Tulsa VA Clinic Call Shocks Widow Of Oklahoma Veteran
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Veteran's Administration has faced a lot of criticism recently over how it cares for those who've served in the military. Three months ago we learned some veterans may have died waiting for care while thousands more were on a secret waiting list.
One Tulsa widow is furious after she received a call from a Tulsa VA clinic saying her husband could finally get in for treatment. The problem is, it was eight months after her husband died.
It wasn't what they said in the message that the widow found offensive; it was what the clinic didn't know.
"This is the Tulsa VA Clinic," the message states. "I'm calling to speak with a William Brown. The reason for my calling is to schedule an appointment with his primary care provider."
That was the message that brought Joni Brown to her knees.
"He died almost 9 months ago, so I nearly fainted," said Joni Brown, veteran William Brown's widow.
Her husband, known as "Bobby," went to the Tulsa VA Outpatient Clinic complaining of pain -- back in September of 2011 -- she says the VA told them, it was "uninterrupted shingles." They put him on pain killers, but as the pain increased, so did her concerns.
They continued to see VA doctors over the next 18 months, and he was treated for various illnesses.
Then in April of last year, he was finally diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to his ribs.
"It was too late," Joni said. "Seven months later, he was gone. Right in that bedroom. In my arms."
It was a moment she relived with the press of a button on her answering machine.
"Disappointment doesn't cover it; it's appalling," said Joni Brown.
"It didn't take them 30 minutes to turn off the checks that were coming, and almost 9 months later - they're calling for appointments," she said. "So who's running the show, you know? I'm very angry."
An anger Joni says she hopes she can prevent others from having to face after the death of a loved one.
"It just took me right back," she said. "He deserved better."
We called the VA Clinic in Tulsa and heard back from Muskogee Office. In the statement they say, "We deeply regret any distress that we have caused this veteran's spouse and appreciate you bringing it to our attention.
"Unfortunately, we were unaware of his death because he passed away outside of our system."
They say they've contacted the VA Regional office and have updated their systems.