Audit of VA North Texas system found no "smoking gun" - - No One Gets You Closer

Audit of VA North Texas system found no "smoking gun"

BONHAM -- A Sherman family cheered today when they learned the secretary of the VA stepped down.

The scandal that led to his resignation surfaced five weeks ago in Phoenix, but for this family, the claims being made hit home.

The fallout has also made its way to north Texas through audits ordered at VA medical centers.

Tonight, we know the preliminary results of those audits.

Jennifer Mitchell and her mom Vicki are now one of dozens of families nationwide that have come forward to complain about the inadequate care they feel their family members received at VA medical centers.

"It's been hell," Vicki said. "I mean VA hell is what it is."

Vicki's husband, Terry Mitchell died in August 2013, a year-and-a-half after he initially went to the Bonham VA Medical Center to have a spot on his neck looked at.

"What did they first say it was?" reporter Meredith Yeomans asked.
"A wart," Mitchell said.

Four months later, Terry learned he had cancer.

Doctors at the Dallas VA performed surgery and Terry began chemotherapy in April 2013.

"A whole year goes by before you even have any chemotherapy at all. It just seems like an awful long time," Jennifer said.

But by then the cancer was spreading, first to his lungs then his brain.

"I want my life back but I'm not going to get it back. It wasn't my choice. I want him back but you know, he hurt so bad," Vicki said.

The Mitchells now wonder if Terry would have received more timely, aggressive treatment, would he still be alive?

It's a question many families nationwide are asking after a whistleblower with the Phoenix VA claimed staff was cheating veterans out of health care to make it look like the VA was meeting quotas.

There have been claims dozens of veterans died while waiting for care.

That scandal prompted a investigation into VA medical centers nationwide, including those in the VA North Texas system.

According to a representative for the Dallas VA, national scheduling audit teams have now visited every facility in the VA North Texas, including Bonham, Dallas, Fort Worth, Tyler and all community-based outpatient clinics.

In an email the spokesperson said, "During the exit briefing, the audit teams indicated they found no evidence of "secret waiting lists" and no "smoking gun."  the team however did recommend refresher training for scheduling staff which will be completed by June 30."

A final report is expected to be complete within the next few weeks.

As for the Mitchells, the spokesperson said, "It is the opinion of our dermatologist and ENT physicians the timeframe for diagnosis and subsequent treatment meets the standard of care."