- - Thursday, May 29, 2014

How could anyone in America not notice the irony of our times? As we recently honored our veterans on Memorial Day, our newspapers remain riddled with horror stories of our veterans dying by the dozens while trying to use the Veterans Affairs medical communities for their care.

Even in the last week of May, we learned that the VA investigation has expanded to 42 VA medical facilities around the nation. Even the VA inspector general has acknowledged that hospital staff manipulated waiting lists, denying terminally ill veterans care in order to meet bonus quotas.

As a veteran who has used and experienced bitter VA treatment (or lack thereof), I can speak firsthand on this issue. A few years ago, suffering from serious heart disease, I sought VA care owing to a gap in my employer coverage. Following VA procedure and instructions, I took off work three separate days to drive to the Birmingham, Ala., VA hospital to try to get an appointment. I recall sitting in the emergency-room waiting area all day, waiting to be given an appointment and watching in concern as a veteran lay on a gurney near me — all day. Not once did anyone attend to him, and he remained there late into the day, when I was finally told to leave and come back another day (again, without an appointment made). I was near giving up after several weeks when I was finally seen. During my several months of VA visits, I continuously asked attending personnel if they were veterans. I have yet to find one who was.

My defining moment at the VA came when the physician informed me that they were changing my heart medication from Coreg to a much cheaper drug. When I asked why, he responded, “Because it is more cost effective for the VA.” When I was prescribed Coreg, the cardiologist told me and my wife that while the drug was in the experimental stage, had the trial not been successful, the death rate for my condition was virtually 100 percent within two years. Yet this seemed unimportant to the VA doctors. I never returned to VA care, and two months later I had six heart bypasses.

The people of this country, especially the politicians, should hang their heads in shame for the disgraceful treatment of our veterans. We are not “throwaway” citizens. We still count — and vote.

JAMES W. ANDERSON

Talladega, Ala.