Veteran, Dead for 2 Years, Gets Letter From VA to Make Appointment

Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 11:10 AM

By John Blosser

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Nearly two years after a Massachusetts Vietnam veteran suffering from melanoma and bladder cancer contacted the Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Bedford for help, a letter came to schedule an appointment.

But Douglas Chase had died in August 2012, WBZ-TV in Boston reported.

His widow, Suzanne Chase, opened the letter from the VA, which stated, "We are committed to providing primary care in a timely manner and would greatly appreciate a prompt response." She contacted WBZ.

When WBZ contacted the VA, the first words from the press spokesman for the hospital were, "Oh dear."

"It’s absurd," Chase said. "It made me very angry because I just don’t feel like our veterans deserve to be treated this way."

The incident highlights recent findings in a White House study, which concluded, "A corrosive culture has led to personnel problems across the department that are seriously impacting morale and, by extension, the timeliness of healthcare."

The VA hospital controversy brought about the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. President Barack Obama nominated West Point graduate and former Army Capt. Robert McDonald, onetime CEO of Procter & Gamble, to replace Shinseki..

Chase was among the more than 100,000 veterans the VA discovered had been forced to wait 90 days or more for an appointment.

"I was in complete disbelief," Chase told WBZ. "I kind of felt like I was in the twilight zone. You’ve got to be kidding – right?"

The VA responded with a statement, saying, "We regret any distress our actions caused to the veteran’s widow and family. The acting director called the veteran’s widow to apologize," but Chase said she never received the call.

Chase told WBZ the VA had to be aware that her husband was dead  because she had applied for funeral benefits months after he died but was denied, on the grounds that he had never been treated in a VA hospital.

"It’s such a disrespectful thing, not being able to care for those putting their lives at risk," Chase said.

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