Target 8: Veterans unload on Congressman Crist

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Veterans in Pinellas County told Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) to leave his politics at the door—they were ready to talk meat and potatoes.

These vets served their country in peace and war and decided to let him know that America has let them down.

The met with the lawmaker at American Legion 273 in Madeira Beach. Crist listened, took notes and received an earful.

The first topic of discussion: V.A. healthcare.

“Make it easier to pull bad employees, get them out of the system, and replace them with people that will and can and do their jobs,” said veteran Randall McNabb.

Navy veteran Ben Droweinga now goes to private doctors because of his alleged treatment at the Bill Young Medical Center at Bay Pines.

“I informed them, that through an outside doctor, that I have a fractured back that could possibly need surgery, and the response I got from my primary care was ‘don’t have surgery, I’ll give you pills for the pain,'” explained Droweinga. “It’s a damned shame, I did 27 years in the service and get treated like a piece of garbage.”

Transitioning from active duty to retirement also presents problems.

“There’s no bridge. There’s no connection, both entities, institutions they do not speak,” said National Guard Sgt. 1st class Dwight Barber.

The V.A. operates a large number of sites:

1233 Health care facilities and clinics
168 Medical centers
1053 Outpatient sites

Beverly Young, the widow of former Congressman Bill Young, gave her husband’s successor some advice.

She told him the V.A. is too big to fix once and suggested Crist meet with the new V.A. Secretary David Shulkin to help him fix one hospital at a time, starting with Bay Pines.

“Put it under a glass dome and fix every problem that they find there on an one-to-one basis, and use that hospital as an example that the V.A. can be fixed,” said Young.

Congressman Crist told Target 8 he is writing Secretary Shulkin a letter this afternoon.

If you have something that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1 800 338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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