Dozens in Middle TN complain of long waiting times at local VA - WSMV Channel 4

Dozens in Middle TN complain of long waiting times, sub-par care at local VA hospitals

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It's the same routine for John Copeland. Getting to the VA Hospital in Nashville is no easy task for the Army veteran. Bound to a wheelchair, Copeland must wait for a cab service to pick him up in east Nashville.

But sometimes getting there is half the battle.

"They cancel appointments all the time," Copeland said. "As a matter of fact, one of the appointments I'm going to today was a canceled appointment."

Copeland said he's waited anywhere between four and six months for a rescheduled appointment. Many claim he's not alone.

Data obtained by USA Today found veterans face some of the longest waiting times at the VA hospitals in Nashville and Murfreesboro: 65 days on average - more than twice the national average.

WSMV received email after email one day after the data came out - stories of backlogged appointments and delayed treatment.

Within minutes, more than 100 people spoke out on social media.

One woman named Michelle said she and her husband waited nine months for their first primary care appointment.

Some did comment they were pleased with the care at these hospitals.

"I get my healthcare at Murfreesboro and have been thru [sic] several clinics for various issues over the years and have never had any scheduling problems other than the ones that I create for myself," wrote Jeff Bobo. "Taking the time to understand and learn how the system works at the VA is crucial."

But the negative comments far outweighed the positive.

Others, like Lexsen Davis, allege the bureaucracy within the VA can lead to deadly consequences.

Davis' husband died due to complications at the Nashville VA hospital in November 2010. He received treatment eventually but she claimed it was too little, too late.

"His ill treatment here at this Nashville VA along with the wait times, I feel like it's all a bureaucracy culminating together," said Davis, of Columbia.

The VA Tennessee Valley Health System oversees the VA hospitals in Nashville and Murfreesboro.

"We understand veterans are currently waiting longer than they desire, and the team of leadership, clinicians and administrators are working at all levels to address access at all VA TVHS sites of care," said Health System Director Juan Morales in an emailed statement.

The release mentioned officials also will consider extending clinic hours in the afternoon, evenings and weekends, noting a high volume of patients in the ophthalmology, optometry, orthopedics, dermatology and pain clinic specialties.

"Staff … will contact all veterans on the electronic waiting list in an effort to provide more timely access to care. The staff will make three attempts to reach each veteran on the waiting list," the statement continued, claiming staffers will set earlier appointment for veterans if possible.

The Department of Veterans Affairs indicates it is "continuing its nationwide audit to ensure a full understanding of VA's scheduling policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care."

Public Affairs Officer Jessica Schiefer said the VA TVHS works with 89,000 registered people.

Schiefer could not comment directly on the data obtained by USA Today, suggesting VA hospitals in Middle Tennessee face the longest wait times.

Calls to the VA Public Affairs Office in Atlanta went unanswered Tuesday evening.

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