An investigation at a local VA facility isn't a surprise to some local veterans. They say care at Lansing's outpatient clinic has taken a nosedive in recent years.
A longtime veteran and governmental official disagreed with a statement from a VA spokesman saying people sitting at home could be comfortable and confident with the care they're being provided.
"I was quite appalled to see the statement that veterans could be confident in the care they would receive," said Thomas English, a 40-year veteran who will soon retire as a colonel in the Michigan National Guard. "That is simply not true."
When English returned from service in Bosnia in the early 2000s, he was more than happy with the care he received in Lansing. It wasn't until years later, when he came back from Afghanistan that he noticed a big difference.
"I don't believe the doctor's compassion changed or professionalism changed, but it certainly was something readily apparent that the referral system was broken," he said.
Injured in Afghanistan, English never heard back from the VA. Letters to the VA facility in Battle Creek, Mich. went unanswered, he said. In the end, English got private care, paying out of pocket. He was never treated by the VA and never told why.
"I have spoken with people within the VA system, care coordinators, who have advised me that my situation is not an uncommon situation," English said.
VA Spokesman Damian McGee responded Tuesday, saying appointments do occasionally get missed and patients will get overlooked once in a while.
"The VA is not a perfect system," he said. "[But] in Battle Creek and at our outpatient clinics, we are confident in the people we have on staff and we are confident in the care we provide. That does not mean we do not make mistakes."
English isn't saying the VA's employees don't care.
"This is a wonderful system," he said. "There are wonderful employees throughout the VA healthcare system, compassionate, caring who want to do right by veterans. But there's apparently something going on that's interfering with their ability to give that care."
Lansing's outpatient facility was one of three in the state flagged by the VA. The department will take a closer look at some point. But the local VA hasn't been told when or how the investigation will take place.