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Victims of VA Gridlock

Faces of the people who say they were caught up in the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs

  • veterans failed by the VA, Vicky Olson, crying, American flag
    Tom Tingle/The Republic

    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.

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  • veterans failed by the VA, Claude D'Unger, oxygen machine
    Eddie Seal/ The New York Times/ Redux

    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.

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  • veterans failed by the VA, Phyllis Hollenbeck, M.D., Jackson, Mississippi
    James Patterson/The New York Times/Redux

    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.

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  • Veterans Health Care, veterans failed by the VA, LaQuisha Gallmon
    Richard Shiro/AP Photo

    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.

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  • Veterans failed by the VA, Walter Burkhartsmeier, Teak model ships
    Maria L. La Ganga/Los Angeles Times

    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. 

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  • Veterans Health Care, Veterans failed by the VA, Ashley Morris, Chatsworth, Calif.
    Nick Ut/AP Photo

    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.

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  • Veterans Psychiatric Care, Veterans failed by the VA, Jose Mathews, Whistleblower complaint
    Jeff Roberson/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.

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  • Veterans Health Care, Seattle, Veterans failed by the VA, Connie Olberg
    Ted S. Warren/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.

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  • Veterans failed by the VA, Marc Schenker, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    OSCAR HIDALGO/The New York Times/Redux

    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.

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  • AARP Baby Boomers (Sean McCabe)
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