American Veterans Take Complaints To VA Officials 


Frustration and long wait times have been an ongoing issue with American Veterans returning home and seeking aid and benefits from the VA. Vets recently reached out to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials for guidance.

Vietnam vet Ronnie Thomas of Rensselaer has more than $25,000 in hospital and doctors bills but “the VA refuses to pay.” He’s been working with a patient advocate since late March to work out thousands of dollars in medical bills, but said that has also been frustrating.

“My credit is ruined,” he said. “No one seems to care.”

Thomas was one of more than 100 veterans and their family members who filled Sycamore Hall at Woodland Park in Portage for a meeting with VA officials, put on by the city’s veterans advisory committee. One of the issues covered was the inability to reach anyone by phone, to voice concerns or issues.

Jim McLain, acting director of the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, apologized to the vets and their families, said the phone system is more than 20 years old and can’t handle the volume of calls it receives. The VA is going to a centralized call center and other improvements to help its clients.

Similar town hall style meetings have been organized in other parts of the country. In the Green Bay area the VA held its first town hall meeting at the Milo C. Huempfner clinic.

About two dozen veterans filled a conference room at the VA’s outpatient clinic in Green Bay to voice their opinions directly to VA leadership from Milwaukee. The Milwaukee VA oversees the Green Bay clinic.

“I felt it was a travesty that they’re not taking care of the veterans coming through this door with an MRI machine. This is simple. It comes down to budget and we need to do something about the budget so they can afford to have it here,” said Randy Matuszak, US Army Veteran who served in Vietnam.

Dr. Dan Zomchek, the new director of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, fielded questions and comments for more than two hours.

“We are really working diligently to hire more of our physicians to be able to provide more deep services here,” Zomchek said.

While the VA may not be able to solve any problems overnight, veterans here say having an event like this is a step in the right direction.

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