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Prescott VA hospital flagged, crisis center to open in valley

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - One Veterans Affairs Department facility in Prescott has been flagged for further review following a nationwide audit of the agency's troubled appointment process.

The audit of 731 VA hospitals and clinics found that a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given increasing demand for health care. The VA said Monday it was abandoning the scheduling goal.

The audit is the first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar after reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups within the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

The report found that new patients were waiting an average of roughly 55 days for appointments with primary care doctors in Phoenix. New Patients in northern Arizona were waiting an average of about 60 days.

All of this is shedding more light on the problems plaguing the VA. On Monday night, a town hall meeting was held in downtown Phoenix to give veterans a chance to voice their concerns.

At historic American Legion Post 1, the scandal at the VA is what everybody is talking about.

"Well, most of the members I have talked to are really concerned about the time it takes to get an appointment.. usually it is quite long," said Dennis Pogue, Interim Commander of American Legion Post 1.

There is a very long tradition of proud service to country here and the lack of VA service to veterans is viewed as a profound breach of trust.

"I am really disappointed and mad.  Yes, I am mad because there is no telling how many people have suffered and died because of this and I think that is just unacceptable from any point of view," said a woman at Post 1.

Now, help is on the way, albeit belatedly.  There's a VA office on wheels to counsel veterans in need and the Post's Interim Commander says it's a good move.

"Well, my experience with the government since I am retired from it is nothing moves quick pace, but once problem is addressed, it is that much closer to being solved," said Pogue.

A team of experts will be at American Legion Post 1 Tuesday through Friday to help veterans and family members affect by the VA scandal.

Crisis center director Verna Jones encourages veterans to bring any paperwork they have from the VA, otherwise or show up and her team will help them navigate through the system.

With the help of the center, veterans will able to start the process of enrolling in VA health care.

"We expect veterans to come in who need help, who are unsure where they're going to go to get that help, who need appointments and we're going to help them do that," said Jones.

VA help for vets
June 10: Noon - 8pm
June 11: 8am - 8pm
June 12: 8am - 8pm
June 13: 8am - Noon
American Legion Post #1
7th Avenue and Van Buren
Phoenix, AZ

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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