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Veterans Express Concerns Over Appointments at Local VA Facilities

LEEDS, Mass. (WGGB) — Local veterans say long wait times at the VA for medical appointments are unacceptable.

The veterans say they speak from experience.

These veterans are from western Massachusetts and the problems they encountered with wait times occurred at the VA Medical Center in Leeds.

Stephen Kennedy and Bill Morey have a lot in common. They’re both Vietnam War Army veterans, and today, they share another common bond.

They say they’re waiting too long to see doctors at the VA.

Kennedy was recently diagnosed with skin cancer,

“Received the diagnosis back in April by the VA and was told first available surgery was in August is unacceptable,” Kennedy says.

Bill Morey found himself in the same boat, trying to get an appointment with his primary care doctor.

“Recently, about a month ago, had to make an appointment to see my primary doctor in October, which is five months out from the time I received a notification and made the call, and I find that totally unacceptable,” Morey adds.

The VA Medical Center here in Leeds serves veterans from central and western Massachusetts. It helps about 25,000 veterans a year, not only at this facility here, but at five outpatient clinics in the area

The VA says it’s making a concerted effort these days to try and find appointments for veterans within a 14-day time period, but sometimes that’s not possible because they’re aren’t enough doctors available.

“We haves a shortage of physicians. We’re aggressively trying to get more physicians on staff here. Our wait time are not really exorbitant. We’re really good about getting them in the time frames they’re requesting,” explains Amy Gaskill, public affairs officer at the VA in Leeds.

Kennedy and Morey would like to see more funding for the VA, so they could hire more doctors.

“When I entered the service in 1963, we were told at the time, that when you get out of the service, you’ll have the best health care of your lives. Not so, that almost disappeared back in the 80’s and early 90’s and I don’t want it to disappear again, so I want Congress to be aware of what’s going on,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy says that he’s having his skin cancer surgery earlier than August. The VA arranged for him to have the surgery performed outside the VA system later this month, six full weeks ahead of the VA time frame.

By the way, if the VA performed the skin cancer surgery, it would have to be done in Jamaica Plain, not here at the VA in Leeds.

For urgent care, the VA at Leeds says it has an emergency department for treatment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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