THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - As Washington D.C. looks to do right by America's Veterans in the wake of the VA scandal , we are taking a look at the standard of care at our VA hospital.
This week News Channel 3 is bringing you a series of reports featuring an exclusive inside look at the Loma Linda VA hospital and how our local lawmakers say the system needs to change.
Tuesday night we featured incumbent democratic Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, now we hear from from his republican challenger State Assemblyman Brian Nestande.
"This massive wait to get care is just unacceptable and that is why I called for the Secretary's resignation long before the current Congressman did because from the top down I could see the system was not working well," said Nestande.
A report released this week by the inspector general found no veteran died while waiting for care, Nestande says the wait is still too long.
"This massive wait just to process your paperwork is unacceptable, that is bureaucracy at its worst," said Nestande.
His solution, privatize part of the system. In other words, let Vets go somewhere else.
"Just like the college loans, with the GI program they didn't create collages just for veterans, they said take a voucher and go to the college you would like. So hopefully something like that, if we allow them to get out of the system where they can get care quicker, I think something like that would be appropriate to look at," said Nestande.
It's not a new concept, Loma Linda did just that for Mike Devlin, a Vietnam Veteran. The local VA hospital made him an appointment with a private provider instead of waiting for a routine colonoscopy. That appointment detected colon cancer, just in time to treat it.
"If I had to wait 6 months, it probably would have been too late," said Devlin.
Nestande says states can also play a role in cutting through the red tape.
"Meeting with veterans groups, I remember of couple of them said, why don't we have an insignia on driver's licenses in the State of California that say Veteran because a lot of time we have to bring our discharge papers to prove that we are a veteran to get services," said Nestande.
Nestande co-authored a bill (AB 935) to include the designation Veteran on your California driver's license, much like several other state have. It will be recognized by all government agencies.
"That's a good example of what we can do at the state level, it seems simple, but it means a lot of veterans, a little less hassle in their life," said Nestande. That bill, just passed Tuesday, is now on it's way to Governor Jerry Brown's desk.
"It's caring enough to get beyond committee reports and committee hearings, but actually talking to folks and hearing first hand what is going on," said Nestande.