Local service members speak out on VA issues

Spark Matsunaga VA Medical Center

Earlier this week, a government audit revealed Hawaii veterans have the longest wait times in the nation when it comes to seeing a doctor for the first time.

Lawmakers wasted no time voicing their concerns and frustrations. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard even called for the resignation of Hawaii’s Veterans Affairs director.

We wanted to know what veterans and current military members think about the VA system. So we spoke to some of them at a military appreciation event.

Butch Finley is retired after serving 25 years in Army. He’s been waiting about two months just to get checked out for a hearing aid.

“All in all, it’s been bureaucratic, but ok ’cause I didn’t have an urgent need. So it wasn’t like I was waiting to see a doctor right now. For me, it’s been ok,” said Finley, a retired lieutenant colonel.

But Finley realizes other veterans are struggling when it comes to getting care.

“If you need care, you need care,” Finley said. “Your body doesn’t work on a bureaucratic timetable.”

Some of the veterans we talked to say things at the VA have definitely changed over the years.

“Well, I’m one of the Vietnam veterans, so my experience initially post-Vietnam era and once I retired from the military had been excellent. I hadn’t any problems whatsoever,” said Ret. Army Chief Warrant Officer Leonard Duvall said. “We had some wait times back in those days, but it wasn’t as long as what the veterans are going through now.”

Some current service members are hopeful that the problems at the VA will get sorted out before they leave the military.

“One day, you’re going to retire, too. So are you concerned at all with the system?” KHON2 asked.

“I’m not. I’m not. That’s not one of my worries right now. So I think the system gonna fix, like I said. And those who gonna retire, they’re gonna get the care they need,” said Army Staff Sgt. David Bazi said.

Lawmakers are working on measures that would allow veterans to see private providers if they face long wait times at VA facilities. They’ll need to reach an agreement before sending a final bill to President Obama for signing.

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