Congress miffed at cold treatment of Bay Pines veterans

(WFLA) — “Disgraceful.”

“Callous.”

“They’ve let us down.”

Members of Congress are lashing out at Bay Pines after our Target 8 investigation revealed veterans were kept in a cold building with no heat or hot water.

Several members of Florida’s Congressional delegation say it’s time to look at the job performance of the people running Bay Pines.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D)-Florida.

Our investigation confirmed that since September, veterans living in building 102 have had no working heat or hot water.

“They’ve let us down here. It’s not the first time but it needs to be the last time this happens,” explained Congresswoman Castor.

To get a hot shower, veterans have had to walk out into the cold, shower in a temporary facility and go back out in the cold to walk into a frigid building.

By phone, Congressman Charlie Crist (D)-Florida condemned the conditions.

“It’s inhumane treatment you know, I don’t know how else to put it,” said Congressman Crist.

In a statement, Congressman Vern Buchanan (R)-Florida called it “Disgraceful and unacceptable. Just one more example of our VA system failing the very people they are responsible for serving. Our veterans deserve better than this. We will be contacting the VA for answers to get this situation corrected and make sure it never happens again.”

A steam pipe carrying heat into building 102 broke in September.

Last week, Target 8 heard from employees and veterans about how cold it was inside.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R)-Florida, on Thursday evening, talked to veterans and listened to the VA’s explanation.

“They have an explanation, I’ll tell you, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the explanation,” said Bilirakis.

According to Bay Pines Director Suzanne Klinker, attempts at repairs didn’t work.

“Sir, we’re doing all we can and we’re focusing on the solution,” Klinker told News Channel 8.

The temporary solution? Veterans can sleep at the hospital or get space heaters placed in their rooms.

“The living conditions shouldn’t require that somebody has to come in and check your space heater every hour to see if it’s appropriately working,” added Congressman Crist.

Congressman Dennis Ross added in a statement: “Our veterans deserve more than the poor service they’ve gotten from the VA. This isn’t a tenement run by a slumlord, this is a taxpayer-funded facility intended to deliver on a promise we made to those who’ve served our country. I have written a letter to the VA demanding a resolution to this issue and trying to find ways to make sure it never happens again.”

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

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