Veterans air out concerns to Cincinnati VA officials during town hall meeting

The town hall meetings come by the direction of new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald (Photo: FOX19)
The town hall meetings come by the direction of new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald (Photo: FOX19)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Tri-State veterans sharing passionate pleas for reform to care from the veteran's health care system aired their concerns at the first of several expected town hall meetings.
The town hall meetings come by the direction of new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald.  He has directed all VA healthcare and benefits facilities to have these types of meetings by the end of this month to improve communication with veterans nationwide.

The whole idea is to give veterans an open forum, and to give VA officials the chance to hear straight from veterans on how to improve services and maintain trust with the system.
This comes on the heels of a scandal plaguing the system related to chronic delays for patients at VA facilities, and the ousting of former secretary Eric Shinseki.
"We want veterans to feel comfortable bringing their concerns forward to us.  It's clear that mostly what we attracted tonight were veterans who had issues and wanted to be heard," said Linda Smith, medical center director of the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center.   

Scheduling and efficiency of care dominated the crowd's concerns.  There was even a call for the resignation of Linda Smith, the head of the hospital.
"I had a gallbladder problem and from the time I started yelling 'ouch' until I got the gallbladder out was 13 months.  My son had a gallbladder problem out in the world.  From the time he started yelling 'ouch' until he had the gallbladder removed was a day," said one man at the meeting.
"There's no accountability in this system, and Bob McDonald, right now, is doing a bang-up terrible job," said Tony Kohl, who attended the meeting.
"The thing that drives me the most crazy is that I've seen a lot of HIPA violations.  Patient information laying out in the open," said Jacob Redmond, a veteran.
As hands shot up in the air from those ready to air out concerns, for two hours Monday night, praise of the system merely peppered the sometimes-heated conversation.
"Things are getting better.  They've got to start somewhere," said veteran Rick Olson.
Hospital leadership says the Tri-State's VA system sees almost 1,700 people a day.  They're using $4 million in federal funds to help veterans be referred to other places who see scheduling delays more than 30 days for certain procedures.  But, they realize there's still a long way to go.
At the meeting, many veterans were able to immediately have their concerns addressed by members of the hospital staff.
"We're not perfect in providing care.  We work as hard as we can to provide the best care possible but, the more we can communicate directly with veterans, the better that healthcare will be," Smith told FOX19 NOW.
The next meeting in Cincinnati is set for December 18.  VA Secretary Bob McDonald is set to visit the facility this Saturday.

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