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Left Behind: Scandal at the VA

Concerns about the care veterans receive at VA medical centers have outraged the nation. What do local veterans have to say about the care they have received at the Dayton VA Medical Center? And, how does the CEO of the facility respond to the allegations. The I-Team investigates "Left Behind: Scandal at the VA."

Click on a segment block or individual below to view the video from that segment or interview.

Their stories

  • Marilyn Barrett, Air Force vet: More VA authority needed
  • Marilyn Barrett served more than two decades in the Air Force before becoming a VA patient. Barrett’s perspective on veteran health is also marked by her brief time as a VA employee.

    Barrett said her experience as a patient and employee convinced her the VA needs more authority to fire under-performing employees.

    “Until managers and supervisors at every level are given the authority to handle problematic employees, nothing is going to get done.”

  • Howard Cohen, WWII vet: Good experiences at clinic
  • A 91-year-old WWII veteran from Hamilton, Howard Cohen was drafted into the service at the age of 19. Today, he enjoys using the VA’s community clinic in Middletown for blood work, eye care and regular checkups.

    Still, he said he’s heard his fair share of horror stories about VA hospitals during his 70 years as a veteran. He says management is a big factor in improving the VA system.

    “The main thing is management,” Cohen said. “You get out of something what you put in.”

  • David Fogle, Marine vet: Contracted staph infection
  • A VA patient since 1999 and a former VA cemetery employee, David Fogle is a decorated Marine Corps veteran who earned a Navy Commendation with a Combat V during the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive.

    Today, Fogle reflects on a staph infection received during a teeth cleaning at the Dayton VA. This routine but problematic procedure, he said, resulted in three months without mobility and the replacement of his artificial knee at Miami Valley Hospital.

    Too, he said his experience with painkillers at the VA Medical Center is unreasoned.

    “There’s no reasoning of what they do,” Fogle said. “It’s just, give you a handful of pills and send you on your way.”

  • Leroy Folden, Army vet: Transferred care to Cincinnati
  • For Army veteran Leroy Folden, the answer to his problems at the Dayton VA was to transfer to the medical center in Cincinnati. The Springfield resident says the team in Cincinnati helped fix what he says was a poorly run kidney procedure.

    “Cincinnati really did an excellent, excellent job,” he said. “I can’t blame the whole VA hospital for what one doctor did.”

    Folden, 68, says he got out of the Army in 1979 and has otherwise received good care.

    “It’s a cracker barrel sometimes,” he said, adding, “The VA, with me, I’ve had pretty good luck with them.”

  • Timothy Hammond, Army vet: Went outside the VA for care
  • Timothy Hammond’s experience with military healthcare began on an Army base the day he was born in 1957. At age 18, he joined the Army and served six years before taking a civilian job at the VA center in Chillicothe.

    Today, he’s a Dayton VA Medical Center patient who said his decision to seek a colonoscopy from a specialist outside the VA sped up the discovery of precancerous polyps, which he fears could have worsened if he waited on the VA.

    His ideas for improving the Dayton VA include hiring more doctors and improving veteran-focused care.

    “All I’m trying to do is get the assistance and support that are related to my service,” he said, “and other than that, I’d like to go fishing and buy a house if that’s what I want.”

  • Tom Hardy, Dayton VA chief of staff: Working to improve care
  • Tom Hardy, a physician, spent more than two decades in the Army and 10 years in the private sector before becoming chief of staff at the Dayton VA Medical Center. He’s focused on improving the care of veterans.

    “In the Army we had a system in which a physician and two or three (physician assistants) worked together to take care of a large Army unit, and the system worked very, very well,” he said. “And I think we can bring that to the VA, really improve access to the veterans and improve their care.”

    But, Hardy also said government employees who aren’t doing their job are protected in ways private employees aren’t.

    “Here, because of the system, because folks are government employees, they have substantially more rights than employees do in the private sector, and that doesn’t always work to the benefit of the veteran,” he said.

  • Steven Heckman, Marine vet: Staff increases needed
  • A service-disabled Marine Corps veteran who served three years in the early 1990s, Steven Heckman said it took a medical student at the Dayton VA to recognize his frequent pneumonia as a sign of lung disease.

    Now, he’s going outside the Medical Center to get care for his lungs. He said his decision to seek outside help is “almost a must” given the VA’s staff and technology resources.

    “They need a lot more doctors,” Heckman said. “They need a bigger facility, a lot more doctors, a lot more nurses.”

    Still, Heckman doesn’t feel right filing complaints, he said, since the care is free-of-charge and the facility is “over-slammed.”

    “It’s not going to change anything,” he said. “I’ve got one of the best nurses out there, that’s why I don’t want to change my team.”

  • Arthur Hill, Army VA: Problems with procedue led him elsewhere
  • Arthur Hill, 61, was discharged from the Army in 1980 after three years of service and became a VA patient in 1981. Overall, he said his VA experience was pretty good until problems with a prostate operation in 2007 prompted him to go on a VA "healthcare strike."

    "To get me back," Hill said, "they would have to — not just for me — they would have to be better off with all veterans."

    Hill suggests reforms to the way the VA evaluates doctors and more adequate personnel as solutions to fixing the agency’s problems.

