Veterans lash out at VA, ‘waited for care’

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The scandal surrounding Veterans Affairs hospitals takes center stage as New Mexico veterans, young and old, share similar stories of frustration.

Many of those stories involved long wait times, trouble getting appointments and a downright disgust for Albuquerque’s VA hospital. Their message was delivered straight to a state congresswoman.

More than 180 New Mexico veterans and their families are speaking up.

“It’s just not right,” Richard Cowsill said.

The VA hospital in Albuquerque, along with others across the country, is under the microscope facing accusations of fraudulent wait times among a list of other things.

“Story after story, I’ve seen it over and over again,” veteran Chris Chaisson said. “Nothing ever changes. Nothing.”

U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham hosted a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon at CNM, where many of those veterans had choice words for the care they did or didn’t receive.

“It’s a continuing disappointment about the failure of a system that needs to be immediately addressed,” Lujan Grisham said.

“We didn’t tolerate tomfoolery,” Cowsill said, telling his story in front of the packed crowd.

Cowsill served in the Vietnam War and is battling advanced lung cancer.

“And then they gave me surprise,” Cowsill said. “I got Agent Orange,” he added, saying the deadly chemical used in the jungles triggered the cancer.

His days are numbered.

“I got to let the people know,” Cowsill said. “I got to let my brothers and sister now that they can do something.”

He says the men and women who fought for this country have to demand action and the care they deserve.

One veteran, who spent 17 years working at Albuquerque’s VA hospital says what he saw led him to retire.

“I was told don’t worry about it, if he falls we’ll deal with it later,” Joseph Guadagnoli said. “Excuse me? I don’t think so.”

Most people shared stories of canceled appointments and poor treatment, some even being brought to tears.

“I’m shocked, I’m angry and very sad,” Lujan Grisham said. “It’s tragic.”

“We need to go to everyone on a waiting list whose been waiting for an appointment and there needs to be a brand new team who’s making calls and doing triages,” the congresswoman added.

A task she knows won’t be easy.

“I have my work cut out but these veterans are worth it,” she said.

Other veterans told stories of difficulties with surgeries and getting prescription medications filled.

However, there were a couple of veterans who said they hadn’t had any trouble at all with Albuquerque’s VA hospital.

Lujan Grisham says her goal is start change here at home. She says it will require day-to-day attention and she plans on getting to work as soon as she gets back to Washington, D.C.

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