Jackson VA told to get its act together

A key congressional lawmaker demanded Wednesday that Veterans Affairs officials submit details within 30 days on how they will fix problems plaguing the VA Medical Center in Jackson.

“It is painfully obvious that VA is not taking the problems occurring at this facility seriously and is showing a lack of commitment that quite apparently affects care provided to veterans,” Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, said at a hearing.

Coffman said the agency hasn’t done enough to hold officials at the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center accountable or force them to address problems there.

Wednesday’s hearing was one of several focusing on problems at VA hospitals.

It followed a field hearing in Pittsburgh last September that also mentioned problems at the Jackson facility.

Coffman’s panel is investigating several complaints at the Jackson facility, including allegations of understaffing, lack of patient access to doctors, patients being turned away because of overbooking and radiology reports going unread.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency that investigates whistle-blower complaints, recently found the Jackson center deficient in providing adequate care to patients and in responding to problems. The office launched a review after complaints from several employees.

The office also requested an update from the center in 60 days. It said the center submitted responses Wednesday.

Republican 4th District Rep. Steven Palazzo said: “I’m shocked, I’m sick and I’m disgusted” about conditions at the center.

Palazzo and other lawmakers also complained about problems at VA centers elsewhere. VA medical centers in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Buffalo also have come under scrutiny.

“There just seems to be some serious issues with the VA, and I don’t just think it’s Jackson,” said Palazzo, who is a veteran. “I think there’s management issues all across the nation, and I hope by bringing attention to this one that we can fix it so no other veterans have to endure the nightmare that they are going through in Jackson.”

Clarion Ledger, via U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s website