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As the VA celebrates processing 1 million benefit claims, a Colorado veteran has concerns

Eric Fox says it's been two years since seeing his primary care physician. Now, he's worried about his health.
Posted at 9:03 AM, Mar 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-21 11:06:07-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has processed a million claims from the start of the year, as of March 4.

The agency said that's the fastest it has filed that amount of claims in its history.

But a Colorado veteran said he's had trouble getting in to see his doctor for years, and is worried about his health.

"Something's gotta change because it's just not fair," Eric Fox said.

Fox is a retired Master Sergeant with the United States Air Force and retired after 16 years of service in 2018. Since then, he's received a 100% disability rating from the VA.

"A lot of it is PTSD, I have a traumatic brain injury from IEDs and stuff like that. A lot of body issues from joints, just from wearing gear," Fox continued.

He said his experiences with the VA have been difficult ever since then, struggling to get an appointment with his primary care physician, and having them canceled and rescheduled for two years.

"You've got to fix that. That's not how you solve people's health problems. You know, this isn't a car appointment to get your car detailed or something. It hurts, it's frustrating," Fox said. "I've had 3 different doctors, I've never seen the same one twice, and even some of them I had to do telecons up to Denver for just a physical".

Now, Fox said his appointment last week left him concerned about his delays in care.

"He [my doctor] just told me, 'How long have you been anemic?' I was like, 'What are you talking about?'. He says, 'You're extremely anemic, what's causing it?' what are you talking about? He said, 'You've been anemic since 2022, and you never found the cause.'"

Fox said he's worried about the potential damage to his kidneys that's been building up over the last two years and is working to make another appointment to follow up.

VA says they've processed 1 million veteran benefits claims

"It was like a kick in the gut," he told me.

Now, he's calling for change in a system he thinks it failing him, and potentially several other veterans who could have worse conditions than him.

"If there's stuff we can do to take better care of people, like telling them as soon as something happens versus well it's not that bad, they'll be okay for now, then let's do it," Fox said.

Scripps News Colorado Springs reached out to the VA asking questions about capacity, providing healthcare, and other items related to Colorado Springs. You can see comments from a spokesperson below.

Colorado Springs has a rapidly growing Veteran population, and we recognize the need for increased VA health care resources in the area. In 2023, we opened the Space Center Drive VA Clinic, Garden of the Gods VA Clinic, and an expansion of the Union Boulevard VA Clinic in Colorado Springs to provide more services and more timely care in the area. Additionally, we partner with the U.S. Air Force Academy to provide surgical services and we are pursuing a lease on an outpatient ambulatory surgery center in Colorado Springs in the next few years. Beyond physical clinic locations in Colorado Springs, we offer a robust telehealth program to offer Veterans care conveniently from home.

VA is the best, most affordable, and most timely health care in America for Veterans. In 2023 alone, peer-reviewed studies showed that VA health care is better than or equal to non-VA health care. More than 89% of the Veterans surveyed express that they trust we VA ECHCS with their care, a level unmatched anywhere in the private sector.
Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer

Are you able to tell me if patients from Denver are being referred to Colorado Springs? If so, when did this start happening? 

VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System is a large health care system including both Denver and Colorado Springs. Veterans have the freedom to choose the health care providers within our system that they prefer, regardless of location.
Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer

Are you able to say how many patients are currently waiting to receive care, or how long the average wait time is to receive care? 

Wait times for appointments vary based on the type of appointment. The MISSION Act of 2018 allows Veterans to be referred to community providers if the wait for an appointment at VA is longer than 20 days for a primary care appointment or mental health appointment, or 28 days for a specialty care appointment.
Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer

What does staffing look like at Colorado Springs? 

VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System has three outpatient clinics in Colorado Springs: the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic, the Union Boulevard VA Clinic, and the Space Center Drive VA Clinic. We also have a Garden of the Gods Clinic that provides specialty services for vocational rehabilitation and homeless Veterans. The Union Boulevard Clinic was expanded in 2023 and the Space Center Drive and Garden of the Gods clinics were new locations that opened in 2023. This growth in Colorado Springs has allowed us to include more specialty services in the Colorado Springs clinics to bring those services closer to the Veterans we serve.

We continue to strategically recruit and hire in key areas such as mental health, primary care and other critical positions across our health care system.

Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer

Are you able to refer patients out?

VA provides care to Veterans through community providers when VA cannot provide the care needed. Community care is based on specific eligibility requirements, availability of VA care, and the needs and circumstances of individual Veterans. The MISSION Act of 2018 authorizes VA to refer patients to community providers based on specific criteria, including wait time and drive time. Routine care must be pre-authorized by VA before the Veteran can be seen in the community. Eligibility for community care does not require a Veteran to receive that care in the community; Veterans can still choose to have VA provide their care. Learn more about VA Community Care at [].
Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer

When patients are being seen, are those with severe symptoms seen first? Or is this on a first-come, first-served basis?

Patient scheduling can be based on the date that the medical provider believes the patient should be seen next, such as a 6 month follow up appointment, or when a patient wishes to be seen, such as an appointment for an acute illness. Our scheduling staff work diligently to get Veterans appointment times when they wish to be seen. If no appointment is available within the time frames set by the MISSION Act, patients are offered a referral to the community for care. Veterans may also be eligible for VA to pay for urgent care or emergency room care in the community. VA patients experiencing a medical emergency should seek care at the nearest emergency room. Learn more about VA eligibility for Emergency Care and Urgent Care at [].
Janelle Beswick, Interim Public Affairs Officer