American Legion 'Crisis Response Center' for vets in Phoenix opens

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX--- As the American Legion prepares to open a "Crisis Response Center" for frustrated military veterans on Tuesday, Legion staff called another town hall meeting to see if any changes have come since the VA scandal broke.

"We need to move beyond this scandal," Legion official Ralph Bozella told the crowd of 150 veterans.

"This town hall is about you.  Let's move past the scandal and work on a fix.  We want to know what's happened to you, and if the VA has contacted you about an appointment," said Verna Jones of the national American Legion office in Washington, DC.

Most in the crowd continued reporting  problems they have experienced trying to get appointments and VA health care, dating back decades.

A few brought messages of relief, saying they have seen a turnaround in recent weeks.

"At the last town hall, I still couldn't get an appointment.  I went six months calling every week.  Well, I got a call from the VA on Friday, and had an appointment today," Jim Ashley told the crowd.

Still, the delays have been deadly for many veterans.

"Last month I was diagnosed [with cancer], and my Mayo doctors said [if the VA had caught it] it could have been stopped.  Now it's through my body, and my days are numbered," veteran Billy Castle told the crowd.

The Legion's "Crisis Response Center" opens at noon on Tuesday, and the staff will be at the Legion Post on Seventh Avenue and Van Buren Street through Thursday.