Veterans issues take center stage

A recent scandal following the death of more than 40 U.S. military veterans awaiting care in a Phoenix clinic has brought veteran needs to the attention of 23rd Congressional district candidates Tom Reed and Martha Robertson.

On Wednesday, a press release from the office of Reed, R-Corning, criticized the Veterans Administration and its Democratic supporters shortly after a report revealed a list of veterans waiting to receive care in Phoenix had never been scheduled for appointments.

While the delay caused 40 deaths, thousands of other appointments were never scheduled, leaving many to question the practices of other veteran care centers across the nation.

“The scandal has been chipping away at the administration, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Democrats that have supported the administration at every turn,” stated Reed’s release. “Most Democratic candidates have chosen to remain silent while the short end of the fuse continues to burn during Congressional hearings and reviews into the matter.”

Reed’s next subject of censure was Robertson, his Democratic opponent for District 23.

“Robertson appears to have no opinion on an issue that will affect thousands in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes,” stated the press release.

According to Reed’s party, he called officials at Buffalo, Bath and Syracuse VA facilities to demand accountability after the Phoenix scandal broke.

Robertson blamed Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki for the scandal, who resigned Friday.

“Rather than politicizing these serious problems at the VA, Congressman Tom Reed should stop voting to slash funding for the VA and for our veterans’ mental health services, suicide prevention and prosthetic research,” Robertson said.

Furthermore, she said more must be done to provide veterans with appropriate and accessible job training, housing and other support services, and make sure the VA has the resources it needs to provide the best quality services.

“I take the care of our veterans very seriously,” Reed said. “We must do everything possible for these brave men and women by providing the best care and service possible. That’s why I created a position in my office that specializes in veteran casework for all of our local heroes past and present. This administration must be held accountable for what has happened in Phoenix and we must have an immediate investigation into the entire system.”


Gary Chilcott, director of veteran services in Chautauqua County, estimates there are 12,000 veterans countywide.

Health issues are of particular concern for veterans, he said.

“From a health standpoint, I’m going to say the older the veteran, the more medical attention is needed,” he said, adding that many Chautauqua County veterans fought in the Vietnam War.

Veteran clinics are located in both Jamestown, Dunkirk and Warren, Pa., with major VA hospitals in Erie, Pa., and Buffalo.

Of the Phoenix scandal, Chilcott said it was tragic, but veterans awaiting care in Buffalo often experience the same delay.

“I think our veterans wait too long for treatment, and sometimes that aggravates their problems,” he said. “That is not a reflection on our Jamestown or Dunkirk clinics. They’re minimally staffed but they do a really good job with appointments, and when I ask our veterans how they’re being treated, the general response is that they’re satisfied.”

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