Veterans Affairs
9:32 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Veterans Air Grievances About VA During Town Hall

Verna Jones, staff director at the American Legion office in Washington, D.C. holds the microphone for John Worholak of South Carolina.
Credit Tasnim Shamma

The American Legion was one of the first veterans groups to call for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after an inspector general report this year found that veterans were waiting months to get an appointment.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will be speaking at the Charlotte Convention Center to a crowd of veterans attending the Legion’s national conference. His remarks will be followed by a speech by the new V.A. Secretary Robert McDonald. He replaced Shinseki after he resigned earlier this year.

And the V.A. is on the minds of many veterans attending the conference. Monday night, about two dozen veterans participated in a town hall meeting to air their grievances and share their experiences with the V.A. system.  


Verna Jones, staff director at the American Legion office in Washington, D.C. moderated the town hall meeting on Monday night at the Charlotte Convention Center. Jones holds the microphone for William Hinson.
Credit Tasnim Shamma

William Hinson says it took him six months of repeated phone calls to get in touch with his doctor at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Salisbury.

"I wouldn't take my dog to Salisbury," Hinson says. "The only solution I know for the V.A. is to abandon it and give vouchers to veterans. Let private take care of it."

Other veterans in attendance said they were ashamed of the V.A. and said it should be disbanded.

An investigation earlier this year found that veterans seeking treatment at a Phoenix V.A. hospital had to wait an average of 115 days before they got an appointment.

So earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed a $16 billion dollar bill for the V.A. to hire more doctors and nurses, but most of that money – about $10 billion – will go towards helping veterans get care outside the V.A. system.

Rory Riley, a member of the House of Representative's Veterans’ Affairs committee, says Congress is working to improve the V.A. and hold it accountable.
Credit Tasnim Shamma

David Cook says he thinks veterans are not given the respect and medical treatment they deserve.

"You know, we're taking care of everybody except our own," Cook says. "I am about sick of the people that run this country. Most of them never been to the military before in their life. So they don't know. They don't know what we've been through. They don't know what it is crawling through a rice paddy, trying to tear a button off your coat just to get a little closer to the ground."

But he says he's looking forward to hearing President Obama's speech today at noon.

"He's the commander in chief," Cook says. "Always."

The American Legion will be hosting a V.A. command crisis center this week at the Charlotte Convention Center where veterans can talk directly to representatives from the V.A.