President Obama has sent the head of the VA to Capitol Hill, and his Deputy-Chief-of-Staff to Phoenix in an attempt to find the problems surrounding the department's medical facilities. Government investigators are looking into 26 VA facilities where allegations of secret waiting lists and delayed treatment may have led to veteran deaths. Despite the negative publicity, the director of the VA Sioux Falls Health System said that facility does not have the same problems.
"Our veterans' are vocal. If they need something, or aren't getting something they need, they communicate with their representatives or with me, so I hear about things when there are issues," Darwin Goodspeed said.
Goodspeed plans to address veterans service organizations and South Dakota's congressional delegation, to reassure them the facility in Sioux Falls is running just fine. A veteran with the Disabled American Veterans organization agrees. Ken Laughlin spent more than 30 years in the navy, and pointed out why his time is so memorable.
"I have a back injury; my knee was pretty well destroyed while I was in the service. I have some foot injuries. Ringing in the ears," Laughlin said.
Laughlin has turned to Sioux Falls' VA hospital a number of times. He said he typically gets in right away. He admits, sometimes, there can be a wait, but he is quick to point out that it is never too bad.
"I'll give you an example. The orthopedics. Normally if I call them up and ask for an appointment, it might take three weeks - 25 days, or so. Which is still a far cry from two to three years like some have been talking about," Laughlin said.
Goodspeed said the facility closely monitors wait times and other day to day operations, and also said the medical professionals work hard to get everyone in as soon as possible.
"If someone is calling for a routine check-up, or someone calls and says I have chest pain, there's a very different priority for how you react to those. But we do strive to get our vets in in a timely manner," Goodspeed said.
Goodspeed said we'll have to wait and see what the national investigation turns up. As for Laughlin, he said he will not forget how Sioux Falls' VA Health System, and the staff, have helped him. He also said, as a whole, the entire system works well.
"You don't hear a lot about those individuals. You just basically hear about the bad apples," Laughlin said.