New Mishawaka VA clinic hosts first town hall for vets

NOW: New Mishawaka VA clinic hosts first town hall for vets


MISHAWAKA, Ind. - After opening the new VA clinic in Mishawaka six months ago, leaders gave local veterans the chance to hold them accountable Tuesday night.

Just last week, ABC News reports an internal investigation revealed that "failed leadership" at the Department of Veterans Affairs during the Obama years put patients at a major hospital at risk.

With the Northern Indiana V serving 40,000 veterans, and the Mishawaka clinic serving 9,000, the veterans going there for treatment had the opportunity to sound off about their treatment at the first ever town hall there.

“I was in the jungles of Vietnam for 11 months. I walked point for three months. My life was on the line every day I was in Vietnam. I come home, nobody tells me anything," said one Vietnam veteran.

For years now, government officials have said they're trying to make sure no more veterans feel that way about the VA.

Most recently, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure the department better supports returning veterans.

Tuesday night, leaders of the newly-opened VA clinic in Mishawaka gave their patients the chance to speak up.

“It’s a quite a bit improvement over what we had before," said Vietnam veteran Paul Fielder.

They say it still doesn't mean it's without flaws.

“I called to talk to the VA. This was on the weekend, and no one answered the phone...Press this button if you want this person. Press this button if you want that person. Point is, when it’s on the weekend and they say that they have 24 hour service, there should be someone right behind that desk," said Marine Corps. veteran Helen Burns.

VA leaders said they will be talking to that call center, and they also let the vets know they take about 300 to 400 calls a day or upwards of 40 an hour, with each one lasting around 20 minutes.

Besides the frustrating wait times, now, the national opioid epidemic is putting a strain on some vets' pain management.

“The doctors that put me on the opioids told me that they was going to slowly cut them down to nothing. I said you can’t do that!” said Fielder.

"In some employees...They’ve been taken off swiftly and they’ve not weaned them off, they’ve not ensured that they’ve had other forms of treatment that  have worked before they withdraw the opioid," said Dr. Wayne McBride, the Chief of Staff for the VA Northern Indiana.

With even more challenges than wait times and pain pills, vets at the Mishawaka clinic think they're not doing half bad.

“Overall, I would rate this particular VA on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate them an 8.5," said Burns.

To hear about the incident that led to Burns having to live with chronic pain, click on the below clip.

To hear about Fielder's wartime experience that resulted in chronic pain, watch below.

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