A 7 On Your Side Investigation showed long delays for care and screenings at the Dorn VA Hospital in Columbia may have caused some veterans’ deaths. The details were first revealed in a scathing report from the VA Inspector General.
Other vets reported long delays in getting benefits through the VA Regional Office in Columbia.
Ed Gordon applied for benefits in June of 2013 after his doctor said he was completely unable to work as a result of “service connected disabilities”.
9 months after applying, he had no response.
“For them to just say, we lost your claim or we never accepted it, something ain’t right,” Gordon said.
Now dozens of other veterans have contacted 7 On Your Side reporting serious issues with slow VA care.
Charlie Conn, a disabled Vietnam veteran said the problems got worse after he moved to South Carolina from Michigan.
“It’s hard to get appointments. It’s hard to get them to help you,” Conn said.
Alton Weathers, who stormed Omaha beach on D-Day, said the care is adequate but slow.
“They’re slow but they usually come through and I’m thankful,” Weathers said.
Dozens of other vets called and emailed 7 On Your Side after the first investigation aired. The family of a World War II vet from Anderson said he died while waiting for benefits. A Vietnam vet said he waited 7 years for surgery. One vet said he was sexually assaulted while a patient at Dorn Medical Center.
7 On Your Side was the first to report 60% of claims at the VA Regional Office in Columbia were considered “backlogged”. Nearly 1 in 10 claims is more than a year old without resolution.
Asked about the VA problems, Senator Lindsey Graham said more money won’t fix the issue.
“We’ve increased funding for veterans 60% in the last 5 years,” Graham said.
Graham proposed allowing veterans more options when the federal care is too slow.
“The only way it will ever get fixed is to empower the veteran. Every veteran should have two options. Go to the VA if you would like or, if they’re not taking care of you, take a card and go downtown to a doctor or hospital of your choice.”