Women say their husbands died waiting for cancer care from VA

Women say their husbands died waiting for cancer care from VA

Debbie Allen's husband, Mel CBS NEWS Debbie Allen's husband, Mel CBS NEWS
Story By: Wyatt Andrews, CBS NEWS

CBS NEWS: For weeks CBS News has been reporting on our investigation of the Phoenix VA hospital.
In our investigation of the VA care, we heard similar stories from three women who say their husbands died while waiting for cancer care.

Debbie Valle says her husband, Jerry, waited two months for chemotherapy, but died of prostate cancer.

Debbie Allen's husband, Mel, endured a six-month wait before dying of bladder cancer.

Cindy Bordeaux's husband, Jerry, had been waiting six weeks, when he died of liver cancer.

"And you never get over it because the proof's right here of the lack of care," she said. "These people didn't care. He was a number."

None of the deaths in Phoenix has been formally linked to long wait times so far, but the Phoenix investigation has spread nationwide. The main allegation is that local VA officials have been hiding reports of when veterans cannot get doctors appointments within the goal of 14 days.

In a memo CBS News obtained a VA scheduler in Wyoming describes the pressure he felt from superiors to begin "gaming the system" -- to delay long-term appointments for veterans in order to "get off the bad boys list."

The existence of hidden wait times has been documented in seven formal VA investigations going back more than four years.

In New Port Richey, Florida, Joseph Kramer is a Gulf War veteran. He was told two months ago of a cyst on his brain but since then nothing -- no diagnosis and no treatment.

"Am I going to die?" he asked. "Is this treatable? Is this, I need to have an operation to take it out? What? I don't know. I have no idea."

Every time this came up in the past, every time this was raised, officials would fix the problem right where they found it. They would tell the local officials to stop the under-reporting there, but for some reason they never connected the dots to crack down everywhere.

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