VA secretary visits DC medical center, aims to fix problems - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

VA secretary visits DC medical center, aims to fix problems

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Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson
WASHINGTON -

The head of the Veterans Affairs went on a field trip Wednesday to the VA hospital in D.C.

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson is working to fix what he's called the "unacceptable, systemic problems" veterans across this country face getting medical and mental health treatment.

The VA is scheduled to release its latest wait time data Thursday as the federal government works to get veterans off wait lists and into medical centers and clinics.

One veteran who can't wait for that to happen is Kenneth Booker. The 83-year-old retired Army Military Police supervisor served during the Korean War and lives in Falls Church. Booker says he's now battling a urinary tract infection and a skin disease.

"They're trying to treat the symptoms, but it's taken them forever to do nothing," he says. “I mean, it's ridiculous."

And Booker says the VA van that's supposed to take him to the VA hospital in Northwest Washington for his free medical care keeps failing to show up.

"They don't even call to say they can't come and they're not coming," Booker tells us. "They just don't show up. Three times. And again yesterday."

"What I say is -- that's unacceptable," Gibson said when FOX 5 News told him of Mr. Booker's case during Gibson's briefing with reporters following his hospital tour Wednesday.

"In far too many instances," Gibson says, "we have veterans waiting too long for care. We also have in too many instances examples of behavior that's not in align with our values."

Gibson says he's a man on a mission: to clean up the damage done by scandals at other VA hospitals where senior staff has been found to falsify patient wait times and taken huge bonuses in the process.

"I will use every bit of authority I have at my disposal to hold people accountable who have committed acts of willful misconduct or managers that are responsible for serious management negligence," Gibson promised.

Gibson says the VA health care system in D.C. needs more physicians and more space.

Ask Kenneth Booker what he thinks of the VA and this is what you get: “The Veterans Hospital is for the birds."

Secretary Gibson says the VA in D.C. has added 2,000 appointments into its scheduling system, is hiring more physicians and psychiatrists and is also expanding clinic hours on weekends and evenings.

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