VA responds to report about poor healthcare for vets - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

VA responds to report about poor healthcare for vets

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 5:22 PM Updated:

Days after the Government Accountability Office published a report that Guam military veterans are experiencing delays in timely healthcare, the Veteran Affairs Pacific Island Health Care System responds. And their action is timely, as one veteran speaks out about his experience.

Ivan Babauta is a veteran in need of more treatment. "I'm trying to get some further occupational therapy for my elbow and my hand they did approve for a certain period of time," he said. "They restrict us to so many visits at a time. Even though we still need certain medical care, they cut us off then we have to beg again."

Babauta was a United States Marine for 18 years, retiring with the Guam National Guard. He says he was denied additional treatment by the VA due to bureaucratic red tape, telling KUAM News, "First of all, Guam veterans have to get approval from the Hawaii VA system all the time, for medical care, for medication, even for medical supplies."

In fact he's been waiting for two months to get a new cast. He being one of the Guam veterans the Government Accountability Office found receive primary and mental health care but experience delays in processing enrollment, and scheduling appointments on time.

The VA Pacific Islands Health Care System in Hawaii did respond that "the GAO study found that due to the remote nature of the Pacific Islands, unique challenges are created to serve the 50,000 veterans in American Samao, Guam, Hawaii, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas".

The VA taking the recommendations seriously, outlining concrete steps they're taking to revise procedure, define the referral process with Navy hospital, keep doctors and staff with a systems re-design project, and improving the monitoring of referrals to Navy Hospital. Though they don't agree with ensuring referrals are entered into the Navy Hospital system.

Many veterans find themselves coming home, and waiting and waiting to get the healthcare they fought for and deserve. Hoping this report keeps government officials accountable. "We have earned our benefits that's what we're asking for justice to provide care to the Guam veterans," Babauta said

The GAO's report alarming to Senator Frank Aguon Jr., who says it's not the staff's fault, but "what we need is for the Congresswoman to be firm with VA leadership".

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