Suncoast veterans have mixed reviews of local VA care

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Yesterday we told you about some of the concerns about health care that are being raised by Suncoast veterans. Now we continue to look at the state of VA care here on the Suncoast.

Two people can look at the same picture and see two completely different things. The same may be said of Suncoast veterans, military personel, and their families when it comes to VA healthcare.

Lisa Tucker of Sarasota has close ties to the military. “My husband was a staff sergeant, and two of the boys are sergeant first class.”

One of them is an E4. “They were injured when they were in combat.”

Nothing horrendous, she says, and they were treated as a follow up here. “They were treated fine. They got all the care that they needed.”

But at his daughter’s urging, veteran John Tripodi only uses the VA clinic in Sarasota for hearing aids. “Well, she'd rather I didn't use the VA medical benefit because she believes that if I buy it on the open market, I get better care.”

Veteran Anna Shaw says for her, the VA healthcare center in Sarasota is very helpful. “I found it just very excellent treatment.”

Veteran Billy Murphy served as a rifleman in Korea for a year. “In the battlefield ten months, I was in the foxhole ten months.”

No injuries for him, but in 1999 he had open heart surgery, requiring expensive medication that he still takes. “I went to the VA and got my medication for my heart problem.”

Plavix, Zolcor and blood pressure medication. At one time he says Plavix cost him a $110 for thirty days; now through the VA, it’s much less. “$9 co-pay per month.”

Tucker’s husband was medically retired when diagnosed with diabetes. Since then, she says he's gone to the VA. “They send him notices when it's time to check his A1C levels, they send him notices to have his eyes checked, and his feet checked for neuropathy.”

Bay Pines in St. Pete has been great, Tucker says, and he goes to the local clinic in Sarasota to get blood work done. “And they've been great.”