Veterans to rally in Phoenix for change at VA hospitals - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Veterans to rally in Phoenix for change at VA hospitals

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Rebecca Knott has had a series of battles with the VA Hospital over treatment for Hodgkin's disease. (Source: CBS 5 News) U.S. Marine Cpl. Rebecca Knott has had a series of battles with the VA Hospital over treatment for Hodgkin's disease. (Source: CBS 5 News)

Members of Concerned Veterans for America are working to get the word out about a new bill that's going before Congress.

HR 4031 would allow the head of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to demote poorly performing managers, something they aren't currently able to do.

"The first step to reform is to get rid of all the bad apples in VA," said the organization's Issues and Legislative Campaign Manager Daniel Caldwell.

Hundreds are expected to gather at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday to rally for change.

Meantime, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, of Arizona, will hold a press conference at 12 p.m. on Friday to discuss the issue.

This comes after claims that dozens of veterans died because of the VA hospital's poor care or because some patients got no care at all.

"They have the resources to take care of the veterans they're responsible for. The problem is they're not being allocated correctly within the VA, and you have VA managers who aren't doing their job," said Caldwell.

Cpl. Rebecca Knott served almost five years in the U.S. Marine Corps. She was discharged in the late 1980s after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Knott beat the cancer once, but in 1994 it came back.

"I was the one who found the lump," Knott said.

She contacted the Phoenix VA to schedule an appointment. That's when her first battle with the hospital began.

"The woman laughed at me and said, 'I can't get you in for the next six months,'" Knott said.

Because of Knott's history with Hodgkin's, her personal doctor managed to get her in for treatment.

Once again, she overcome the disease. Then, in 2010 doctors found a tumor in her esophagus, a side-effect of the radiation.

"At that point, they were saying it was between stage 3 and stage 4 cancer," Knott said.

Knott said the surgeon at the VA seemed unsure about her treatment and eventually told her the tumor was inoperable. But a second opinion from Mayo Clinic contradicted the VA's diagnosis. Now Knott is once again in remission.

"I kept saying, 'What happens to people who don't know to go and keep fighting with them or don't have other insurance?' What they're doing to people is just wrong," Knott said.

Scott McRoberts, spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, released the following statement Wednesday morning:

"As the hospital director at the Phoenix VA, I have taken great pride in being part of a community that is committed to VA's mission, to care for those who have served.

"The Phoenix VA Medical Center is proud to serve over 78,128 Veterans every year. The care of Veterans remains our primary focus. They have earned and deserve high quality health care and we are proud to provide it.

"It is disheartening to hear allegations about Veterans care being compromised, and we are open to any collaborative discussion that assists in our goal to continually improve patient care.

"Our staff conducts themselves in accordance with the values that everyone would expect of federal employees, especially those who are serving Veterans.

"VA provides unparalleled transparency and our system of care undergoes multiple external reviews to ensure its safety and quality. We are open to a full and impartial investigation regarding these allegations and have invited the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to immediately investigate these allegations. If the OIG finds areas that need to be improved, we will swiftly address them as our goal is to provide the best care possible to our Veterans. If a Veteran or a family member has concerns about the care we provided, we encourage them to call the patient advocate at (602) 222-2774.

"Veterans deserve to have full faith in their healthcare. We appreciate the continued hard work and dedication of our employees and of the community stakeholders we work with every day in our service to Veterans."

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