Vietnam veteran speaks out about VA wait times

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by Alex Schuman

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 10, 2014 at 12:12 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 10 at 1:12 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – A new internal audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs shows how deep problems are in the Veterans Administration Network and it reaches into locations in Louisville and Fort Knox. 
 
At the Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville, the report finds 595 veterans have been waiting more than three months but also found the VA Hospital did schedule 98-percent of its patients within 30 days.
 
One Vietnam vet gave up and found his own doctor after trying to get into the Fort Knox VA.
 
Volta Amey automatically tells people the origin of his unique name.
 
“It’s French,” he said.
 
But Volta is concerned that in certain ways he is not unique at all.
 
“I spent the whole year of Jan. ’69 to Jan. of ’70 in Vietnam,” Volta said.
 
He served 21 years in the U.S. Army before going to work in local schools.  He retired in 2012. 
 
The veteran then started suffering from aches and pains.
 
"It was one of those things that I thought was just, 'getting old pains,'” he said.
 
"I wanted him to go to a civilian doctor from the beginning,” Alma Amey, Volta’s wife said.  “But he said, 'No. I'm a veteran so I'm gonna go over to the veteran clinic."
 
Without an appointment, Volta decided to walk-in to the V.A. Clinic at Fort Knox in January.  The facility serves 5,100 vets, and is part of the Ireland Army Community Hospital.  Volta ended up waiting four hours before learning he would not be able to see a doctor without an appointment.
 
“The earliest appointment they could make me was in April," he said.
 
Veteran Affairs’ official policy when someone walks in is to assess their condition, and then determine how soon they should see a doctor.  Volta waited four months, and was prescribed medication for his pain without learning the official cause.
 
“The main problem then became - you couldn't just go back,” he said.  “They weren't gonna see you until their next appointment."
 
Volta’s pain got so bad he needed a walker when his wife took him to a civilian doctor.
 
"And that's when they told that I had Stage Four Bone Marrow Cancer," he said.
 
Doctors told Volta the likely cause of his cancer stems from his service in Vietnam.  
 
"During that time I was sprayed twice with Agent Orange that I know of," Volta said.
 
Agent Orange is a toxic chemical used by the United States during the Vietnam War.
 
“I have 39 bone legion fractures in my body,” Volta said.  “And we just found out last that those fractures do not go away."
 
Volta will not heal, but getting the right diagnosis lets doctors prescribe more appropriate medications. 
 
“The pain levels are much better," Amey said.”
 
He no longer consults the V.A. about his cancer at all.
 
“I have never been given any type of appointments that ever made me feel… that I'm being seen to be taken care of,” he said.  “I'm just being put on a schedule so that they can tell you, ‘Here's the next time we can see you.’"
 
"Even if he didn't have the disease,” Amey said.  “Veterans should be better taken care of.  A veteran should feel as though they care."
 
Louisville’s V.A. said they could not comment on a specific patient.  They ask any veterans who feel they are dealing with the same problems as Volta to contact their Patient Advocates Office.  
 
You simply call the Veterans Office, and request to speak with a Patient Advocate.  The position is designed to help patients receive proper care.
 

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