- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued an apology after a Massachusetts widow received a letter offering her husband an appointment almost two years after he died.

Doug Chase, a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, his widow Suzanne, of Acton, told a CBS affiliate in Boston.

In 2012, Mrs. Chase said she tried to move her husband’s medical care from Boston to the VA hospital in Bedford, so they could be closer to home, but they waited four months and never heard anything. He died in August 2012.

Ms. Chase said she received a letter in the mail two weeks ago that was addressed to her husband, saying he could call to make an appointment.

“It was 22 months too late, I kind of thought I was in the twilight zone when I opened this letter and read it,” she told the news station.

At the bottom of the letter, dated June 12, it reads: “We are committed to providing primary care in a timely manner and would greatly appreciate a prompt response.”

“I was like, you have to be kidding, right?” Ms. Chase said.

The widow said the VA had to know her husband was dead because she applied for funeral benefits and was denied.

“It is absurd,” said Ms. Chase. “It made me angry because I just don’t think our veterans should be treated this way.”

“I am hoping if other people speak out, they can improve the system, so no one else dies waiting for an appointment,” she said.

The department apologized in a statement provided to the station: “We regret any distress our actions caused to the Veteran’s widow and family. … Thank you for bringing this regrettable issue to our attention. We apologize for our error and any difficulties this has caused you. We will examine our process, do what we can to fix it, and institute measures to prevent this from happening again.

“As part of the corrective actions taken to address scheduling issues, VA launched the Accelerating Access to Care Initiative, a nationwide program to ensure timely access to care. VA has identified Veterans across the system experiencing waits that do not meet Veterans’ expectations for timeliness. VA has been contacting and scheduling Veterans who are waiting for care. We regret causing any pain in this effort,” the statement said.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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