LITTLE VALLEY – The secret waiting lists and shoddy care that have put Veterans Administration hospitals around the country in the spotlight have little to do with the Cattaraugus County facility, according to County Veteran Services Director Steve McCord.
“Please give us a chance to earn your faith and trust,” he said. “So many have the feeling of being cheated or slighted. In this area, we are not like that. Come back and give us a chance to show you what we are able to do.”
McCord said veterans who come to his office for help are told exactly what they can expect, and that it is not going to be a quick process. The goal, across the board for VA facilities, is to handle a case from start to finish in about 125 days. Right now, because of the work load, McCord said the average time is about 354 days.
That problem, he said, stems not from any situation at the hospital, but is tied more to the regional facility.
“New York State has only two regional facilities,” he said. “One in Buffalo, to handle 31 counties in the state, and the other in New York City to handle the rest.”
As for the care received by veterans using the Buffalo facility and the Olean clinic, McCord said, about 99 percent of the time they are seen in about a month. If the medical situation is more pressing, personnel at the VA hospital will recommend a trip to the local emergency room.
“If it is a VA counselor that recommends that course of action, VA will pay for the visit,” McCord said.
Some veterans are not mobile and able to make it to the clinic or to the hospitals in Buffalo or Bath.
“We are fortunate to have a van service that can pick up the veterans and take them to their appointments,” he said. “We have specific runs and can get them where they need to go.”
As for enrollment for VA medical benefits, McCord said many vets are under the false assumption that since they enrolled several years ago they are still active in the system. That is not true.
“You have to make a visit to the VA, either hospital or clinic, once a year to remain active,” he said. “If you do not, you are purged from their records and have to re-enroll.”
Overall, McCord said, the scandals and reports that have come out about the VA hospitals are not affecting those in Cattaraugus County.
“What we have seen in Phoenix and other places, in terms of secret lists and the like, are not affecting us here. We are still giving the best care we can to those that gave their service to our nation,” McCord said.