YUMA, Ariz. – Bob Carey, Local Navy veteran said, “When you join the service, they tell you they’re gonna give you this, give you that and then it’s a job to get the help.”
The veteran’s health administration is America’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,700 sites of care, serving 8.7 million veterans each year. But have you ever asked a vet how they feel about the care they receive?
News 11 talked to two Yuma vets to hear about their experience with veteran’s healthcare.
Carey said, “I’ve been happy but I don’t have to go to the VA for everything, like someone with a service disability or someone who is really sick.”
With limited services offered in Yuma, local vets travel to Tucson for certain types of medical care.
Carey said, “The system worked for me, but all I hear is other horror stories. It’s so much hassle and time, since I’m doing OK, it’s not worth it to me.”
There is only one VA clinic in the Yuma area and most of the time vets are sent out of town to get proper care.
Carey said, “You can go to YRMC if you break your leg, but you better make sure the VA is called. Why can’t they go to a clinic here and say I need this and they call Tucson? That should happen.”
One veteran says the VA becomes more of an inconvenience than an asset for veterans.
Jason Kodz, Marine veteran said, “I have to travel every time I need to see a doctor.”
If you have a service disability, they will pay you to drive to Tucson.
Kodz said, “I don’t see why I should have to move, this is a military town, why can’t we have the doctors and the things that we need, it’s ridiculous.”
Carey says if you have emergency needs on the weekend, you can’t go to the local VA, because it’s closed.
Carey said, “No, you gotta call Tucson.”
And sometimes the vets get stuck with the bill. Carey says some of the World War II and Vietnam vets are so elderly, they can’t do it alone.
Carey said,”It should be easier for older veterans, we have an older gentlemen who gets his pain medication and every month we have to help him call, because he doesn’t understand.”
The local chapters’ assistance is the only way some people get the care they need.
Kodz said, “First of all, they’re a lot older, they’re not mobile, they’re either in wheelchairs walkers or canes. DFW, American Legion, they rely on people like that because they can’t do it for themselves.
Both vets believe the VA isn’t doing enough for the country’s veteran population.
Carey said, “What are these Korean and World War II vets supposed to do. They’re in their 70s and 80s, it’s hard for these people to do that, If it weren’t for the VFW, American Legion, AMVETS, where they can come in and get people to help them, the VA don’t care.”
The question remains, what is being done to serve those who have served our country?
It took Kodz 20 years to get his medical benefits.
Kodz said, “That’s why the VA really needs to step things up. When I got out in 1998, they didn’t really tell us anything, except your DD 214 is your most important paper. I didn’t know I had any benefits except for the GI bill or I would have had medical benefits ever since.”
Kodz said the VA told him his records are sealed and can’t get his DD 214.
Kodz said, “I was sick went to get help and I was denied, because I didn’t have my DD 214 discharge papers, being prior military you basically need that for everything.”
Local veterans wonder what changes still need to be made, before it’s too late.
Kodz said, “There was a veteran from this American Legion post that committed suicide, because he couldn’t get the care that he needed.”
Kodz says this issue plagues the VA healthcare system nationwide and many search for answers.
“Besides changing directors I think they need to listen to us more.” Kodz said.