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Cleveland VA is A-OK

Russell Walker | 6/11/2014, 10:06 a.m.

Cleveland VA workers aren’t holding their breath in hopes to be rescued by the saving graces of the Pope… Olivia that is. According to patients, the PR nightmare that’s haunting VA medical centers around the country stirring up a scandal that’s worthy of a “Law & Order” reenactment more than likely won’t have Cleveland’s name on the raised eyebrow list.

Waiting too long to get the medical care he needs, or worse, being completely forgotten in a flurry of bureaucratic red tape, is something Cleveland veteran M.T. Fuller has never had to worry about for as long as he’s been going to the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center.

“I’ve been coming here for years now,” said Fuller, 57. “I got out of the service in 1977 and been traveling around back and forth…from Cleveland and I never had no problem out of this VA or any VA in any other states.”

Likewise for Douglas Lee, 65, of Akron, who also has high praise for the center since he started going there last year for his treatments.

“I’ve been getting cancer treatments and it’s been good,” said Lee. “It’s been great here for me.”

In fact, for the most part, local veterans are generally describing the service they receive at the Louis Stokes center in generally positive terms, even as the National Department of Veteran Affairs is in the midst of a scandal over poor treatment of veterans at other VA centers in other states.

Among other things, government officials at the Phoenix-based VA center that sparked the controversy are accused of falsifying data to hide how long veterans were waiting to see doctors, putting about 1,700 veterans seeking help “at risk” of either being forgotten or lost in the system, say federal investigators. There are reports of about 40 patients dying while waiting to get medical attention.

Investigators say that officials manipulated the data to make it seem like veterans were waiting shorter periods to see their doctors than they actually were in order to meet performance goals. Those employees who made their goals received raises and performance bonuses.

Fallout from the scandal has already led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and calls for an internal audit of all VA centers across the country to determine the scope of the problem.

But, what may be an issue at other VA centers is not so for the Louis Stokes center, which hasn’t had a problem with patients waiting too long for help.

“Our most important mission is to make sure Veterans know the Cleveland VA Medical Center is here to care for them and provide the high quality care and benefits they have earned and deserve,” said Ashely Trimble, Public Affairs Officer for the VAMC.

“We are committed, each and every day, to providing timely access to care for 110,000 Veterans at our 17 locations throughout Northeast Ohio.”

In order to make sure patients are seen in a timely fashion, the Stokes VAMC has a system in place that monitors wait times for the two million appointments it schedules each year.

Called the Accelerating Care Initiative, the measure is designed to help “maximize” their ability to see veterans in a timely fashion and – in cases where there could be delays – veterans have the option to seek help outside the VA.

“In light of the national issues, we have been meeting with local Veteran Service Organizations and all Stakeholders to ensure they understand our local processes,” said Trimble. “We will continue to maintain open and transparent communication to ensure the trust of our Nation’s Heroes and welcome any feedback.”