PHOENIX — The group Concerned Veterans for America is demanding transparency from the Veterans Healthcare Administration after millions of canceled doctors' appointments, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Veterans' advocates say many of these appointments were for veterans struggling with PTSD, and advocates want to make sure they are reconnected to services as soon as possible.
Sam Rogers, with Concerned Veterans for America, said their organization has been hearing from many veterans who are complaining about long wait times to get an appointment. They are also hearing concerns about VA officials not providing referrals for veterans in a timely manner, as required by the VA Mission Act.
Rogers was an interrogator who worked for the United States Army. He served two deployments in Afghanistan, then the third one as an intelligence officer for the Army.
Rogers said over time he has lost many of his comrades to war, not only on the battlefield but also after coming home to the United States.
"Still to this day, every month, there are folks from that deployment, from that unit who, who die of suicide," said Rogers.
He believes many of these deaths could have been avoided with proper care and timely treatment. The chaos ensuing in Afghanistan right now is a trigger for many veterans, so Rogers worries about fellow veterans who are being impacted by the images they were now seeing in the media.
"You have to tell yourself, it's not your fault, but you know many of them feel a certain way like you know, maybe I didn't fight hard enough, maybe I didn't bleed enough. Maybe I didn't sweat enough," said Sam Rogers, an Afghan war veteran with the group Concerned Veterans for America.
Rogers said his organization has been calling on the VA to tell them how they plan to reconnect veterans to services in light of the pandemic cancellations. They especially want the VA to give them numbers, showing how many veterans were now, back on track to see their doctors.
"The VA canceled something like 19 plus million appointments, and they will not tell us how many of those veterans they've reconnected to services," said Rogers.
Advocates worry this could start to build up into another waitlist scandal.
In May 2021, ABC15, first told you about an internal audit released by the Office of Inspector General, looking into concerns and wait times at the Phoenix VA.
The audit highlighted the case of a veteran struggling with PTSD. This veteran, who was not named in the report, allegedly got the run around from multiple VA staff members, while pleading to get an appointment.
ABC15 reached out to the VA regarding that audit and was told, the hospital was making all the changes outlined in the report.
A VA spokeswoman also said the Phoenix VA healthcare system offered same-day mental healthcare services at their main facility and each of their community-based outpatient clinics.
Advocates with Concerned Veterans for America say that still did not answer their question.
"I want to know how many of those veterans have been reconnected to their healthcare services, whether in the VA or outside of the VA," said Rogers.
To read more about the organization's efforts to get answers from the VA, visit the Concerned Veterans for America website.