Douglas Chase was diagnosed with the tumor in 2011. A year later, his wife, Suzanne, wanted to move his medical care to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Bedford, which was more convenient to their home, WBZ –TV reported.
“It was so difficult for him to take the ambulance ride into Boston, we wanted to be closer,” Suzanne Chase said.
The couple waited about four months, but didn’t hear anything back from the hospital. Douglas Chase died in August 2012, without ever getting a response to the request.
Almost two years later, the VA finally notified her husband in a letter that he could make an appointment with a primary care doctor.
“It was addressed to my husband and I opened it,” she told the station. “I was in complete disbelief.”
The letter, dated June 12, reads: “We are committed to providing primary care in a timely manner and would greatly appreciate a prompt response.”
Chase said she couldn’t believe it.
“I was like you have to be kidding, right,” she recalled. “It was 22 months too late, I kind of thought I was in the twilight zone when I opened this letter and read it.”
According to Suzanne, the VA had to have known that her husband was dead because she applied for funeral benefits two years ago, but was denied.
The reasoning behind their denial was that her husband never received treatment at a VA hospital.
“It is absurd,” said Chase. “It made me angry because I just don’t think our veterans should be treated this way.”
She wrote a letter to the Bedford VA two weeks ago voicing her disgust, but was once again met with no response.
“I am hoping if other people speak out, they can improve the system, so no one else dies waiting for an appointment,” she added.
When WBZ reached out to the VA for comment, their media spokesperson’s initial response was simply, “Oh dear.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs ultimately issued a statement with an explanation and apology.
“We regret any distress our actions caused to the Veteran’s widow and family,” the statement said.
“Thank you for bringing this regrettable issue to our attention. We apologize for our error and any difficulties this has caused you. We will examine our process, do what we can to fix it, and institute measures to prevent this from happening again.
“As part of the corrective actions taken to address scheduling issues, VA launched the Accelerating Access to Care Initiative, a nationwide program to ensure timely access to care. VA has identified Veterans across the system experiencing waits that do not meet Veterans’ expectations for timeliness. VA has been contacting and scheduling Veterans who are waiting for care. We regret causing any pain in this effort.”
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