Veteran voices complaints with KC VA hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - “Secret wait lists” and “preventable deaths” are some of the allegations against a VA hospital in Phoenix.

A Kansas City area vet claimed similar problems in local VA hospital as well.

Kansas City VA Medical Center serves 50,000 veterans every year with just fewer than one million visits.

Ryan Foster is one of those patients. He served four years of active duty in the Marine Corps and four years inactive.

Seven years ago, doctors diagnosed him with PTSD.

“When I see somebody standing on the side of the road waving a sign around, you know what, that makes me feel like being a veteran? It makes me feel like they probably have a detonator behind their back and a roadside bomb somewhere,” Foster said.

Last year, he went to the Kansas City VA Medical Center for treatment.

“It's really been a nightmare. I've been hospitalized at the VA. When you go in there they treat you like you're the bottom of the scum of the earth.”

There are new reports of treatment delays at veterans' hospitals across the country.

In Phoenix, a former clinic director claims up to 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment at a VA hospital there.

The VA Secretary ordered a national face-to-face audit of all Veterans Affairs Department clinics.

Foster believes an investigation in Kansas City will reveal major problems as well.

“I'm trying to get into therapy up at the VA and I've been on the waiting list for a year. When they put me on the waiting list they said it would be a two-year wait and when I was there last time they said it was still a two-year wait,” he said.

He's also tried to get moved to a Johnson County clinic closer to home with no luck.

Foster said he's on a new medication but can't follow up with his doctor for another three months.

Kansas City VA Medical Center responded in an email saying

"Our mission and goal is to provide high quality, timely care to eligible Veterans. The Kansas City VA Medical Center has many internal processes and quality controls in place to assist us in meeting this goal.

In response to your questions about meeting overall access and patient needs, our leadership and staff monitor key indicators to include

• wait times and access for all clinics
• examine survey results from our patients
• review and respond to direct patient feedback
• review direct feedback from Veteran advocacy groups

Actions we have taken in response to these reviews include, expanded clinic hours (Saturday primary and specialty clinics); evening clinics in primary care and mental health; added clinic locations for Mobile Medical Unit; added clinic space (recently opened the Honor Annex);promoting use of secure e-mail to providers and telemedicine; and we have added staff where needed.

We have longed worked with Veteran advocacy groups and providers to ensure our patients have timely access to the appropriate level of care.

In response to your questions specifically about Mental Health access:

• Patients in need of immediate mental health services may come to the outpatient mental health clinic during the day without an appointment to be seen the same day as a walk-in. After hours, a patient may come to the KCVA emergency room to have their mental health needs assessed. Also, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255, option #1.
• When ongoing mental health treatment is needed, the provider will discuss treatment options with the patient and a joint decision will be made between the provider and the patient as to the appropriate treatment plan.
• When psychotherapy is part of the treatment plan, some therapy options are available within the same week, other times it may be a little longer for the patient to be matched with the right course of therapy. KCVA is focused on expanding evidence-based psychotherapy when it is appropriate for the patient.
• No treatment is delayed past time the provider thinks it is safe for the patient. If we are unable to meet that goal our VAMC purchases care for the patient in the community.

Our dedicated employees are diligent in ensuring that our Veterans receive high quality and timely care in a clean, pleasant environment. Our staff consider it an honor and privilege to serve those who have served us.

If any Veteran has questions or concerns about the attention or services they are receiving, we encourage them to contact the Kansas City VA Medical Center."

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