members of Congress that there have been no long waits for medical help for veterans. But now some lawmakers want proof and they want it soon.

Connecticut Veterans were promised a year ago the backlog for disability claims would be addressed but that appears to be a broken promise.

While many veterans give the state’s federal VA facilities good reviews, the long waits for claims have always been a problem. There are over 200,000 veterans living in Connecticut and every year more than 50,000 of them come to the VA hospital in Newington. Thousands more go to the facilities in West Haven and the six clinics around the state.

It was in Newington just one year ago that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki made a promise to Connecticut’s veterans that a new computer system would help to end the backlog for claims.

“(We’ve) begun executing a robust plan to go after this backlog to which we’ve committed; in 2015 no claim over 125 days and a 98 percent accuracy level,” Shinseki said.

But the leaders of one of the state’s largest veteran’s service organizations says it hasn’t happened.

“None of us is seeing the results, if anything it’s been getting worse,” said John Hollis, a past Connecticut VFW state commander.

“The record of the VA is simply unacceptable in lowering wait times for completing disability claims,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Despite assurances from Connecticut VA hospitals that there have been no long waits for medical help as has been alleged in other parts of the country, Blumenthal and the rest of the state delegation are requesting that the audit of state facilities be publicly released as soon as possible.

Mike Zacchea is a wounded combat veteran and part of a group that sued the VA over this seven years ago.

“The problem has not been solved and it’s been a problem that’s existed now since at least 2006 that we’ve identified,” Zacchea said.

With the largest numbers of veterans returning home from war zones since 1945 — many with complicated physical and psychological injuries — the general consensus seems to be the agency is overwhelmed.

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