published Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Veterans complain about care at Memphis VA center

Army veteran Will Menton, who was awarded a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam, sits with fellow veterans as they wait their turn to voice their grievances with the VA on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. A crowd of veterans gathered at the Benjamin L Hooks Library to have their testimonials recorded during a meeting arranged by Rep. G.A. Hardaway.
Army veteran Will Menton, who was awarded a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam, sits with fellow veterans as they wait their turn to voice their grievances with the VA on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. A crowd of veterans gathered at the Benjamin L Hooks Library to have their testimonials recorded during a meeting arranged by Rep. G.A. Hardaway.
Photo by The Commercial Appeal /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

MEMPHIS — Dozens of veterans are complaining about the Memphis VA Medical Center.

The Commercial Appeal reports the complaints were voiced Tuesday during a town hall meeting organized by state Rep. G.A. Hardaway and attended by about 60 veterans and their family members.

The meeting comes after a report last year by the inspector general's office, which found three patients died at the hospital due to inadequate care. Last week, Tennessee's two U.S. senators requested an update on changes at the facility.

At the meeting, Vietnam veteran Randy Wade asked how many were dissatisfied with the care at the center, and nearly everyone stood. Those in wheelchairs raised their hands.

"Ninety-nine percent are unhappy," Wade said about the veterans who attended the meeting at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

Veterans' complaints were videoed and Hardaway said the recording would be sent to federal authorities. Hardaway says he hopes the complaints spur action.

"We expect accountability," he said. "We expect to motivate the federal government with either shame or blame."

Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, who attended the meeting, said she was "stunned" by the outcry.

"You can't really understand the level of disappointment until you see the people here at these meetings," she said.

Hardaway suggested that some local resources could be reallocated to help alleviate the problem, but he said a bigger solution is needed.

"The primary resources for veterans come from the federal government. Federal officials, like congressmen, should be the ones looking into these problems," Hardaway said. "Why is a state representative doing the work of a congressman? I'm disappointed — not saying any names — that I had to be the one who had to hold this meeting."

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