Veterans voice concerns at VA town hall meeting - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Veterans voice concerns at VA town hall meeting

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

After years of long waits and questionable service, dozens of veterans are finally getting some answers from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The VA in Tennessee held a town hall meeting Tuesday with veterans angry with their service.

One by one, veterans got a chance to voice their opinion.

"The VA said this old man has to fight for everything he's got," veteran Gary Absher said. "I'm 68 years old, and sometimes I'm tired of fighting. As long as I can draw breath, I will be here fighting for every vet."

Veterans in attendance gave VA officials an earful about wait times and other problems within the system.

"There are a lot of vets disgruntled by the system," Absher said. "And they say, 'I've been there, I've tried.' So they give up."

Anthony McCann said he has been trying to get answers from the VA to 22 questions concerning all veterans for 10 years now.

"I've yet to get an answer to one of them," McCann said.

He recently requested a copy of his medical records for a pension hearing, and the package he received shocked him.

"I got 256 pages of another person's extremely confidential, extremely explicit mental health records," McCann said.

VA officials said that is not acceptable.

"It's troubling," said Quan Morales, director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System. "It's something of concern because we have systems in place. The important thing is then we go back and find out what happened, correct it and prevent it from happening again."

Tennessee Valley Healthcare officials said wait times are improving, but more has to be done. The town hall meeting was a first step.

"I think it's very important because that is the only way we can improve," Morales said.

Those who work closely with veterans said part of the blame for patient wait times is due to more veterans needing services.

"It's impossible for the system to keep up with the number of people that it's expected to serve," said Jerry Hill with Disabled American Veterans. "The hospital alone has probably doubled, and possibly tripled the number it saw five to 10 years ago."

VA officials said one way veterans can help themselves improve wait times is by not canceling at the last minute or not showing up at all for appointments.

Officials said new buildings will be built or renovated at VA hospitals all over the state. More doctors, nurses and support staff will be hired to meet the needs of veterans in the Tennessee Valley system.

The VA will hold three more town hall meetings in September in Clarksville, Nashville and Chattanooga.

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