Doug Chase, a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. In 2012, his wife Suzanne tried to move Doug’s medical care to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Bedford.
“It was so difficult for him to take the ambulance ride into Boston, we wanted to be closer.”
After four months of waiting, and hearing nothing from the VA hospital, Douglas Chase passed away in August of 2012.
Then, two weeks ago, the VA in Bedford sent home a letter, telling Doug that he could now call to make an appointment to see a primary care doctor.
“It was addressed to my husband and I opened it… I was in complete disbelief.”
Suzanne Chase was denied funeral benefits for her husband because he was never treated in a VA hospital, even though he died waiting for the 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.”
At the bottom of the letter, dated June 12, it states, “We are committed to providing primary care in a timely manner and would greatly appreciate a prompt response.”
Suzanne says that the VA has to be aware of husband’s death, since she applied for funeral benefits two years ago and was denied.
“It is absurd,” said Chase, “It made me angry because I just don’t think our veterans should be treated this way.”
She wrote a letter to the Bedford VA two weeks ago, but has yet to receive a response.
“I am hoping if other people speak out, they can improve the system, so no one else dies waiting for an appointment.”
In response to media inquiries, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued the following statement, “We regret any distress our actions caused to the Veteran’s widow and family.
“At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, our most important mission is to provide the high quality health care and benefits Veterans have earned and deserve – where and when they need it.”
“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.
“We are reviewing this Veteran’s case; however we require a Release of Information to allow us to comment on the specifics of his case.
“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 Acting Director called the Veteran’s widow to apologize. We were able to leave a voicemail with the Director’s phone number. The Acting Director will call the Veteran’s widow again tomorrow. We want to be sure that she is, as well as other Veterans and their family members are, treated with dignity and respect.”