Vet congressman says he got poor treatment from VA

Vet congressman says he got poor treatment from VA
© Courtesy of Seth Moulton

When former Marine and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (D) visited a VA hospital in Washington, D.C., it took the front desk more than 30 minutes to prove he was a veteran. 

In addition, he did not receive medication he was prescribed and spent hours in pain after a surgery, according to an interview on NPR Tuesday.

"I went to the VA, showed up and checked in at the front desk, and about 30 minutes later, they told me that they had no record of me. They couldn't prove that I was a veteran. But they would consider taking me as a humanitarian case," he said. 

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Moulton, a freshman congressman who served four tours in Iraq, had promised his constituents he would continue to receive care from the VA and visited the hospital just before his swearing in for a hernia he suffered after weightlifting. 

He said he did not identify himself as a member of Congress, since he was just going there as a veteran. Moulton said he didn't have his VA card on him, but had his license and social security number. 

"More than enough things to put into their computer system, supposedly the world-renowned VA computerized medical records system," he said. 

Moulton suggested that the front desk employees call the VA hospital in Boston, where he had previously received care. After eventually getting through, the Boston VA said it would fax something down. 

He said employees in D.C. then questioned aloud whether their fax machine even worked. In addition, he said veterans in the waiting room next to him had been waiting there for "hours."

After a surgery, he was prescribed the powerful painkiller Percocet, as well as Advil. However, after he was sent home with medication, he discovered he had just been given Advil. 

"And so I opened up the bottle and took a pill. And sometime later, it was still hurting an awful lot, and so I went back for a second one and realized that I didn't have Percocet. I just had ordinary Advil. Of course, the pharmacy was closed at that point, so I was out of luck," he said. 

He added, "If that's the care they're giving to a United States congressman, you can imagine what the average veteran is getting at many of the VA facilities across the country." 

The agency came under heavy scrutiny last summer, after CNN reported that dozens of veterans had died while awaiting care, and employees were found to have hidden months-long wait times for a first appointment. 

The scandal led to the resignation of its secretary, retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, and reform efforts by Congress.  

Moulton said he has proposed a package of four bills to improve the quality of the workforce at the VA. They focus on recruiting new talent and investing in existing employees. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs later sent NPR a statement saying the VA "seeks constructive feedback from all of its stakeholders as we work to improve the delivery of care and services to our veterans."

"We believe we have made progress, but there is more work to do," it added.