Utah veterans discuss health care access issues

Posted at 6:58 PM, May 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-21 20:58:18-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Several local veterans said there's good reason the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs called on the chief of Salt Lake City's Medical Center to fix things in Phoenix.

Dr. Craig Bryan runs the National Center for Veterans' Studies at the University of Utah. He and his wife are veterans.

"From my contacts within some of the higher officers of the VA, two and a half years ago when I first moved here they said, 'Oh, that's one of our best VA's,'" Bryan said.

That feeling was echoed by Terry Schow, who fought in the Special Forces in Vietnam and ran the Utah Office of Veteran's Affairs.

"And like the guy from the Hair Club, I am a customer,” Schow said. “I get my care from the VA here and so I have a pretty good sense. I don't walk in with a badge saying 'I'm somebody special.' I want to see how they treat me.”

From a bird's eye view, the Salt Lake VA is a stand-out in terms of efficiency, with a one-month wait to get into the system, but several veterans contacted FOX 13 News with complaints about their cases.

One veteran described the labyrinth of paperwork demands as he tries to get his PTSD acknowledged as a 'line of duty' injury.

Another vet described the difficulty of getting to a specialist in Salt Lake when he lives in central Utah. His struggles included getting pre-colonoscopy drugs and being told to take them before his drive, struggling with the laxative effects.

VA spokesperson Jill Atwood admits it's hard to get enough specialists for all of the demands, especially as the system is overwhelmed with new veterans.

But Atwood told FOX 13 News the national office sent 'Access Teams' to the various centers to test their patient processing.

"We got excellent ratings," Atwood said.

Related story: Obama: Veterans Affairs misconduct will be punished