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Sen. Grassley takes Iowa VA to task for misleading wait time claims

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Senator Chuck Grassley isn't satisfied with the explanation he received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after he says a whistle-blower gave him information showing thousands of Iowa's veterans are waiting months before getting care.

Grassley says he isn't satisfied because the department told his senate judiciary committee that between January and February of this year no veteran waited longer than 90 days for care in Iowa.

He now believes the department intentionally hid the real numbers from his committee.

The senator's office says whistle-blower documents show as of mid-February the Iowa City VA had:

537 veterans waiting to be seen 91-180 days, 539 veterans waiting between 181 days to a year, and 232 veterans waiting between one to two years for care.

Vietnam veteran Jerry Bradley says his experience with the Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs has been less than ideal.

“It just seems like in many instances they’re waiting for us to die” he said.

That statement would seem to contradict information given by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Senator Grassley's Judiciary Committee in February.

“We got papers back that didn’t show anybody that was waiting longer than 90 days” said Senator Grassley.

Bradley says he's experienced extended wait times personally.

“I had a service connected injury to my foot and that happened on the 21st of March, and I just recently saw somebody at the hospital and they haven’t really told me what’s wrong” said Bradley.  I stopped in one day, I was having chest pains. I went to the scheduler and she looked at me and she looked at the records and says ‘Well you’re not supposed to see him for 90 days’; and that was it” he said.

Senator Grassley’s office says there were documented wait time issues at the Des Moines VA as well.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responded to Grassley calling the discrepancy a “misunderstanding” between the VA and committee staff.

Senator Grassley says that's hard to believe after committee staff asked VA representatives twice if they were sure there were no wait times after 90 days.

Grassley believes after it was revealed wait time issues were prevalent across the country, the VA was trying to cover up further problems.

“With that history from three years ago and the stuff we’re bringing out, further embarrassment when we’re lead to believe changes have been made so they’re better, you can understand why they were reluctant to answer our question, so I’d have to say it’s intentional” said Senator Grassley.

Jerry Bradley says those problems aren't hard to believe.

“This is a system that has promised to take care of it’s veterans, and then when they come back and they’re put into this system that seems to say `you know if we just keep putting you off, eventually you’ll go away’” he said.

The American Legion of Iowa is going to be holding a town hall to discuss issues in the VA later this month in Coralville.  The legion will then tour the VA in Iowa city to hear from patients.

The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.