Will backlogs in other states affect Milwaukee VA’s ability to serve its own veterans?

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Americans are observing Memorial Day against the backdrop of a growing scandal over long wait times and secret records at Veterans Affairs medical facilities. But how will the backlogs in other states affect Wisconsin’s ability to serve its own veterans? It’s a question being asked by every member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation.

The VA facility in Milwaukee is a sort of home away from home for Marine Corps veteran Kenneth Mueller.

“In my opinion, they don’t deny any veteran any coverage,” Mueller said. Mueller visits the VA facility in Milwaukee every week — either to see friends or receive care himself. He wears his pride in the VA — but he, like many veterans is disturbed by the backlog of cases that have kept military veterans waiting without proper medical care.

“I think it’s depressing. This VA scandal is not good — so maybe there’s some VA’s that are not quite up to par,” Mueller said.

It’s a problem Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore is working to resolve.

“We’re very, very concerned about the backlog of cases that the VA has,” Moore said.

Moore says backlogs are bad enough, but the allegations that some VA hospitals manipulated waiting lists to hide delays are a downright disgrace.

“There was also an incentive to hide older cases if you hadn’t gotten them services, so I’m very curious about routing out that particular problem,” Moore said.

“They shouldn’t be doing that.  They shouldn’t be capitalizing on our health,” Mueller said.

The worst problems are in Arizona, but in Wisconsin, the VA does well processing cases.

“I’ve had no problems at this VA. I can personally say that,” Mueller said.

In fact, last May, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki visited the VA facility in Milwaukee — highlighting its move to digitized medical records — allowing it to have a much smaller backlog.

“We realized that we had to go through a process of improving,” Shinseki said.

Now there is concern that the Wisconsin system could be jeopardized by the problems in other states — as the VA moves out-of-state cases to Milwaukee’s efficient facility.

“I am fearful that VA is simply one national mission away from complete collapse and utter failure,” Chairman Miller said.

A letter of concern to Secretary Shinseki, signed by every member of the Wisconsin delegation says “claims doubled in the last year,” now that backlogged cases from other states are being sent to Milwaukee.

The representative say “the VA’s strategy is negatively impacting the claims of Wisconsin veterans.”

“Try to make sure that we don’t end up shorting the services of Wisconsin veterans by trying to manage some of the cases from around the country,” Moore said.

Without addressing the scandal directly, President Obama on Monday, May 26th said: “the country needs to do more to ensure veterans get the healthcare they need.”

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