The widow of an Army veteran is speaking out about how her husband died waiting for care from the VA Health Care System.
Christin Bowra said her husband, Christian Hans Munster, was seen by doctors in the Prescott and Phoenix VA systems. She said that while he was slowly dying, the VA did not deliver on promises to provide the care that could have saved his life.
"He's writing letter after letter after letter, begging to be scheduled for surgery," she said. "He begged."
Bowra shared with us the very personal letters written by her husband in 2010, shortly after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. She was an employee at the Prescott VA at the time and knew the inner workings of the system. She remembered being relieved they were being sent to the Phoenix VA for care.
She said the surgeon at the Phoenix VA wanted to do a radical procedure, one that a Mayo Clinic doctor said was no longer done in America and had a very poor survival rate. Bowra said she and her husband asked for a referral but never got one. They then opted for a less-invasive surgery through the VA.
"The VA here in Prescott said if Tuscon or Albuquerque does it, you have to go there to have it done," Bowra explained. "We said, 'We're ready to go,' and we waited for the phone call and we waited."
They waited seven months. She said her husband wrote letters to VA administrators every month, describing himself as "a patient fighting for his life." He died, having never gotten the call he so desperately wanted.
"He said they failed him," Bowra said. "He said that in his letters. He's not alone; there are others."
Bowra has filed a claim with the Office of Inspector General regarding her husband's case. The claim was also forwarded to Sen. Jeff Flake's office, but she said she has been waiting nearly a year to hear from anyone about it.
We asked Dr. Keith Piatt, the acting medical center director for the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System, about Munster's case.
"In the absence of a HIPAA privacy waiver and out of respect for the Veteran, we are unable to comment on the care provided," he said in an email. "We will review the care and discuss the matter privately with the family if appropriate."
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