May 14, 2014 1:46 PM by Tom McNamara and Michel Marizco
TUCSON - The VA hospital in Phoenix is under siege over allegations of a cover-up. Staffers in Phoenix are accused of delaying appointments and treatment for months and that may have cost as many as 40 veterans their lives.
Here in Tucson, the News 4 Tucson Investigators spoke with local veterans, and reviewed their medical records. Only to find that long wait times are hurting them here, as well.
Rick Borenstein is one of those veterans. He told us, "I was over in South Korea and the DMZ. I was in Bosnia, I was in Iraq."
A combat medic, Borenstein developed post traumatic stress disorder in 2011. He said he's not employable, but the Veterans Administration declined to fully compensate him for that disability.
Borenstein said "my case has been languishing 15 months, sitting on someone's desk in Phoenix."
He went to Congressman Ron Barber for help. Barber told us complaints from veterans top the volume of messages to his office.
Barber said, "We need to be ready and we're not ready for the new veterans that are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan."
The Investigators reviewed federal records that show 300,000 VA cases remain backlogged. That's more than half the caseload. The average wait time to receive disability compensation is at least 160 days.
Another veteran, with 24 years in the military, told us about delays with her knee injury.
"And because the condition was worsening, I followed up with my physicians and they helped me decide that the best outcome for me was to replace the knee with a prosthetic joint."
But she said her case will take at least another year to resolve. "So I'm approximately one and a half years post my surgery and told just last month it will be another 400 days."
These kinds of frustrations have many veterans calling for an overhaul of the entire VA system.
Congress is about to begin investigations into problems with the VA.