Representatives from The American Legion in Washington, D.C., held a town hall meeting Monday night for veterans affected by the Phoenix VA crisis, and it was a packed house at American Legion Post 1.
They made it clear: They are here to listen and help Valley veterans.
"These town hall meetings are so important because we get to hear from the veterans who are affected every day with what's going on," said Verna Jones, director of The American Legion's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division. "They don't get to walk in front of Congress and just tell them how they feel. So we provide that voice for them."
During the meeting, veteran Jim Ashley told a crowd of about 200 that scrutiny of the Phoenix VA has resulted in things starting to get done.
"I went six months, calling every week," he explained. "I called Friday, and I had an appointment today."
But not everyone had a happy story to tell.
Veteran Billy Castle said he went to the Phoenix VA last year with a golf ball-sized lump in his arm.
He said the VA did nothing, and now he's been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
"The Mayo doctor told me if they would've caught it last year, that I'd probably have a chance of living," Castle said. "But now it's through my body, and my days are numbered."
Ralph Bozellla, chairman of The American Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission, said while the VA is broken – it's a system worth saving.
"Hopefully (we can) get the VA back on track in Phoenix and other locations, for one particular purpose - so the veteran gets that healthcare that he or she deserves," he said.
The American Legion representatives will meet with the Phoenix VA's acting director on Tuesday morning to learn more about the plan to provide immediate care to more than 3,000 Valley veterans who've been waiting to be seen.
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