An Orland Park retired veteran has come forward claiming he was a victim of falsified wait times at a VA hospital in Hines, amid widening allegations of systemic problems with hospitals for veterans.
Retired U.S. Army Private Michael Swan said he has waited for over a year to see a neurologist and a year and a half to see an endocrinologist at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital. And with the help of Sen. Mark Kirk’s office, he calculates that he had spent 284 days waiting to go to 15 appointments between March 2013 and May 2014 for care that he has needed after having two strokes and diabetes. Yet, Hines allegedly reported that Swan had only waited 5 days during that time, Kirk’s office said, having allegedly obtained documents from the Veterans Affairs.
Swan spoke Friday at a press conference held by Kirk, who announced that he had asked the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare a state of emergency that would allow veterans to seek immediate private care, instead of being forced to stay on extended wait times for care at a VA facility.
“It is truly disgusting that our nation’s heroes were forced to wait for life-saving care while very senior executives collected bonuses for falsified wait times,” Kirk said.
Swan first shared his story during a listening session held by Kirk on June 1 for veterans who were allegedly affected by corruption at the VA, Kirk said.
Fighting tears, Swan added, “Money isn’t everything, and you should treat the veterans the way they deserve to be treated.”
A spokeswoman for Hines VA challenged Swan’s finding, though, saying, “our review of the appointments do not reflect what was presented at today’s press conference.”
Charity Hardison, a spokeswoman for Hines, said differences in findings may be result of “numerous factors,” such as cancellations and in some circumstances, errors in scheduling.
“We are happy to meet with Mr. Swan and review each individual episode,” Hardison said.
A nationwide audit recently released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ found that nearly 900 veterans had requested appointments at Illinois’ Veterans Administration hospitals in the past decade but not received them.
The department is also investigating claims that Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines near Maywood, along with other hospitals nationwide, used secret wait lists to earn bonuses for having seen veterans in shorter time periods than they actually did.
Kirk said Swan’s case, which he doesn’t think is the only one like it, “shows the urgent need to give our vets alternative care.”
Veterans Affairs could not be reached.