By JULIAN HATTEM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said Tuesday the messy room and long wait times provided to an Army veteran at a Salt Lake City VA clinic were “unacceptable,” and that he was intervening in the case.
The VA clinic in Utah and others across the country are “doubling down to ensure that exam rooms and other treatment areas meet VA’s strong standards,” Wilkie said in a statement.
Veteran Christopher Wilson’s April 5 treatment captured public attention last week after his father tweeted photos of his untidy room with an overflowing trash can and bits of plaster on the sink and counter. Wilson’s father called the room’s condition “very unprofessional, unsanitary and disrespectful.”
On Tuesday morning, Wilson, who spent six years in the Army and was deployed to Iraq twice, said on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” that he now had to wait 10 months for what was supposed to be a six-month follow-up appointment.
Wilkie said that too was unacceptable. On Tuesday he ordered leaders of the Utah facility to make an appointment for Wilson within the six months necessary.
Wilson, 33, said on Fox News that it would be “very helpful” to be able to choose where he received healthcare.
“It would take the strain off the VA system,” Wilson said. “It would give veterans more options to get their treatment where they would like to, closer to their homes.”
The VA’s Veterans Choice program was a campaign priority of President Donald Trump, allowing certain eligible veterans to see private doctors on the VA’s dime.
But the program is reaching a budget crunch.
Wilkie said Tuesday that Wilson’s case ought to urge lawmakers in Congress to pass legislation to make the program permanent by Memorial Day.
“Veterans like Chris Wilson deserve no less,” he said.
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