LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Veterans in Louisville say wait times at the veterans' hospital in Louisville are far better than in other cities where an unfolding scandal has cost a top White House appointee his job.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, demanded to know Friday what the wait times were at Kentucky's VA centers. An investigation revealed 115-day wait times at a VA hospital in Phoenix, which U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials covered up.
Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday after numerous lawmakers clamored for President Barack Obama to fire him.
"What's happened in Phoenix is totally unacceptable. It's criminal, really," said Mort King, senior vice commander at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1170 in Middletown. "But he (Shinseki) was not the problem. The problem is more systematic and bigger than just the director."
Louisville veterans say, while problems exist at Robley Rex VA Medical Center, they typically can schedule an appointment within a month or less.
The average wait time in Louisville is 15 days, according to Department of Veterans Affairs data obtained by USA Today.
That's the lowest in the Ohio Valley region, and compares favorably with an average 29.5 day wait in Lexington and 42 days in Indianapolis, the USA Today report indicates.
But Paul, in a letter written to the Department of Veterans Affairs obtained by WAVE 3 News, said he remained concerned about the level of care in Kentucky.
"I have heard complaints from many veterans in Kentucky that they have also been facing lengthy delays in obtaining appointments, have not been able to access health care in a timely manner, and have expressed grave concerns over the quality of medical care provided," Paul wrote.
The scandal has become an issue in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, and both Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes said Shinseki's resignation was the right thing to do.
Ed Martin, who served in the Gulf War and who now receives primary care from the VA in Louisville, said he waits about a month for arthritis treatment and about three weeks to see his regular doctor.
"I think their health care is very good, I think they care about what they do, but I don't think they have enough resources," Martin said. "I don't think it's because of people not doing their job, I think it's a lack of funding."
Martin and King said they were concerned that veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would overload the system.
"They need health care," King said. "Some of these guys are coming back with tremendous war issues, mental and physical. They need to be addressed."
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