Acting director at Phoenix VA hospital Steve Young believes system can be fixed

PHOENIX - Phoenix VA acting director Steven Young started from the bottom and worked his way up.

"I literally started washing dishes in the cafeteria when I was 16 on the weekend."

He said he stands behind a VA system that's now been exposed.

When asked whether the system can be fixed, Young replied, "Absolutely, every large organization has challenges.We are definitely facing challenges right now. But with the right focus, anything can be fixed."

Young, who is currently running the VA facility in Salt Lake City, says he doesn't know if an independent investigation has found any signs of a secret waiting list or patient care misconduct at the Phoenix VA.

He’s waiting for the Office of Inspector General to finish its report.

But a Senate hearing reveals allegations that top VA officials ignored countless reports, each detailing mismanagement of patient schedules and delayed care. This includes a 2010 memo that describes "gaming strategies" to make the numbers look better.

We asked Young if there are opportunities in the current system where people can tweak how things are categorized to help skew the numbers.

"It's easy to make mistakes in the current system and we are anxious to hear if anything deliberate happened," Young replied.

Those mistakes tmay have been made while 40 veterans died while waiting for care.

"It breaks my heart. We who work in service are deeply devoted. To think we might have fallen short is heart breaking and I'm so deeply sorry if we failed any veterans," said Young.

Young is working on a three tiered system that will help with the backlog. He said the Phoenix VA is working on recruiting more doctors and expanding the emergency room with the help of more funding.

The system was already in the works when he started.

This is the fourth time Young has served as acting director at a VA hospital. One stop included a Montana facility while an investigation was conducted into delayed hiring practices.

The Office of Inspector General’s report is expected to be complete this August.

The VA’s internal audit of the entire system is expected to be complete in three weeks.

Sonja Nicastro's husband Ralph died from cancer just over a year ago.

She believes he's one of the veterans who died while waiting for a follow up appointment at the Phoenix VA hospital.

Nicastro watched our interview with Young.

Young said he was here to fix the appointment backlog and get veterans the quality care they need.

"It sounds wonderful, but again, promises need to happen, and they need to go forward as soon as possible," Nicastro said after listening to the interview.

She says she has confidence in Young.

"God bless, and everyone wants him to be successful in his new position," she said.

Nicastro wants other veterans to get the care her husband deserved.

"Let's make Carl Hayden the new shining example, let's raise the bar. Let's start here, since the big scandal started here," she said.

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