  • Kathy Platoni, clinical psychologist: Military vet doctors would help
  • A clinical psychologist for more than three decades, Kathy Platoni took on her fourth voluntary deployment in 2009 as a colonel in the Army Reserve Medical Service Corps, after previously commanding a combat stress control detachment at Guantanamo Bay.

    Today, Platoni, of Centerville, speaks critically about the current state of veteran care.

    “There’s 2.6 million returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the system is overloaded,” she said. “We have failed to learn the lessons of history and prepare for this.”

    Like other veterans, Platoni said hiring military-oriented doctors and staff members could help solve the issues plaguing VA hospitals.

    “We have to look at the fact that we don’t have enough clinicals who are trained and served in the military in the VA system,” she said. “It would be wonderful if we could hire some of our retired military folks into the VA system, or people who have at least interfaced with veterans.”

  • Darrell Rodin, Navy vet: Pays for his own healthcare
  • Darrell Rodin is a Xenia handyman who helps maintain property his family owns. He said the VA blew his trust after a series of complications and issues. These include, he said, a misdiagnosed scabies infection and a test for hepatitis after it was discovered a VA dentist used unsterilized equipment.

    A few years ago, Rodin paid for his own gall bladder surgery because he didn’t think the VA was acting fast enough. This, in addition to what Rodin claims was a misdiagnosed scabies infection.

    “For a time there, it seemed like veterans were an easy pick and easy ones to write off,” he said.

    The self-employed Navy veteran pays for his own health care even though he’s eligible for VA benefits. He keeps his VA benefits only as a form of “catastrophic insurance” in case a major health disaster comes along.

    Like others, Rodin believes he should be able to take his veterans card to any hospital for care, instead of relying just on the Dayton VA Medical Center.

  • Terry Singer, Marine vet: VA paid for private care
  • The VA system directed Marine Corps veteran Terry Singer to a private hospital in 2007 when the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans overwhelmed the system. The government paid the private hospital for Singer’s ankle and foot surgery related to his service.

    He said the exchange worked well, and he thinks it could be a model for veteran care across the country.

    “(The VA) covered everything and it couldn’t have been better,” Singer, of Fairfield, said of his surgery and post-surgery therapy. “There’s plenty of civilian facilities out there, and they could simply invoice the government and the problem would be solved.”

Clips from the primetime special

Watch the special

Segment 1:
Problems arise

Problems at the VA became public more a year ago, and the I-Team began hearing from veterans and their family members about their issues. Here's what they told us.

Segment 2:
Pain management

Many veterans say they have become dependant on painkillers after continuous prescriptions from the VA. Critics say that's because filling out prescriptions is easy.

Segment 3:
Lawmakers weigh in

Since problems at the VA became public, Ohio politicians have sought answers and faced tough questions from veterans in their regions. Here's what they have to say.

Segment 4:
Dayton VA responds

For the first time since the scandal broke, we were granted an exclusive look inside the Dayton VA Medical Center and responses from the facility's leaders.

What they're saying

  • Glenn Costie
    Glenn Costie
    The CEO of the Dayton VA Medial Center believes positive steps in Dayton are setting a good example for the system. He was recently chosen as acting director of the embattled Phoenix VA Health Care System.
  • Vincent Risner
    Vincent Risner
    Desert Storm veteran says VA staff never found the source of his head and neck pain and instead continued prescribing painkillers.
  • Darrell Rodin
    Darrell Rodin
    Veteran says he would call month after month for an appointment to be scheduled and the VA kept putting him off.
  • Pamela Belcher
    Pamela Belcher
    Belcher's husband, Roy, died after being treated at the Dayton VA, and she says they did not get the quality care they expected.

Archive coverage

  • June 20, 2014
    Dayton VA Medical Center Director Glenn Costie will temporarily take over the troubled Phoenix VA while the federal health agency searches for a permanent replacement.
  • May 24, 2014
    Alleged delays in treatment or diagnosis were cited 900 times in descriptions of malpractice claims paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs since 2001, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of VA data.
  • May 18, 2014
    Twenty-six veterans filed and were denied malpractice claims totaling $13.9 million in damages stemming from the 2011 revelation that a dentist at the Dayton VA Medical Center practiced improper hygiene for nearly 20 years.
  • May 17, 2014
    As controversy swirls around the Veterans Administration over deaths caused by delayed care, an investigation by the Dayton Daily News found that the VA settled many cases that appear to be related to delays in treatment.
  • May 17, 2014
    Search national death claims against the VA by facility, alleged fatal error and dolloar amount. The tool searches a VA database obtained by the Dayton Daily News during an investigation of VA malpractice.
  • May 9, 2014
    Recently raised concerns that delayed care caused the deaths of dozens of veterans nationwide, and that one VA hospital kept a “secret list” to conceal delays, upset local veterans waiting for a bus home from the Dayton VA Medical Center on Friday.
  • April 1, 2014
    When Air Force veteran Janet Jennings received notice in the mail last week that someone at the Dayton VA medical center had inappropriately shared her medical information, the news came with an apology.

Reporters

  • Becky Grimes
  • Jim Otte
  • Josh Sweigart
  • Will Garbe

Anchors

  • James Brown
  • Cheryl McHenry

Executive Producer

  • Becky Grimes

Editor

  • Byron Stirsman
  • Connect with the I-Team:
  • Tips: 937-225-2251