BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) – Mowing the lawn was too painful at times for veteran Stan McMahn, who was injured about 40 years ago while serving in the Navy.
“There were times I’d actually be down for three and four days,” McMahn said. “That’s when I would actually go to the emergency room.”
He was injured multiple times during his 6-year stint in the military, including once after a fall from a helicopter.
But getting an appointment with a chiropractor through the VA included an inexplicable run-around that lasted more than a year and included referrals to three incorrect addresses. One of those locations was in a Brandon strip mall that was locked and had been closed for quite a while, according to nearby businesses. Someone at one location told McMahn other patients were incorrectly sent to there.
“He said I was not the first person,” McMahn said. “And he didn’t understand what was going on. I’m thinking something’s not right here.”
Adding to the confusion, McMahn said he was involuntarily put in the community care program, created nearly a decade ago to force the VA to pay civilian doctors to care for veterans who wait too long for appointments. But for McMahn, going outside the VA did not help.
“I’m not even sure the lefthand knew there was a righthand,” McMahn said.
McMahn’s community care referral seems rare. Data obtained by 8 on Your Side supports VA sources who claim they were trained not to offer primary care through the program even though the law requires it. A VA spokesperson has denied employees are trained not to offer primary care.
But records show during a recent two-year period, less than one percent of the more than 61 million community care veterans across the country received primary care. The percentage in the Bay Area was even lower – .008 percent, representing nine out of 106-thousand community care patients.
In early August, 8 on Your Side presented the data to Senator Marco Rubio who said he would ask the veterans committee “to hold hearings on this.” Rubio’s spokesperson updated that statement, saying his office has “flagged” the findings for leadership on the VA committee.
McMahn, who finally received the help he needed this month after a 14-month wait, said the VA’s inefficiencies are most troubling for veterans less mobile than he is.
“I’m lucky. I’ve got all my arms and legs and I’ve got a great family that takes care of me,” McMahn said. “But a lot of guys are by themselves. They’re wounded. They’re never going to recover. They don’t have any help.”
“People are dying every day because of politicians and laws that mean absolutely nothing. And that’s what I’m upset about more than anything,” McMahn said. “Everyone is getting the runaround.”