KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Dozens of veterans and their loved ones gathered for a VFW town hall on Monday night, with many taking the opportunity to unload on the VA hospital system over substandard care, long wait times to see doctors and other pervasive problems.
"I don't think we need more doctors," one veteran said, "we need the ones we've got to do their jobs."
A woman complained that after a long wait for an appointment, her doctor only wanted to put her on narcotic pain medication she feared would become addictive.
"All they wanted to do was push morphine, codeine, morphine, codeine," she told a sympathetic audience.
The town hall was organized by top VFW leadership. The Kansas City-based veterans organization has more than two million members, and on Monday night, several of its top leaders sat and mostly listened-- building a case to push for structural change in Washington.
"You hear horror stories, you hear good stories. The VA is made up of people and there're some good people who work at the VA but it's the system," Adjutant General John Hamilton told 41 Action News at a break two hours into the meeting. "It's a bureaucracy that's got to be replaced and fixed. It's broken."
Few in the audience would have argued, though some speakers praised their individual doctors.
An audit released by the VA Monday showed long wait times for initial appointments at the Kansas City VA Hospital, and called for further review of facilities in Leavenworth and Wichita.