Doug Chase, a Vietnam veteran, finally received a letter from a Massachusetts VA hospital telling him that he could proceed to make a primary care appointment.
To bad Chase was already dead. He died from a brain tumor in August 2012.
“We are committed to providing primary care in a timely manner and would greatly appreciate a prompt response,” read a letter sent to Chase on June 12, according to Boston’s WBZ.
The veteran’s wife, Suzanne, said she is angry over the department’s tardy response.
“It was 22 months too late,” she said. “I kind of thought I was in the twilight zone when I opened this letter and read it.”
Chase was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. Suzanne Chase contacted the VA in Bedford to provide care for her husband. But the couple waited four months without hearing back, and Doug passed away.
When Suzanne Chase received the letter, addressed to her husband, she said she was “in complete disbelief.”
“I was like you have to be kidding, right,” she told WBZ.
Chase said that the VA should have been aware of her husband’s passing because she filed for funeral benefits.
She said that she was denied those benefits because Doug had never obtained treatment at a VA hospital.
“It is absurd,” Chase told WBZ. “It made me angry because I just don’t think our veterans should be treated this way.”
The Chase’s case is a prime and tragic example of the systemic issues underlying the scandal currently rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Investigators have uncovered prolonged wait times and secret wait lists – which have been blamed in a number of veterans’ deaths – at VA hospitals across the nation.
The scandal led to the forced resignation of Eric Shinseki in May.
“We regret any distress our actions caused to the Veteran’s widow and family,” read a statement the agency provided WBZ.
“At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, our most important mission is to provide the high quality health care and benefits Veterans have earned and deserve – where and when they need it,” the statement read.
“Thank you for bringing this regrettable issue to our attention. We apologize for our error and any difficulties this has caused you. We will examine our process, do what we can to fix it, and institute measures to prevent this from happening again,” it continued, stating that Chase’s specific case could not be discussed.
Sloan Gibson, the acting director of Veterans Affairs called Chase to apologize. Unable to reach her, the VA’s statement said that Gibson left a voicemail and will make another attempt to contact her.
“We want to be sure that she is, as well as other Veterans and their family members are, treated with dignity and respect,” the statement read.