Despite National Issues, VA In Catt. Co. Still Strong

LITTLE VALLEY – Secret wait lists and shoddy care have been the recent news when the Veterans Affairs has been mentioned. The case could not be further from the truth in Cattaraugus County, according to County Veteran Services Director Steve McCord.

For some veterans, the use of VA medical facilities is not a positive thing, McCord said. Some have had bad experiences in the past that have driven them away, and the recent scandals have done nothing to change that perception.

McCord, a veteran who uses VA medical resources exclusively, has a plea for those who have served and are leery of placing trust in the local hospitals and clinics.

“Please give us a chance to earn your faith and trust,” he said. “So many have the feeling of being cheated or slighted. In this area, we are not like that. Come back and give us a chance to show you what we are able to do.”

McCord said veterans who come to his office for help are told exactly what they can expect, and that it is not going to be a quick process. The goal, across the board for VA facilities, is to run a case from start to finish in about 125 days. Right now, because of the workload, McCord said the time is about 354 days, on average.

That problem, he said, is not due to any situation at the hospital, but is tied more to the regional facility.

“New York state has only two regional facilities,” he said. “One in Buffalo, to handle 31 counties in the state, and the other in New York City to handle the rest.”

As for the care received by veterans using the Buffalo facility and the Olean clinic, McCord said if they are enrolled in medical benefits through the administration about 99 percent of the time they are seen in about a month. If it is something more pressing, more of an acute medical situation, personnel at the VA Hospital will recommend a trip to the local emergency room.

“If it is a VA counselor that recommends that course of action, VA will pay for the visit,” McCord said.

Some veterans are not mobile and able to make it to the clinic or to the hospital in Buffalo or Bath. That situation, according to McCord, is not a reason for veterans to make a trip at least once a year to keep their enrollment active.

“We are fortunate to have a van service that can pick up the veterans and take them to their appointments,” he said. “We have specific runs and can get them where they need to go.”

As far as the enrollment in VA medical benefits, McCord said many vets are under the false assumption that, since they enrolled several years ago they are still active in the system. That is not true.

“You have to make a visit to the VA, either hospital or clinic, once a year to remain active,” he said. “If you do not, you are purged from their records and have to re-enroll.”

Overall, McCord said the scandals and reports that have come out about the VA hospitals are not affecting those in Cattaraugus County.

“What we have seen in Phoenix and other places, in terms of secret lists and the like, are not affecting us here. We are still giving the best care we can to those that gave their service to our nation,” McCord said.