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Victims of VA Gridlock

The scandal involving the Veterans Affairs health care system, even the deaths of many veterans, ignited by whistleblower Sam Foote, M.D., has caused a firestorm of controversy and led to dozens of investigations and high-level firings. Here are the faces of those who say they were caught up in the national scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Vicky Olson

The widow of ex-Marine Michael Olson, who died at age 45, says her husband had been trying to get an appointment with the VA for over a year when he succumbed in March to complications of hypertension, obesity and asthma. She says her husband had “fallen through the cracks” at the VA.

Tom Tingle/The Republic

Claude D’Unger

The Army veteran says he has virtually given up on getting help from the Veterans Affairs hospital near his home in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is among veterans who say the VA’s almost impenetrable bureaucracy has become a source of anger and frustration as they deal with health problems.

Eddie Seal/ The New York Times/ Redux

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Phyllis Hollenbeck, M.D.

Working at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Jackson, Miss., Hollenbeck filed a whistleblower complaint over the lack of primary care physicians there. An acute shortage of doctors within the VA system may be at the center of the controversy over falsified patient wait-time data, VA doctors have said.

James Patterson/The New York Times/Redux

Army Sgt. LaQuisha Gallmon

Gallmon, holding 2-month-old Abbagayle at her home in Greenville, S.C., says that her local VA office had authorized her to see a private physician during her pregnancy, so she went to an emergency room after experiencing complications. She says the VA has refused to pay the $700 bill.

Richard Shiro/AP Photo

Walter 'Burgie' Burkhartsmeier

The retired Navy veteran, 73, who did five tours in Vietnam, says he had to wait three months to get an MRI exam at a VA facility in Seattle for shooting pains down his left arm and 18 months for the MRI results to be read. The MRI revealed he had been at risk of paralysis during the time he waited on care. 

Maria L. La Ganga/Los Angeles Times

Army Sgt. Ashley Morris

Serving six months in Baghdad as an operating room technician in a military hospital, Morris returned home traumatized. She says she has had trouble getting comprehensive care at the community-based VA clinic near her home in Albertville, Ala.

Nick Ut/AP Photo

Jose Mathews

The former chief of psychiatry at the Veterans Affairs hospital in St. Louis says in a whistleblower complaint filed last year that he was demoted because of a staff "mutiny" after his efforts to make employees work harder and more efficiently to care for sick veterans.

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

Connie Olberg

Olberg holds a photograph of her brother, Donald Douglass, taken in the 1970s when he was serving in Germany in the U.S. Army. Douglass died of cancer in 2012, and his attorney says a long delay in removing a cancerous spot on his forehead at the Seattle Veterans Affairs hospital contributed to his death.

Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

Marc Schenker

The Air Force veteran opted for private hernia surgery after waiting fruitlessly for months for a booking at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Schenker is among veterans who say that trying to get care through the VA has proved a frustrating and angering experience.

OSCAR HIDALGO/The New York Times/Redux

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