Veterans voice major concerns at Hampton VA town hall

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — While Veterans Affairs medical facilities nationwide are under investigation for widespread problems, Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald is requiring facilities to hold town halls and figure out what they need to work on — including the Hampton VA Medical Center.

Hampton VAMC held its two-hour town hall Wednesday night, and veterans didn’t hold back on problems they’re having.

“People are using excuses,” said Anthony Wright, a veteran and retired VA employee. “Somebody needs to pick up the ball and do something. Go the extra yard for the veterans. It’s not happening.”

Photos: Hampton VA Med Center town hall

Many had similar complaints as they gathered in building 83 of the facility. Some described the atmosphere at the medical center as difficult, saying there is an incompetency among some employees. Others said doctors don’t spend any time with patients. Another said they received someone else’s medical paperwork in the mail. One woman added, the problems have been going on for years.

One of the biggest complaints was that patients said it is impossible to get through to the Hampton VAMC on the phone. They said the phones can ring and no one will ever pick up, or a patient will spend all day on the phone regarding one issue.

One man said his wife “nearly lost her life” waiting for an appointment.

“I’m married to that woman for 57 years,” he said to the medical center director, Michael Dunfee. “I don’t want to lose her because somebody dropped the ball and didn’t answer the phone. Try it some time.”

Dunfee started the town hall by stating the hospital is aware there are serious communication issues. Chesapeake resident Gina Brown is just one of the many who stood up to speak.

“There’s errors in documentation I found in my record,” Brown said. “And some doctors have tried to tell me I didn’t go to therapy when I did.”

When Brown tries to make appointments at the medical center, she said she waits for months.

“I have to wait months, and I’m telling you, it’s months,” Brown said while holding back tears. “And I just give up. I give up.”

Medical center employees were at the town hall to take every person’s name and number so someone can address the concerns. Dunfee also gave out his personal cell phone number to everyone at the meeting, encouraging them to call him if they feel like they can’t get through to doctors. Some applauded his effort to reach out to patients, others said, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Afterward, Dunfee said employees will work with all those who came to the town hall, one by one. For some of the larger scale issues, Dunfee said they will need to figure out where the breakdown is happening and fix it.

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