Veterans sound off at packed town hall over Phoenix VA

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Veterans representing a range of ages and conflicts filled American Legion Post 41, voicing a barrage of new concerns, complaints and allegations against the VA.

"We veterans do not get the care necessary or diagnoses necessary to give us the proper treatments that we need. This is what we get," said Marine veteran David Barnett holding up a bowl of pills.

"It is virtually impossible to get ahold of somebody over the telephone, in the clinics or wherever," said another veteran.

The Tuesday night Town Hall meeting comes amid allegations of delayed care and a 'secret waiting list' that led to the deaths of at least 40 veterans, according to VA whistle-blower Dr. Sam Foote.

"It’s not only the VA hospital in Phoenix; it’s California; it’s Nevada," said the wife of a veteran in attendance. "It takes months to get an appointment."

Other veterans have told 3TV it’s taken them years to get treatment.

"Knowing that you’re just home waiting to die, and they keep telling you there’s nothing they can do because they let things go too long to fix them, that is depressing," said Clarence Oliver, an Army veteran of Vietnam.

"I got a Bronze Star, other medals; medals don’t mean nothing," Oliver said. "When you go in the service, when I went in before Vietnam, we were promised we’d get the best health care."

Now he feels disillusioned and helpless.

"I’m at a point, there’s nothing they can do; nothing they care about doing," Oliver told 3TV.

While the Inspector General’s Office continues to investigate allegations, top Phoenix VA officials remain on administrative leave.

"My job is to help restore this medical center, to bring care veterans earned and deserve," said Steve Young, the newly appointed acting director of the Phoenix VA.

He said he’s been on the ground in the Valley only two days. Previously, he served as director of the Salt Lake City VA.

"Right now my job is to understand, fully understand, everything that is alleged, what we’re doing and how we’re going to move forward," Young said.

Young told 3TV he’s eager to see the results of the IG investigation. It’s not known how long he will stay in Phoenix.

For veterans and their families, reform cannot happen quickly enough. Many who attended the meeting on Tuesday expressed more anger than optimism.

"I want to make sure if a veteran needs to see a licensed doctor, they can see a licensed doctor," Oliver said.