Bay Pines veterans left in cold called a ‘scandal’

(WFLA) – Bay Pines Medical Director Suzanne Klinker is in the hot seat for housing veterans during the recent cold in a building with no working heat or hot water.

That is a far cry from what she told veterans at a January 2017 town hall meeting.

“Please know that we are all committed to serving America’s veterans while delivering exceptionally high quality care befitting of our heroes,” Ms. Klinker told the crowd.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R)-Florida labels her lack of action with the cold building, “a scandal that has our heroes living in third world conditions.”

“It’s unacceptable,” said Congressman Bilirakis during an interview in Washington D.C. “Now I was just on the phone with the director and she apologized, but that’s not good enough as far as I’m concerned.”

The heat and hot water in building 102 broke down in September.

Veterans living in the building who want a hot shower have had to walk through a parking lot to use temporary facilities set up in the back of a tractor-trailer.

In a letter to Director Klinker, Bilirakis wrote: “They are enduring cold showers indoors because they do not wish to go outside to take a shower….This is shameful.”

Now Target 8 has learned that in early October, a Bay Pines contracting officer signed off on a “Justification and Approval For Other Than Full and Open Competition” form allowing the VA to move ahead with a contract to fix the problem in building 102.

Still, the work has not been done.

The Congressman learned of this Klinker clunker last week, when Target 8 called asking about it.

Klinker’s crew claimed conditions weren’t as bad as we said.

So Bilirakis sent his District Director on a fact-finding mission.

“He spoke to the veterans, he found that they were very cold,” explained Congressman Bilirakis.

Supposedly, veterans can either relocate or Bay Pines will place space heaters in their rooms and monitor them regularly.

“They are making accommodations. We are getting results finally and I want to thank you, Steve and Channel 8 as well,” added Congressman Bilirakis.

According to Bilirakis, it’s unfathomable that Suzanne Klinker did not bring this matter to his attention months ago.

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