Suncoast veterans play the waiting game at the VA

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Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 5:34 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Florida is a popular destination for military veterans, so what is the state of the health care services for those here on the Suncoast?

Many veterans live here on the Suncoast, but not all is well in paradise, including what some say is a lack of good and timely medical care for those who serve.

“About three inches stacked.” That’s Laurence Nespodzany medical records. “It took me forty-three years to obtain my medical records from the government.”

Records the VA requested before they will treat him for an injury sustained on duty when a panel slammed shut on his arm. He is still waiting. “Flattened it…it was crushed.”

He says he's not hopeful and has other ailments. “I have three different kinds of cancer; it's lymphoma cancer.”

Wade Risha is a Marine who served in Afgahnistan. “I was a gunner in the chariots, and that's when it hit. There was a guy that died in that truck and that's why I just hate talking about it.”

He suffers PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. The VA clinic in Sarasota sent him to Bay Pines in St. Petersburg, an hour and a half away. “I literally sat there two and a half hours, didn’t get seen, and I just left.”

After numerous attempts to reschedule he got in again, and waited again. “I've kind of given up. It's almost to the point where the VA, it's almost like a deterrent.”

Lt. Col. Lee Kichen served as a tanker in the Army. During an exercise simulating armed combat, his vehicle hit a tank ditch. “I sustained a spinal injury and neck injury.”

The VA clinics, says Kichum, are good for certain health needs. ‘Primary care: excellent, absolutely excellent.”

He was also a patient at Bay Pines Medical Center. “It saved my life, I had a heart attack.”

But there is a down side. “Wait time for treatment, VA has mandated that every veteran will be seen within fourteen days. It's impossible.”

He says at best it’s a quality of life issue. “At worst you can have a permanent effect on an individual’s health.”

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