Phoenix VA scandal: Town hall addresses veterans' concerns

PHOENIX - More than 100 veterans gathered at a town hall at the Phoenix VA Wednesday to voice their concerns over the reported lack of care for Valley veterans.

RELATED: Phoenix VA under fire in healthcare scandal

It’s one of the first meetings required by all VA hospitals by the new Secretary Robert McDonald.

This meeting addressed claims.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released  numbers saying they’ve changed the system allowing them to drop their backlog in claims by 55 percent.

But one Valley woman doesn’t believe that.

Sonja Nicastro’s husband was a Vietnam veteran. He died in March of cancer. Nicastro believes her husband is one of the 40 who died waiting for care from the Phoenix VA.

RELATED: Valley family says veteran left behind journal of VA troubles before his death

She says just weeks after her husband died, she received a letter saying appointment times were available.

“It was two years too late,” said Nicastro.

And when Nicastro checked the mail this weekend, she experienced déjà vu.

She received another letter from the VA claims department in response to a request for medical assistance for a service-related condition.

The letter asked her to provide medical documents to support that her husband needed help.

“I thought it was some sick joke. He’s dead,” said Nicastro.

Director of the Regional Offices of the Phoenix VA Sandra Flint says their goal is to process claims on time.

“I’m so sorry for her loss. I don’t know all the details of her case. We try to process claims in a timely fashion. Clearly, we did not do that with her,” said Flint.

Flint said 8,200 claims are now pending at the Phoenix VA regional office. Of those, she said 3,667 are backlogged and 6,000 total are being appealed.

She said the wait time for claims has gone down to 145 days since March. At its peak it reached 300 days.

"We don't come here to do a poor job," Flint said.

The Phoenix VA plans to hold another town hall meeting next Friday.

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