Area veterans and politicians discuss veteran health care - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Area veterans and politicians discuss veteran health care

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Don Oldenburg of Weston is an Army veteran, who served 22 years active duty and in the reserves.

But he says he's also served time in the doctor's waiting room.

A few months ago, he went to receive care for a torn rotator cuff at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah.

"I was in so much pain," said Oldenburg. "I didn't know what to feel. I just felt very frustrated."

He says it took a month to see a doctor and another month to get an MRI.

Then doctors told him it would be another six weeks of therapy before he could get on a six month waiting list for surgery.

"I feel because the system is so slow that I got a little bit bullied and as far as taking care of my health I feel abused," said Oldenburg.

Tomah VA Medical Center Public Affairs Officer Scott Farley says he can't comment on individual cases.

But he says a recent audit of Veterans Affairs facilities shows Tomah ranks the best in care compared to other VAs in the state.

"We have patient advocates who make sure the needs of our veterans are met ... and we really do take a lot of pride in taking care of veterans," said Farley.

But according to the audit, other facilities across the country are struggling.

The report says more than 57,000 veterans went 90 days or longer without having medical check-ups after a making an initial appointment.

VA Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson responded to the audit in a statement saying, "[The audit] shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions."

Area veterans discussed their concerns at a round table discussion hosted by area politicians.

Former Congressman (D) Dave Obey says the responsibility lies on the government to fix the problem.

"It's another thing to recognize that the human cost is just as important and meeting that ought to be top of the list," said Obey.

Oldenburg says he had his surgery at a civilian hospital by using his medicare.

But he says he's still concerned for other veterans.

"I just want people to get a fair shake at getting decent health," said Oldenburg.

Veterans say they hope the government becomes more involved to help improve struggling VA health centers.

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