VA clinics continue to manage after scandal

By WEEK Producer

July 1, 2014 Updated Jul 2, 2014 at 10:06 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Seventeenth District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is getting a firsthand look at local VA clinics in the wake of the Veterans Affairs scandal.

Bustos toured the Bob Michel VA clinic in Peoria earlier today.

Last month the clinic was added to the list of VA facilities under investigation. The allegations involve long delays for veterans waiting to get care, and in some cases they were never put on waiting lists.

During her visit to the Peoria VA clinic, Bustos addressed the issue with veterans there.

"I walk away from here after talking with the veterans feeling better than I did walking into it,” said Bustos. “The patients, at least the ones I talked with, feel like they are receiving good care."

Bustos says she is continuing to monitor the VA clinics across the region.

Vietnam veteran Steven Ziegele and his wife Peggy moved back to Central Illinois from Arizona over a year ago.

Ziegele, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, says the difference in care at the VA clinics is like day and night.

“I went to a Mesa Sub Clinic but at times I'd have to go to Phoenix to get tests and it would take all day whenever you had an appointment. They acted like they didn't care,” said Ziegele.

Ziegele says he gets in at the Bob Michel VA clinic within two weeks of scheduling an appointment. Recently, the Bob Michel VA clinic instituted an electric waiting list as standard practice for scheduling patients.

Dr. Dexter Hazlewood says it wasn't used before because scheduling patient visits never exceeded 90 days.

"Since that is something that has been recognized across the country as a deficiency at many VA's, we have implemented some education programs," said Dr. Hazlewood of the Bob Michel VA Clinic.

Despite the national VA scandal, one of the medical director here at the Peoria Clinic says their polices and practices have been innovative.

One includes the Tele Medicine Clinics. Veterans who have had treatment out of town can do follow up at the Peoria clinic via tele-conference with their specialist, and now eye care, in addition to other services, are available to veterans.

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