Outrageous 'Pushed Aside Like an Animal': Vet Dies While Unable to Get Care Through VA
There are alarming new reports this week about how difficult it has become for veterans to receive medical care from VA hospitals. Reports indicated at least 40 veterans died while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, prompting calls for an investigation and Senate hearings from the state's two senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.
A former doctor alleges that senior management kept a secret waiting list in order to conceal the fact that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor.
An Arizona woman spoke out this morning on Fox and Friends, questioning whether the alleged secret list may have played a role in the death of her father-in-law. Thomas Breen, 71, was taken to the ER last September and told by VA doctors to see a primary care physician immediately.
Despite blood in his urine and a history of cancer in the family, Breen was forced to wait for care. He ended up not being able to get an appointment despite numerous calls to the VA center, and passed away a few months later of Stage 4 bladder cancer.
His story was highlighted by CNN in their report on the alleged secret list:
In the case of 71-year-old Navy veteran Thomas Breen, the wait on the secret list ended much sooner.
"We had noticed that he started to have bleeding in his urine," said Teddy Barnes-Breen, his son. "So I was like, 'Listen, we gotta get you to the doctor.' "
Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait.
"They wrote on his chart that it was urgent," said Sally, her father-in-law's main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the "urgency" as "one week" for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine.
"And they sent him home," says Teddy, incredulously.
Sally and Teddy say Thomas Breen was given an appointment with a rheumatologist to look at his prosthetic leg but was given no appointment for the main reason he went in.
The Breens wait ... and wait ... and wait ...
No one called from the VA with a primary care appointment. Sally says she and her father-in-law called "numerous times" in an effort to try to get an urgent appointment for him. She says the response they got was less than helpful.
"Well, you know, we have other patients that are critical as well," Sally says she was told. "It's a seven-month waiting list. And you're gonna have to have patience."
Sally says she kept calling, day after day, from late September to October. She kept up the calls through November. But then she no longer had reason to call.
Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Months after the initial visit, Sally says she finally did get a call.
Sally Barnes-Breen said this morning she was "devastated" when she heard the news reports in recent days. She believes the VA doctors didn't care about her father-in-law because of his age.
"They pushed him aside like an animal," she told Elisabeth Hasselbeck, adding that the Navy veteran's life could have been saved if the ER doctors had just run some initial tests.
Later on in the show, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. discussed the "national outrage" with Steve Doocy, questioning why Americans will sign up to serve in the future when they see how our vets are being treated.
"This is the predictor of our national future. If we can't take care of our older veterans, what will we do in the future? And what motivation will Americans have to fight for this country when we treat our veterans like animals, as this family has been exposed to?" asked Johnson.
So what will happen next?
Johnson said the House and Senate will conduct investigations into the deaths, and VA Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki must be called before Congress. He called for criminal prosecutions if the secret lists are confirmed, also predicting a flurry of civil lawsuits from veteran's families.
"It goes beyond Attorney General Holder. This is something President Obama needs to address today!" said Johnson.
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Watch Johnson's analysis below: