2 months later, not much has changed at Phoenix VA
Editor’s Note: Since the original story aired, KTAR has learned Adam Hughes did have a doctor in 2008 and has not seen a doctor since. He also now has an appointment scheduled for Monday, June 30.
PHOENIX — The Veterans Affairs scandal hit the headlines back in April and two months later, not much appears to have changed.
Committees have held hearings, the directors of the Phoenix VA have been ousted and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned, but those changes haven’t had an immediate impact.
Valley resident Adam Hughes hasn’t been able to get an appointment in recent years.
Hughes, 33, is single and childless. When he’s not working his two part-time jobs and getting his teaching degree, he spends his time in Scottsdale with Black Dog, his beloved canine.
He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and looking for healthcare.
“I have been working with them (the VA) in a lengthy process to try to get healthcare. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful,” Hughes said. “I’m eligible, but I cannot see a provider.”
Hughes said he’s on a wait list for just an initial visit to get into the VA hospital system.
“If you are in the system, you’re able to have a healthcare provider, you are given a clinic and a doctor to report to,” he explained.
Hughes claimed the VA continued to cancel his appointments. Originally, even as recently as this week.
“It’s (the appointment) scheduled for 30 days out and when two or three weeks arrives past the date I scheduled it, I get a confirmation letter in the mail saying my appointment has been cancelled,” he said.
The letters would also tell him they are unable to reschedule his appointment at that time. Every time he’s made another appointment, he receives another cancellation; a cycle that does not seem to be ending anytime soon.
Over the past five years, he’s tried the scheduling and rescheduling process about eight times. He even called the eligibility department of the VA to make sure he was, in fact, eligible. He was told he was.
“They (the hospital) put you in the system, you got an appointment and then it gets turned over to eligibility,” he explained. “For the past five years, eligibility has been responsible for taking me off and not rescheduling appointments.”
The VA tells veterans to visit the emergency room if they need care and aren’t scheduled to see a doctor.
Last Fourth of July, Hughes smashed his thumb while doing some construction work. He opted to make the drive to the Phoenix VA emergency room.
“I sit there for six hours, nothing,” he recounted. “The emergency room was dead…I was pretty much the only one waiting for a doctor.”
In all, he waited eight hours before heading home, having never seen a doctor.
He then decided to conduct an experiment. He called the VA hospital the morning of July 5 and told the operator he was suffering from PTSD and might kill himself. She voiced her concern and urged him to call the crisis hotline number.
Hughes pushed back, begging to speak to a doctor. She asked him to “hold on the line for one minute.”
He hung up after 30 minutes of waiting.
Hughes said he wouldn’t necessarily mind getting bumped from his appointments for veterans who needed more help than he does, but he doesn’t believe that is happening. And as the weeks and months roll on, Hughes’ desire for a doctor increases.
“There are some things that I do want a doctor to take his time to maybe look through my medical records, my history,” he revealed. “Is it a form of PTSD, is it a slight form of PTSD? I can’t really rule it out.”