Bonham VA Medical Center to be audited as Phoenix VA scandal spr - - No One Gets You Closer

Bonham VA Medical Center to be audited as Phoenix VA scandal spreads

BONHAM -- The VA Medical Center in Bonham is feeling the fallout of a scandal that first surfaced at a VA Hospital in Phoenix.

It began late last month when whistleblowers in Phoenix came forward about a secret list. The list included names of veterans who were waiting an unusually long amount of time for medical care.

They said dozens of veterans on that list died as a result.

James Johnson is a Vietnam veteran and patient at the Bonham VA Medical Center.

He says it typically takes 3-4 months from the time he files for benefits to receive treatment.

"So you really don't have anything negative to say?" reporter Meredith Yeomans asked. "No," Johnson said. "No ma'am."

But for veteran Steven Cooper -- a cancer patient at the VA in Phoenix -- waiting three months could have been the difference between life and death.

"Had I stayed the course at the VA I would have been dead," Cooper said.

Whistleblowers now say at least 40 veterans did die waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA Hospital. They claim records were secretly altered to reflect shorter wait times for patient appointments to meet VA standards.

"All the people who are part of this should be held accountable, because it's a crime," Sally Eliano, daughter of a deceased veteran said.

There are now calls for the head of the Veterans Affairs Administration to resign and the scandal has widened to several states including, Texas.

KTEN contacted the VA Medical Center in Bonham to find out if any changes were going to be made as a result of the questions being raised in Phoenix. We received a statement from the VA in Dallas.

According to a Dallas VA representative, for the Bonham VA Medical Center, "As of May 2014, 99.3% of patients wait 15 days or less for primary care access."

"At VA, our most important mission is to make sure Veterans know VA is here to care for them and provide the high quality care and benefits they have earned and deserve.  Secretary Shinseki has directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to complete a nation-wide access review.  The purpose of this review is to ensure a full understanding of VA’s policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care. As part of the review during the next several weeks, a national face-to-face audit will be conducted at all clinics for every VA Medical Center (VAMC). VA North Texas facilities, including Bonham, use the Electronic Wait List according to the national scheduling policy."

"That should have never happened," veteran Nathaniel Jacobs said.

The veterans we spoke with in Bonham reported widely varying wait times -- from months to years -- but overall said they were satisfied with their treatment.

In fact, Jacobs credits his VA councilor for getting him off the streets.

In his eyes, the system works for vets but the people sometimes don't.

"The system is great for helping the soldier veterans," Jacobs said. "It's the people that don't have the dedication, don't have the compassion, doesn't see it the way the soldiers see it."

In an email Monday afternoon, a representative for the Dallas VA said, "The National face to face reviews are ongoing throughout the VA North Texas Health Care System (VANTHCS) this week including the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center at Bonham, Texas.  Our staff are cooperating fully with this audit and are looking forward to a great visit."